Real Life: "I'm Terrified of Cheese"

Melissa North's bizarre phobia often leaves her in tears
ByGabriella Barrett
,Lauren Steadman
Sunday , 13 July 2014
Real Life: "I'm Terrified of Cheese"
© Caters
“For me, touching cheese is like someone who’s scared of spiders holding a tarantula

Melissa North is so frightened of cheese that she can’t go near it in a shop for fear of bursting into tears. The British student says that even looking at it brings her out in a cold sweat and insists that her fear, which she’s had since childhood, blights her everyday life, despite friends and family teasing her for it. Walking past a deli counter in a supermarket is really difficult for me,” the 22-year-old says. “I get so clammy and start to have a panic attack. It just looks awful, so gooey and disgusting – it makes me feel sick. My friends and family think it’s hilarious but it’s really awful. I hate going near the stuff, and seeing people eat it is horrendous. Touching or eating cheese for me is like someone who is scared of spiders holding a tarantula. It’s terrifying.”

Melissa, from Kent, England, is constantly mocked by friends and family who think her phobia is hilarious. “My boyfriend is always making fun of me,” she says. “He will chase me around the house with a block of cheese in his hand but I just go into a state of panic. I just have to lock myself in the bathroom until he gets bored. He is supportive of me but it’s hard to explain how much I hate it.”

Rather than ‘grow out’ of her fears, Melissa says her condition, called turophobia, has become more severe as she’s got older. “When I was 15 there was a really awful incident with cheese that made my phobia even worse. My friends at school all knew about my cheese phobia and thought it would be fun to throw some at me as a joke. It was cream cheese and it landed right in my face. I just fell to the floor and crawled out of the classroom, crying. I went to the toilets but was in too much of a state to clean it off. I was panicking and crying and I could just feel this horrible sticky cheese all over my face. My friend eventually managed to calm me down and clean me up but it was a horrendous experience.”

Her most recent ordeal involved her being unable to return to her room because of another cheese-themed practical joke. “I came back from a full day studying to find cheese smudged all over my bedroom door. A flatmate had found it funny, but I just couldn’t go near it. That wasn’t even the worst part – they left a trail of cheese outside my door so there was no way I could go in. I wouldn’t even risk jumping over it. I ran downstairs crying and it took hours for my flatmate to agree to clean it up. I know it sounds really strange, and I know that some people think I’m joking, but it’s a serious phobia. I’d love not to be able to be so afraid of it, but I’m terrified.”

Melissa developed a phobia of cheese when she was just four years old and has avoided the dairy product ever since. She recalls: “I remember being really little and was at a friend’s house for tea. I was given cheese on toast and I just knew straight away that I didn’t want it. It tasted horrible but my parents had always taught me to finish what was on my plate. I didn’t want to be rude, so I had no choice but to eat it. It just tasted disgusting and I’ve been afraid of it ever since. Now, if I was ever offered cheese or was given a meal with cheese in it I would just have to refuse it – the idea of eating it makes me feel physically sick. I’m just so scared of it.”

The worst kind of cheese for Melissa is soft cheese, closely followed by ‘blue’ varieties such as Stilton. “I hate the way that cream cheese looks,” she says. “It’s so soft and gooey and just looks a mess. The texture of it makes me want to be sick – I think that’s what scares me most about it, the way that it feels. Going into a supermarket and seeing all the cheeses piled high together makes me panic – I really have to struggle to hold it together. If there’s ever a news item or a documentary on TV that shows cheese, I have to change the channel straight away.” 

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