The phobia was so severe that Cheryl, who has a baby daughter, was forced to wear headphones and listen to an iPod at mealtimes. It was also affecting her every day life – if she was shopping and heard someone crunching an apple or crisps, she would feel so anxious she had to leave the store. Meeting a friend for lunch was impossible and going to the cinema out of the question.
Cheryl’s story appeared in The Sun newspaper. But recently I was approached by a producer at ITV Daybreak who had seen her story on this site. And Daybreak believed they knew some people who could help.
Cheryl was sceptical anything would cure her. She has had this phobia for almost 20 years, after watching a programme about another sufferer. But she decided to go on as she was feeling increasingly desperate to overcome her fear.
Daybreak put her in touch with the Speakmans. Nik and Eva Speakman are psychotherapists specialising in phobias and panic attacks. They explained when Cheryl saw the programme about an eating phobia as a child, it stuck in her mind and triggered the phobia in her.
It only took half an hour but they taught Cheryl a way of coping with her phobia. Called Visual Coding Displacement Therapy, the way of thinking replaced the fear she has about hearing others eat with one of calm.
Incredibly by the end of the show Cheryl was smiling – even when the presenters began eating popcorn to see if she really was ok.
“I don’t feel so bothered by the noise,” she said, “In fact I feel incredibly calm.”