What is Emetophobia?
A phobia of vomiting is a condition where an individual fears vomiting or others vomiting (but commonly both). There is a fear of being out of control while being sick or fear of being sick in public. This understandably triggers avoidance behaviours. The specific fear of vomiting is a fairly prevalent anxiety disorder, yet is often misdiagnosed, commonly for obsessive compulsive disorder or an eating disorder due to many overlapping symptoms.
The impact on life this phobia has on individuals varies, ranging from not being able to eat certain foods (perceived risk of foods such as chicken and eggs) not being able to leave the home, attend work, or be near loved ones including their children due to extreme fear of becoming ill.
A psychological vomit phobia assessment can be scheduled by making contact here.
Do most people hate to vomit?
Majority of individuals are aware that vomiting, even though not enjoyable, is a normal part of life which is needed to help relieve the body of toxins. They can see past the event of vomiting knowing they will likely feel better after.
The difference in those who have this phobia is the extreme distress, there is an inability to see past the event of vomiting. There is a belief that one will not be able to cope with the event and underestimates their ability to cope. There is a significantly elevated level of anticipatory anxiety, worry and engagement with ‘what if’s’, what if they saw another person vomiting, or if they themselves were about to vomit? Not knowing when this may happen can be worse than the act itself. Typically, the individual gets ‘stuck’ on the image that represents the worst point for them, this image then gets replayed in their mind, setting off intense alarm systems in the mind and body. The phobic individual understandably wishes to reduce the threat and a cycle of avoidance begins,
Emetophobia usually builds in severity without treatment intervention. Places and anything that can be associated with vomiting start to be avoided. The trade off for an increase in avoidance, is an increase in fear. The short-term solutions that have been created for the individual to feel safe, start to become a longer-term problem, the individual constantly feels in danger. The fear soon dominates the person’s life.
Phobia of vomiting treatment is accessible and effectively delivered via online CBT and ERP therapy, please make contact to find out more information.
What are the symptoms?
Common behaviours associated with emetophobia include:
- Restricted eating (avoiding foods associated with vomiting, eating only at home, eating little, etc.)
- Compulsively checking foods, expiration dates. Making rules for food
- Not touching surfaces for fear of germs
- Avoiding sick people or settings that could cause sickness.
- Excessive hand washing/cleaning
- Checking the locations of bathrooms when away from home
- Restricting or avoiding travel or crowded public spaces.
- Monitoring body for signs of illness
You may recognise these symptoms, emetophobia treatment is available in London, UK and nationwide. Please make contact to schedule a psychological assessment.
Worry and planning is part of daily life for an individual with vomit phobia. Children may refuse to attend school; adults commonly are unable to attend the workplace. Adults also fear becoming pregnant due to the risk of ‘morning sickness’ occurring.
Present thoughts and beliefs may be linked to past experiences of vomit. In treatment a ‘vomit history’ will be taken. This assists with reprocessing early life experiences which may be impacting the individual presently. Due to attaching thoughts to past experiences with vomit the individual may avoid wearing similar clothing, foods, temperatures.
There is a higher reporting of stomach aches/pains with those suffering from emetophobia, this is commonly associated with anxiety but also due to the attention focused on the area perceived as threat (stomach, gastro symptoms).
When an individual worries about getting sick, it can trigger stomach discomfort and nausea (the very symptoms the phobic fears), the individual can start to feel nauseated, which then triggers more anxiety about getting sick.
Do I have emetophobia?
If you can answer YES to most of the questions, it is likely that you are affected by emetophobia. During the last 6 months:
- Have you experienced a fear of being sick or being seen being sick?
- Have you experienced a fear of seeing/hearing others vomiting?
- Have you taken significant steps to minimise the risk of catching a sickness bug, which has interfered with your daily life?
What causes emetophobia?
The phobia normally begins in childhood. Traumatic vomiting experiences of self vomiting, or another can be rooted at the core of the phobia. Individuals may also have experienced a caregiver who had a phobia of vomit or received a negative reaction when they vomited. Having a family history of anxiety disorder, or specific phobias also increases the probability of developing emetophobia.
How to treat
The recommended guidelines for treating the specific phobia of vomit is through CBT and ERP to feared situations and sensations. It is important to recognise that therapy is not trying to make the individual vomit. However, all avoidances that are impacting a person’s life are modified so quality of life is improved. Treating vomit phobia involves slowly exposing yourself to fear. This may mean eating certain foods, or writing the word vomit, drawing it, or looking at photos of it. Treatment for emetophobia is highly effective.
In treatment alongside the cognitive behavioural Psychotherapist, techniques are taught to help let go of unhelpful thoughts and cope with feelings of anxiety. Imagery rescripting of earlier memories that have become ‘stuck’ may also occur.
The best treatment for emetophobia is CBT and ERP which can be offered online or at home. To receive evidence-based effective treatment from an accredited Psychotherapist who is experienced in delivering emetophobia treatment please make contact.
Do you (or does someone you know) make huge efforts to avoid situations where you or someone else could vomit? When the fear or anxiety about vomit/throwing up negatively affects life at home, school, or work, it’s time to get help.
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