Emetophobia (fear of vomiting): causes, consequences, what to do?

The fear of throwing up, or seeing someone throw up, is one of the most common phobias around the world. It’s not just disgust, it’sreal emergency, which prompts emetophobic people to avoid any risky situation. What is the origin of emetophobia? How to overcome it?

Definition: What is Emetophobia

Emetophobia (from ancient Greek emitterswhich means “to surrender” and phobosmeaning “fear”) refers to the irrational, uncontrollable fear of vomiting or seeing someone else vomit. This phobia is little known, but is considered the third most common phobia by the British National Health Service (NHS), after social phobia and agoraphobia. It can cause permanent anxiety and sometimes panic attacks at the mere mention or feeling of nausea.

People who suffer from it talk about a sense of control and from fear that the vomiting will never stop. A simple stomachache or nausea can trigger an anxiety attack. For some, emetophobia has always been a part of their daily lives, while for others it was triggered by a traumatic event. In general, it is often downplayed or mocked. So it goes together shame, guilt and shamewhich only increase the feeling of fear.

Emetophobia manifests itself differently in each person. The constant state of fear is a common ground for all patients. A simple joke or reference to vomit in a conversation, movie, song, or game can elicit responses ranging from from the feeling of fear to the Panic Attack. Like most phobias, it is mainly anticipation that triggers the symptoms:

  • an irrational and excessive fear of vomiting or seeing someone throw up;
  • frequent concerns about vomiting and the implementation of avoidance strategies;
  • avoiding foods or situations that can cause nausea or even anorexia nervosa;
  • strong fear at the mention of vomiting or the word “vomit”;
  • panic attacks with nausea, vomiting or suggestive symptoms (fear of feeling unwell or dying, sweating, fast heartbeat, dizziness, etc.);
  • feelings of shame and guilt;
  • etc

Anything to do with meal preparation, food storage or food hygiene can become a source of anxiety. In the most extreme cases, emetophobes reorganize their entire lives according to their phobia, avoid situations that may confront them with their fear. Some women are even afraid of become pregnantfor fear of feeling nauseous during their pregnancy or of having their baby vomit afterwards.

Test: Are You Emetophobic?

There is no real test to diagnose emetophobia, but certain everyday situations can give you an idea:

  • You avoid all situations that can cause nausea or vomiting (drinking alcohol, crowds, public transport, pregnancy, sports, etc.);
  • You hold the food and all stages of preparation and storage preceding meals. You also find it difficult to eat out, with friends or in a restaurant;
  • You are very afraid of getting sick (obsessive ideas, even hypochondria) and doing everything possible to avoid it (accumulation of health checks);
  • You are afraid of your own body and its reactions;
  • etc

Vomiting phobia: what are the consequences?

The consequences of this phobia can be serious:

  • malnutrition and deficiencies,
  • significant weight loss,
  • recklessly taking medication,
  • social withdrawal and isolation,
  • orthorexia which can lead to anorexia,
  • etc

Emetophobes often travel with medications for vomiting, sweets and nausea decrease. Some avoid going out to restaurants or bars, or even traveling, so as not to face situations that can cause nausea, such as those mentioned above.

Causes: Why be afraid to vomit?

Emetophobia, like other phobias, can have several causes, although they are still poorly identified:

  • Symptoms may appear after a traumatic eventa source of deep disgust or humiliation (this could be a traumatic memory of gastroenteritis or a much more serious episode, such as forced fellatio).
  • Emetophobia is also possible are transmitted by mimicryfrom parents to children.
  • In some cases it is linked to a hypochondria or a social phobia (the person is afraid of the judgment of people who will see them throw up).

Treatment: Can Emetophobia Be Cured?

Emetophobia manifests itself in varying degrees and can have more or less impact on a daily basis. Fortunately, several solutions can help to remedy this effectively:

  • The cognitive behavioral therapy (GDT);
  • l’hypnosis and theEMDR (Desensitization and reprocessing of eye movements);
  • Certain medications are sometimes offered to reduce anxiety (SSRI-type antidepressants and certain anxiolytics).

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