Emetophobia or the fear or vomiting is known by many different names like Phagophobia, Vomitophobia, fear of sickness phobia, vomit phobia, fear of choking or gagging phobia and globus hystericus etc. This phobia can affect sufferers severely and might interefer with their daily activities. It is often associated with Agoraphobia, fear of germs phobia, obsessive compulsive disorder or OCD and other social anxiety disorders.
More women than men are known to suffer from Emetophobia: it affects nearly 1.7 to 3% men and 6 to 7% women. Often, the individuals fear seeing people getting sick or vomiting rather than only fearing vomiting or embarrassing themselves. Most sufferers fear the loss of self control that occurs during vomiting; as a result, they tend to show avoidance behaviors.
Causes of the fear of vomiting phobia
Psychologists believe that the ‘fear of losing control’ triggers Emetophobia. Vomiting is often completely out of one’s control. Here are common factors that can cause this phobia:
- Typically, during the flu season, children get upset seeing their friends or closed ones vomit uncontrollably. Also, they might have felt embarrassed about throwing up in school, or might have spent a long night being sick and nauseated. A negative experience of this sort is usually a trigger for Emetophobia.
- It usually begins in childhood, when one is low in life experiences or intelligence, as the brain or the subconscious mind attaches negative feelings to vomiting.
- In adults, over indulgence in food or alcohol or mixing two or more types of alcohol can lead to severe vomiting; the brain then learns to trigger the same response over and over, especially in case of nervous or over anxious people. It is a mechanism used by the mind to steer the individual away from such ‘dangerous’ situations.
- High strung people who are already suffering from other anxiety disorders or social phobias are likelier to develop fear of vomiting phobia.
Symptoms and signs of Emetophobia
The way the fear of vomiting phobia manifests is different in different people. Depending on the severity, some people might be anxious all the time.
- Pregnant women often experience vomiting or morning sickness; hence many emetophobic women avoid pregnancy.
- Children might avoid school; their performance can be affected owing to this phobia.
- Attending birthday parties and sleepovers, or dating and eating out might become difficult for such kids and teenagers.
- Others might become anxious seeing other people gagging, choking or getting sick- the feeling associated with vomiting is that it is disgusting, yucky etc. This can trigger an anxiety or panic attack in the form of sweating, trying to flee from the place, shaking etc.
- Many try to avoid places where there is a possibility of getting sick: pubs, hotels, clubs, theme park rides, long distance car or bus journeys or in general places that involve eating in front of anyone or getting sick due to motion sickness.
- Many individuals refuse to leave their homes especially during the flu season when a stomach bug may be rampant. They take all precautions to avoid sickness.
- Mothers become over protective of their children to ensure preventing illness. The mere thought of a child vomiting can set a panic attack in them. Constantly washing hands, preventing kids from trying out new foods or from visiting germy places is a sign of this phobia.
- Often, Emetophobes follow a strict diet to ensure preventing upset stomachs; they tend to avoid medicines that have nausea listed as a side effect. They might overuse antacids or vitamins to ensure staying healthy. Many avoid packaged foods, or might over-wash fruits or over cook food to stay healthy.
- Anorexia or staying away from food completely to avoid getting sick is another sign of fear of vomiting phobia.
Overcoming the fear of vomiting phobia
Adults suffering from this phobia often experience professional and personal setbacks on account of avoidance behaviors. Hence, early intervention and treatment are a must.
Many therapies like Hypnotherapy and cognitive behavior therapy are known to cure Emetophobia once and for all. Both therapies involve correcting the phobic’s’ beliefs about vomiting. This can help one overcome avoidance behavior.
Talk therapy and counseling as well as support groups can also encourage phobics to talk openly about their fears in a friendly environment. Doing so can help one get rid of Emetophobia once and for all.
Meditation and positive visualization can be used as self help therapies to boost self esteem. Both techniques can help one become more confident about situations or places where one might have experienced severe symptoms of Emetophobia before.