Emetophobia or fear of vomiting is not a widely diagnosed disorder. Despite it being the 5th largest phobia on the planet very little research has been done into it. This means that very few medical practitioners have the required knowledge to treat it, or in many cases, actually be in a position to give out useful information.
Having an extreme fear of vomiting is debilitating and can affect all aspects of the life of a sufferer. Everything from eating, socializing, working, sleeping, relationships, parenthood, pregnancy and traveling involve scenarios in which an emetophobe can foresee themselves being sick or imagine somebody else being sick. One solution adopted by many is to simply avoid these potentially ‘horrific’ situations, unfortunately this can very quickly lead to a sheltered life and a miserable existence.
The experiences of those suffering can differ greatly. Whereas for some the main fear is being sick for others it is seeing sick – but the common factor is the desire to avoid vomit. Another common feature of emetophobes is that they are not very often sick themselves. Indeed, most people afflicted with this condition could tell you exactly when they last had to V*, and for some it was decades previous.
More women than men have emetophobia and in most cases the experts agree that the disorder will have had its roots in childhood. They also agree that the fear has a tendency to turn into something both chronic and disruptive. It is also pervasive as this primary phobia can lead to other fears and phobias such as the fear of gagging, fear of germs, depression, fear of being trapped under water, etc. Add to this the fact that as a result of living with this fear and attempting to restructure their life around it many sufferers develop other conditions such as agoraphobia and anorexia. It is fair to say that this ‘stupid’ fear can be a serious problem.
It is not all doom and gloom though, there are plenty of people that have retrained their brains to defeat this fear and are living normal and full lives. Therapies and home treatment courses such as the Emetophobia Recovery System teach you how to control rising anxiety and deal with growing fear. This in turn gives you the confidence to go into almost any situation without nauseating worry. Once you know and believe that the demon is actually a daft dog you can unpause your life and start to experience and enjoy it.
Make no mistake though, you are going to have to put in the work. The retraining of the brain is your brain, and the associations to break are your associations – unfortunately no pill or potion has been made available that is going to do this work for you.
Although a common disorder, the exact statistics regarding the number of sufferers is not known. Many people hesitate to come forward and seek help because they feel shame. Some prefer to avoid hospitals and surgeries due to the fear of infection. As difficulty with food is a common symptom of this phobia it is often misdiagnosed as an eating disorder. In fact, with all of the different fears that result from just the one original fear of vomiting I am quite sure that there are a huge amount of misdiagnosed sufferers out there.
Common Causes of Emetophobia
The medical community is not able to give a clear explanation regarding the causes of emetophobia, although this is not uncommon with anxiety related phobias. They are prepared to stick their neck out and tell us that the disorder occurs due to biological and psychological reasons (it might be sunny tomorrow or it might rain!). Where people have been diagnosed with emetophobia in most cases it is found that it was triggered by an extreme vomiting experience in childhood. No one reason comes to the fore but genetic disorders, problems with balance, sexual abuse and alcoholic parents have all been recorded triggers.
Symptoms of Emetophobia
The symptoms of Emetophobia can be physical, mental and emotional.
As part of the mental and emotional abuse of this condition sufferers may have to deal with the following on a daily basis: -
- Obsessive thoughts
- Fear of losing control
- Feelings of unreality
- A fear of fainting
- Anticipatory anxiety
- The Desire to flee
If that wasn’t enough the physical symptoms to contend with include:
- Chest pain
- Panic attacks
- Accelerated heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Smothering sensation
- Feeling of choking
- Stomach distress
- Unsteady feeling
- Hot or cold flashes
- Numbness or tingling sensation
Can you be cured from a Fear of Vomiting
The short answer is ‘Yes’ – sort of
It has happened many many times to many many people.
The trick is being able to control the anxiety but this doesn’t mean in every case that the phobia itself is going to completely disappear.
People with this condition are not stupid. They know that their fear is irrational and they know that the act of vomiting or seeing somebody being sick is never as bad as was imagined. This does not, unfortunately, make it any less real. It also does not stop sufferers continuing with behaviors that reinforce their fear thereby creating a continual cycle.
Unless of course they actively do something to break this cycle.
How that cycle gets broken and how the remapping of your minds associations gets made differs a lot. This is partly because there is no general consensus on what is the best treatment out there but also because people are having success with different treatments. What works for one person may not work for another but at least with different treatment options available suffers can keep going until they have their breakthrough.
I will go into more detail on the types of treatments for the fear of vomiting in another post but here are some of the treatment options that people have been having success with:-
- Behavioral therapy
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
Behavioral therapies are often highly effective for overcoming phobias as they effectively retrain the brain allowing you to extinguish fear by automatically applying logical arguments and experience. You are able to equip yourself with the belief that nothing dreadful is going to happen.
With a psychological approach to an anxiety disorder the goal is to uncover the cause of the fear and the source of its importance. Often times when that is understood the fear can be treated.
There are also medications such as anti-anxiety drugs, anti-depressants, and anti-nausea drugs. However, there is no evidence that these medications can cure Emetophobia, they just mask the problem and make life that little bit more bearable for some people. However, in some cases they do this by blurring your existence and in cases long term usage will have some kind of side effect.
Personally I think you should avoid the pills and get started with breaking the fear and thought cycle taking place in your head straight away. It might not be easy, and it might take some time but honestly, it will be worth it.