Overcoming Your Fear of Vomiting and Emetophobia

The Fear of Vomiting: What You Need to Know if You Struggle With Emetophobia

If you order your life around the fear of throwing up, you may suffer from an anxiety disorder known as emetophobia. While most people who have emetophobia haven’t actually thrown up in years, the fear of doing so will cause them to develop a specific set of rituals and change their lives so that they can avoid triggering the fear. This intense fear is actually classified as a phobia.  According to experts, emetophobia can be triggered by a single traumatic event, such as a long bout of stomach flu, accidentally vomiting in public, or having to witness someone else vomit. This fear can be triggered at any time and at any age and is not specific to a gender or demographic.

People who have a fear of throwing up usually develop a set of behavioral patterns that allow them to navigate life with the phobia. If you have this disorder, it’s likely that you have altered your attitude toward dining out, traveling, and even social engagements. Developing these coping mechanisms does help someone with a phobia to deal with everyday life, but these behaviors never eradicate the fear. Until you begin therapy, you cannot target the root of your phobia and then go on to lead an existence that is free of fear. Before we begin discussing the treatment for emetophobia, it helps to understand the fundamentals of this intense fear.

What Is Emetophobia?

Emetophobia, as we have established, is the fear of throwing up, but rarely is it the only fear that someone is suffering from. Usually this phobia is compounded by several others, making it necessary to deal with each phobia individually in order for the patient to recover fully. For example, it is common for emetophobics to also suffer from a fear of food, known as cibophobia, where the sufferer worries that the food their eating is carrying pathogens that can cause vomiting. As such, people will develop specific behaviors that will, in their minds, make the food safe to eat, such as a ritualistic type of washing. In time, these fears can become so ingrained that the person who has them can begin to suffer from anorexia nervosa.

Emetophobics may also suffer from other complicating disorders, such as social anxiety and agoraphobia. These two are very common because people who fear vomiting are often terrified of doing so in a public place. Therefore, they may restrict their social activities so they avoid any situations with alcohol or dining out in restaurants. Emetophobics may also limit exposure to children for fear of germs. According to one Internet survey, females who suffer from this disorder delayed pregnancy or avoided it altogether because of the fear of morning sickness. People who have a fear of vomiting may avoid travel because of the worry about motion sickness.

The most popular misconception about emetophobia is that the person is faking the fear or just needs to “get over it.” The fear is so deep-rooted that the worry over vomiting can develop GI problems and nausea. This leads to a vicious cycle of fear of vomiting but the inability to stop feeling nauseated.

Causes and Treatments of Emetophobia

According to a study by Angela L. Davidson et al, emetophobia may be triggered in personality types that have a fear of losing control. In other words, they consider vomiting to be a shameful loss of control over their own bodies. They go out of their way to avoid throwing up with the feeling that they are exerting control over their lives; but in reality, the phobia is controlling everything they do.

For those seeking treatment for this disorder, there are three common methods: exposure therapy, medication, and self-help techniques. Exposure therapy involves exposing someone to the very situation that triggers the phobic response, with the plan of desensitizing them to the fear. For someone with emetophobia, that would mean watching a movie of people throwing up to become accustomed to the sound and sight of vomiting. However, the main issue with exposure therapy is compliance: very few people willingly volunteer for it.

Medication, such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication, have proven helpful to emetophobics too – but again, the issue is one of compliance. Very few people who have a fear of throwing up willingly take medication because of the fear that the medication will cause nausea.

This means that, of the three types of treatment available, self-help is the most beneficial for those who suffer from emetophobia.

Benefits of Self-Help Therapy

Before seeking self-help treatment for emetophobia, it’s important to make sure you aren’t suffering from anorexia. Anorexia is a serious disease that can be fatal. If you do have anorexia nervosa, you should speak with a qualified physician immediately. Do not try a self-help program if you are anorexic.

If you are not suffering from anorexia and need a way to take back your life from emetophobia, self-help programs can give you the techniques you need to conquer anxiety and stress. With a self-help program, you can learn to stop an impending panic attack or simply reduce the overall level of stress in your life – both will help you to overcome your fear of throwing up. You may employ tactics such as meditation, visualization, breathing exercises, laughter therapy, and yoga to combat stress. Of the techniques you learn, you can customize your treatment program so it’s helpful for your needs by focusing on the ones that work well for you and eschewing those that don’t work.

Traditional therapy is more expensive than self-help and less private – which makes self-help a practical choice for almost everyone. For the price of one session with a therapist, you can purchase an entire self-help regimen to treat your phobia. And since no insurance companies need to get involved, you don’t have to worry about anyone knowing about your struggle to break free of your phobia – unless you choose to share.

If you are ready to let go of your fear of vomiting and to conquer your phobia, a self-help treatment program can give you the tools you need to be successful.

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