Emetophobia is a terribly anguishing condition

Emetophobia is fundamentally the fear of being sick. It goes under quite a few different names, such as, vomitphobia or emetophobia, in any case, it is surprisingly common and manifests itself in many different ways, all of which cause the person living with this traumatic response a lot of anxiety and fear.

I apologise in advance if reading any words referring to vomit make you feel uncomfortable, however, I guess you are looking to find a new way to face your fear and step away from being the victim of this anxiety-based disorder – so if you can, read on.

What is emetophobia?

Fear of vomiting is one of the most misunderstood, yet common phobias in the world. An intense anxiety response is unconsciously fired off within the sufferer when their particular trigger event is experienced and this leads to feelings of panic and the need to avoid being sick or escape the presenting sickness related stimulus. The emotional responses experienced during this state vary from person to person, however, often include:

  • Feeling that you may need to vomit
  • Excessive saliva or dry mouth
  • Finding it hard to breath
  • A physical shaking of the hands and body
  • Feeling hot and flustered
  • Racing heart and tight chest
  • The feeling of nausea in the stomach
  • Dizziness
  • Crying
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Irrational loss of common sense, as if your emotions have hijacked your brain

Where does a vomiting phobia come from?

These feelings are an anxiety response kicked off by your unconscious nervous system in response to fearful thoughts of what might happen, based on (out of date or erroneous) memories of past experiences. They could be as simple as being very ill as a child and feeling embarrassed because you vomited in public or were reprimanded for making a mess in the car or at somebody else’s house – right through to seeing another person become sick or vomiting and being nervous or scared. In reality, it doesn’t really matter if you know where your anxiety came from or not, in fact, many times the emetophobia is established unconsciously or by association – for example:

Ten years earlier… She had been stressed for a few months, money was tight and she really needed to ensure that she kept her job. She was invited to a business lunch with her boss and she was not sure if he was pleased with her performance or not. She fretted the night before about what she would do if she lost her job and hardly slept. On the day of the meeting she already had nauseous feelings in her stomach (butterflies) and high levels of anxiety – her worst fears were realised and during the lunch, it became clear to her that the big announcement was coming up. she began to shake a little, her heart racing, stomach churning, she desperately needed to wee, then there was the tell-tale sign of lots of saliva in her mouth – she just had to run to the bathroom knowing that she would vomit…. She didn’t vomit though. She just had to immediately leave the restaurant, she sat in her car and cried, shaking and tearful until she calmed down enough to drive home.

In reality,what she had experienced was an anxiety attack based on months of stress that just happened to manifest itself in a restaurant with the thought that she would vomit (could it be any worse?) Her unconscious mind then starts playing it’s tricks with her – she subsequently thinks, was it the restaurant that made her feel sick? If it was an Indian restaurant she might feel that if she ate Indian food again the same intense scary emotional vomiting scene would replay itself.

At this point, the ruminations begin – thoughts and unanswered questions that just spin around and around in the mind “What if all restaurants make me feel this way? – What if it was someone watching me eat? – What if I have an illness? – What if…. – What if…..” The real reasons for the episode (anxiety) get lost in the mental fog, the fear and the constant ruminations all based on the thought that she was going to vomit was to blame.

Of course, I made that story up, however, this is very typical of scenarios that commonly start some form of irrational fear of vomiting. The fear is a fear of the effects of the anxiety on her body labelled as vomiting. The effects of anxiety and panic on the human body to generate a whole series of physiological effects that can feel scary and sometimes as though you will be sick.

  • Regardless of why or how you feel this way, it is possible to get help.
  • Common symptoms of Emetophobia – fear of vomiting
  • Symptoms of fear of being sick are numerous and differ from person to person, common aspects include:
  • Avoiding too much food or drink, just in-case they feel sick
  • Averting gaze or covering eyes when vomiting is on TV
  • Overly hygienic with bathrooms and kitchens
  • Not wanting to be watched whilst eating
  • Terrified when generally ill in-case they need to vomit
  • Problems using some public conveniences
  • Fearful of restaurants or specific types of food
  • Finding it hard to deal with the sickness of their child
  • Wary in pubs and clubs of drunk people
  • Uncomfortable in hospitals or surgeries
  • Weight problems

These are just a few of the symptoms I see from day to day.

Emetophobia treatment & regaining self-confidence

This paralysing phobia is often accompanied by other anxiety-based fears like agoraphobia, low self-esteem and some eating disorders. Emetophobia treatment is very possible although you need to ensure you are working with a professional who understands just how it works and how frightening it can feel. The unconscious mind tends to be very sneaky when it comes to emetophobia and comes up with all sorts of excuses to not move forward, erroneously thinking it is keeping you safe. The reality is you are a victim to it and this needs to change.

I can help by teaching you where anxiety comes from and how to take back control of these previously overwhelming feelings, we then uncover old outdated beliefs about why you have this and finally work with your unconscious mind to let go of the old responses and replace them with new more appropriate ones. To do this I use a whole range of therapies, emetophobia treatment does take a month or so to take back control and then a few months of facing your fears (changing behaviour) before your unconscious nervous system re-calibrates back to normal – this is usually 4 -6 sessions.

I must stress that my way of working will focus on the whole you, not just the emetophobia treatment, as in my experience this phobia is dependant on so many other aspects of who you feel you are and how you feel about yourself.

Anxiety, OCD & Depression

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