Emetophobia is an extreme and irrational fear of vomiting. People with this disorder are afraid of having to throw up, especially in situations where they cannot leave. Often they are also afraid to see others vomit. People with emetophobia often think that they are the only ones and don’t dare to tell their environment. Doctors often don’t recognize this phobia.
Ever in the lives of people with emetophobia, vomiting has become linked to fear. That is the result of a traumatic incident that has happened in their childhood. They have avoided the risk of vomiting, because of a slight anxiety. The fear has from then only increased, causing an extreme fear (a phobia). Although their lives have been dominated by nausea and the fear of vomiting, these people ironically often have not vomited for years.
As in case of a phobia, people do everything to avoid what they are anxious about. That means for people suffering from emetophobia that they avoid any situation in which they can vomit or possibly see others do it. Because of this, they may have the following behavior:
- Not eating food that they consider to be a risk of vomiting.
- Not going to pubs, parties, etc. where drunk people are, who may vomit.
- Not drinking alcohol themselves for that reason.
- Panic attacks, agoraphobia: not going out for dinner or daring to shop.
- Hosophobia and therefore exaggerated hygienic, afraid of having, for example, gastroenteritis.
- For the same reason throwing food away often, fearing that it’s rotten.
- Losing weight due to poor eating or one-sided diet.
- Gastrointestinal disorders and always feeling nauseous.
- Not traveling due to the risk of travel sickness.
Although emetophobia is a common condition, it’s seldom recognized as such. This has several causes. First, the phobia is relatively unknown to general practitioners and psychologists. Because of the unfamiliarity and multitude of problems, with which patients go to the general practitioner or psychologist, another diagnosis is often made, such as agoraphobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (because of the compulsions), hypochondria or anorexia nervosa (if the patient doesn’t eat to prevent nausea).
Emetophobia can be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy, sometimes in combination with medicines, such as antidepressants or sedatives. First must be clear by conversations where the fear of vomiting comes from, from what the phobia has originated and how it’s maintained.
Another therapy used is the so-called exposure. Here, a person is gradually, in a safe environment, exposed to that which evokes the fear, so that it can be made manageable step by step. In this case, it may include photos and videos of people vomiting, with the shown getting worse and worse.
There are other options, such as hypnotherapy or relaxation therapy. A combination will often be employed in practice. In any case, it is necessary to confront the fear in order to get rid of it.
When emetophobia occurs, there is usually a vicious circle. Because the patient fears his or her own body, the disorder often has extensive consequences. Emetophobia leads to a strongly reduced quality of life and causes limitations in social and professional functioning. Untreated emetophobia often has a chronic course and often leads to loneliness and depression.
- Talk about the anxiety. For example, with fellow-sufferers or trust someone in the private setting.
- Realize that the anxiety is maintained by avoiding. Try, step by step, to push the boundary. An action plan can help.
- Realize that nausea is often caused by stress. Relaxation and breathing exercises often work better than medicines for stomach problems.
- If, despite good intentions, the anxiety increases rather than decreases, seek professional help.
- Only start with antidepressants if there is supervision from a psychologist.
- The term ‘emetophobia’ is derived from the Greek words emetos (vomiting) and phóbos (anxiety, fear).
- The prevalence of emetophobia is almost 9%.
- The disorder is most common in mid-twenties. The symptoms usually begin in adolescence or even at a younger age.
- About 90% of people with emetophobia is female.