Emetophobia is the irrational fear of vomiting. Someone suffering from this condition may find it extremely difficult to cope in their day to day life due to them being overly concerned with vomiting. Their emetophobia may be so extreme that they may be unable to think coherently about their fear, let alone handle very strong emotions. In fact, their anxiety may be so intrusive that they may even experience full blown panic attacks.
People vomit for a plethora of different reasons. They may have a stomach virus, maybe have drank to much alcohol, or they may be experiencing some side effects of a medication they have taken. Regardless of the reasons as to why people vomit, one thing is clear, it is typically embarrassing for the person doing it.
Even though vomiting is typically a very shameful act, for people suffering from emetophobia they may take things to an extreme by being overly concerned with vomiting to the point to where it negatively effects their day to day life. They may begin to make irrationally extreme decisions throughout the day based solely on their fear of vomiting. For instance, they may refuse to eat past a certain time to ensure that they won’t vomit or they may refuse to consume even an ounce of alcohol to ensure that there is zero chance they will become ill from it and vomit.
Out of all the diverse phobias that exist, emetophobia is likely to be more common than most. This is especially likely when we look at some of the more bizarre phobias such as consecotaleophobia (fear of chopsticks), papyrophobia (fear of paper), and prosophobia (fear of progress), among many other rare phobias.
Symptoms of Emetophobia
Someone suffering from emetophobia can expect to experience a great deal of uncomfortable anxiety at the mere thought of throwing up. If they see someone else vomiting or if they feel as though they have to vomit, then they may be stricken with extremely heightened anxiety which may result in a panic attack.
Like with most phobias, someone suffering from emetophobia may find themselves wanting to avoiding their fear. Avoidance is one of the most common things that people with anxiety disorders tend to do. Though they will likely feel much less anxiety when avoiding that which they fear, they may be causing much more damage in the long run as they may be reinforcing their destructive behavior by feeding into their fear.
Someone’s fear of vomiting may be greatly exacerbated if they were to also suffer from additional mental disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), among many others. For example, someone suffering from full blown OCD may find themselves obsessing about vomiting to the point to where the majority of their thoughts are about vomiting or their fear of it.
Below, you will see some more common symptoms of emetophobia:
Anxiety when thinking of vomiting
Anxiety when around others who are vomiting
Unable to control very strong emotions
May experience panic attacks
Causes of Emetophobia
There is no known cause of emetophobia. However, genetics and one’s environment may be very pertinent factors for developing this phobia, and any other mental illness for that matter. For instance, if some has a family history of mental illness, then they may have a higher chance of developing emetophobia. This may be due to them also having a higher chance of being genetically predisposed to developing mental illness.
If someone where to have such a genetic predisposition, then it may only require that they experience some sort of traumatic event for them to develop full blown emetophobia. Some potentially traumatic events that could cause someone with the right genetic makeup to develop this disorder may be that they were once vomited on in front of other people or perhaps they puked when they were on stage once before in front of a crowd.
It is also possible for someone to develop emetophobia due to them already suffering from a different mental disorder. For instance, someone suffering from OCD may develop an irrational fear of vomiting due to them obsessing about vomiting for whatever reason.
Though we can definitely look at the many potential reasons as to why someone may or may not develop emetophobia, there is an overwhelming consensus among most mental health professionals that both genetics and environment play very significant roles in the development of virtually any mental disorder. So, it is likely the combination of these two things working together in unison as opposed to it being either one or the other.
Emetophobia Treatments (abridged)
There is no known treatment that is specifically designed for emetophobia. Be that as it may, exposure therapy may be very advantageous for someone suffering from this phobia. Exposure therapy works by having the therapist slowly expose the patient to that which they fear. Doing so will likely give the patient a lot of uncomfortable anxiety. However, this will also help them to become desensitized from their fear.
It is very important that the therapist practicing exposure therapy is very adept and experienced with this form of treatment as it can be very destructive if not implemented properly. For example, if the therapist exposes the patient to too much too soon, then it may only exacerbate the symptoms of their disorder without allowing them to gradually build up their tolerance to it.
Anti-anxiety medication may also be very advantageous as well. This type of medication may help to minimize the amount of anxiety experienced from this disorder. Nevertheless, even though anti-anxiety medication may be able to help, it may not be a good idea to take this type of medication alone without also engaging in any form of therapy, but this will be something you will need to discuss with your doctor first.
If you think you have emetophobia or if you are suffering from some of the symptoms of this condition, then you should talk to your doctor as soon as you can so that you can be properly diagnosed and treated. Upon seeing your doctor, he may refer you to see a specialist such as a therapist or a psychiatrist.
Exercise for Emetophobia
Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including emetophobia. Specifically, cardiovascular exercise can significantly help to relieve one’s stress. This is not to say that weight-resistance training would not benefit someone with anxiety, but rather that aerobic exercise is has been shown to be more effective at releasing those feel good chemicals in the brain, such as endorphins.
According to the American Psychology Association, exercise can help to condition the mind to better cope with stressful situations. This makes sense when we take into consideration the high amount of stress that the body is put under during strenuous exercise. So, if you yourself are sedentary, then engaging in some form of aerobic exercise may be able to significantly help reduce your symptoms of emetophobia by making it much easier for you to cope with the anxiety and stress that’s associated with this condition.
There are many different aerobic modalities that you can partake in to help reduce your symptoms of emetophobia, such as swimming, biking, skiing, walking, and jogging. You can also acquire the many benefits of exercise by playing sports such as tennis, soccer, basketball, and racquetball, among many other sports. Engaging in some form of exercise consistently may be able to help relieve some of the pain associated with emetophobia over time.
Practicing Yoga for Emetophobia
There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from emetophobia. In part, this is due to the meditative state of mind that yoga tends to emit in those who practice it on a consistent basis. Yoga can be thought of as meditation in motion. It can help to relieve some of the anxiety associated with emetophobia due to the mere fact that by engaging in yoga, your attention will be redirected to something more productive.
There are many different types of yoga that someone with emetophobia can benefit from, such as hatha yoga or hot yoga, among many others. Nevertheless, regardless of the many different forms of yoga that exist, virtually all of them can help to relieve some of the stress and anxiety that is associated with emetophobia.
If you have never practiced yoga before, then it may be in your best interest to take a class or watch some guided videos that can help you through each pose. Just like with meditation, the more you practice yoga, the more adept you will become at it. Besides helping you to reduce your symptoms of emetophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.
Reducing Caffeine for Emetophobia
It is no secret that consuming large amounts of caffeine throughout the day can aid in making you more anxious. This makes sense when we look closely at how caffeine affects our body’s physiology. When we consume a high dose of caffeine, our heart will start to beat faster and we become more tense. Essentially, our body will begin to go into a “fight or flight” state of mind. Such a frame of mind is often a precursor for someone with emetophobia to experience panic attacks.
So, consuming little to no caffeine throughout the day may be able to significantly help reduce your day to day anxiety. Although doing so will likely not make all of your anxiety go away, it will indeed help you to reduce any unnecessary suffering that you would have otherwise experienced if you were to consume a large amount of caffeine.
Beverages like coffee and tea are often high in caffeine, as well as some energy drinks. In fact, even some foods have caffeine in them as well, such as dark chocolate. Being more conscious of your daily caffeine consumption may help you to reduce some of the symptoms associated with emetophobia.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Emetophobia
DBT is a very effective form of treatment for people struggling with emotion regulation. It is often used to treat people suffering from borderline personality disorder. Nevertheless, it can also be very advantageous for someone suffering from anxiety disorders like emetophobia too. This is due to the numerous amount of coping skills you can expect to learn in a DBT group. These groups typically last about 6 months long and can have anywhere from two people to several people depending on how many join the group.
One very effective DBT skill for helping someone with emetophobia is half-smiling. This technique works by having you think about that which you fear or upsets you all while slightly raising the corners of your mouth by lightly smiling, thus the term “half-smiling.” Although, it isn’t enough to just think about your fear while half-smiling, you also have to try and refrain from entertaining those painful emotions that your specific fear may evoke.
Mindfulness meditation is also heavily used in DBT and can greatly benefit someone with emetophobia as it is done in a group setting, which helps to put the patient out of their comfort zone. These group mindfulness practices may include drinking warm tea to hone in on the sense of taste and tactile senses or simply focusing on the breath.
Coping ahead is another very useful DBT skill that can help someone with emetophobia. With coping ahead, you will want to find a place where you can sit down quietly without distraction. Close your eyes and then think about the many different possible scenarios where you would face your specific fear and overcome it or cope with it. Doing so will help you to be much better adept at coping with your emetophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.
Psychiatric Medications for Emetophobia
These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe emetophobia due to the fact that people with phobias often experience panic attacks as well. Some common anti-anxiety medications include Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin, among many others.
These types of drugs are not typically taken on a daily basis, but they may be insofar as their emetophobia is severe enough. However, this is something that you should first discuss with your doctor before you decide to do so to ensure that it is safe and effective.
These types of medications aren’t only for people who suffer from depression as they can also help people suffering from anxiety disorders as well, such as emetophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of emetophobia.
These types of drugs are typically taken on a daily basis. They can indeed help prevent panic attacks from occurring, but they are more so used to help reduce people’s daily anxiety. Talk to your doctor to see if taking antidepressants can help to reduce your symptoms of emetophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Emetophobia
CBT is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve one’s mental health. It is a modality that is often used to treat people suffering from anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. Someone with emetophobia may also be able to benefit from CBT as well seeing as how it would allow them to have a much better understanding as to why they think and behave the way they do in relation to their irrational fears.
CBT can be immensely helpful for someone with emetophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with emetophobia is exposed to their fear, they will almost always have an instantaneous subconscious reaction to their fear. Such a lack of introspection is likely a large part of why someone with this condition will suffer to the extent that they will. CBT can help you to take a step back and analyze your fears more deeply than you typically would.
Besides learning to be more fastidious with regards to understanding one’s specific fears, someone with emetophobia engaging in CBT can also expect to learn various other skills aimed at helping to relieve the anxiety caused by their condition.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Emetophobia
MBSR is an 8-week evidence-based program that offers secular, intensive mindfulness training to help people who are suffering from anxiety, stress, depression, and other sorts of mental anguish. MBSR may be able to significantly help someone who is suffering from emetophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with emetophobia can expect to learn a plethora of different skills that can help them to relieve the intense anxiety that’s associated with their specific phobia.
Talk to your doctor or therapist to see if MBSR can help you to reduce the intensity of your symptoms of emetophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.
Practicing Meditation for Emetophobia
There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from emetophobia. Specifically, mindfulness meditation has been shown to be quite beneficial for helping people to enter into a more equanimeous state. There are many different ways with which you can implement mindfulness meditation and there are also many different meditation apps which are designed to make things as easy as possible for you.
Mindfulness has the potential to significantly help those suffering from emetophobia due to how it will help one to distract themselves from their fear by refocusing their attention onto something else that does not have any sort of emotional baggage attached to it, such as by focusing on the breath for example. This is one of the most basic ways that one can meditate and be present.
For someone with emetophobia in the midst of a panic attack, redirecting one’s attention to the various sensations felt when breathing can actually help to reduce the amount of mental anguish experienced during such an influx of anxiety.
To implement mindfulness meditation to help relieve one’s symptoms of emetophobia, you can do so by paying close attention to the way the muscles in your abdomen and chest contract and relax with every inhale and exhale. You can spend time dwelling on how it feels as your chest expands during each inhale and how it sinks in with every exhale.
Besides focusing on your breathing, you can also focus on the sounds around you, the way your skin feels as you touch certain objects, the way foods taste, as well as the way certain aromas smell. Essentially, honing into your 5 senses can significantly help you to reduce some of the anxiety that is associated with emetophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.
Exposure Therapy for Emetophobia
As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as emetophobia. It can be an efficient way to help desensitize the patient to their specific fears. Be that as it may, it is imperative that the therapist implementing it on their patient is very adept at doing so. For example, if the therapist were to slightly expose someone with emetophobia to their fear, then it may not be very effective as they may need a higher amount of exposure to truly trigger any sort of worthwhile change in the patient.
The same can be said for the antithesis of this scenario. If the therapist were to excessively expose someone with emetophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their emetophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with emetophobia has a very strong sense of just how severe their symptoms are so that they can know the level of exposure that the patient will likely be able to handle.