Emetophobia: Symptoms, and 2 Treatments
Emetophobia is the intense fear of vomiting. Though most people don’t like the unpleasant feeling of throwing up, emetophobia can severely interfere with your lifestyle.
Emetophobics don’t only fear the act of vomiting itself, but are hyper-conscious of anything that leads to vomiting such as illnesses and bad smells, seeing vomit, or nausea. Emetophobics can also be germaphobes with the added fear of throwing up.
Symptoms of Emetophobia:
- Very sensitive to any fragrances or intense smells and will avoid places with fragrances and bad smells. For example, may take an alternative route into a shopping plaza to avoid certain stores
- Hypervigilant of location of bathrooms just incase you feel sick
- Eats very little to avoid any chances of vomiting
- Constantly checks food to make sure it will not cause any nausea
- Avoid anything related to an incident of throwing up. For example, you avoid parks because of a vivid memory of vomiting in a park.
- Avoid travel or anything related to motion sickness
- Cannot stand videos of vomiting or being in a place where someone vomited
- Fears not being able to escape a place where someone vomits
Treatments for Emetophobia
Like any phobia, there are a few natural and therapeutic ways to treat emetophobia that allows you to carry on with normal day-to-day activities.
Exposure therapy functions with the premise that clients will recover from their phobia through small increments of exposure until they are able to face the stimulus without a severe anxiety reaction.
With emetophobia, that may look like starting with visualization of an experience that was perceived as traumatic and being able to dissociate from the event and learn from it.
This technique is called the rewind technique and is often used for PTSD as well. In this technique, people with emetophobia would be asked to go back to an instance when they vomited or saw someone vomit. They would then be asked to watch the event like a movie and then insert themselves as an actor in that movie to console themselves.
This technique should only be performed by a licensed practitioner as it can elicit a traumatic response if clients are not relaxed enough and don’t feel safe.
Exposure therapy then slowly allows the client to go to places they once feared, first through visualization, then through images, then physically until the client feels safe enough to go to places without triggering their phobia.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Emetophobia, as well as other phobias, elicit a string of thoughts when a client is exposed to a stimulus. For example, those who are scared of spiders may think “I will die,” when seeing a spider. This often is the cause of the irrational and exaggerated response of anyone who has a phobia.
With emetophobic clients, they may feel as they will die or experience extreme humiliation if they vomit. You may think, “I’m going to vomit and will go through extreme dehydration and die.” Or think, “Everyone will think I’m such a loser if I vomit and I will be disgusting.” These thoughts often trigger irrational responses.
A therapist who practices cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) will help clients identify these thoughts and help the client think of alternative thoughts that cause a more rational response. These thoughts can be, “If I vomit, people will understand that I was not feeling well. Everyone has vomited in their lives.”