What is Emetophobia

Emetophobia is a morbid fear or phobia of vomiting. Emetophobia’s meaning is derived from the Greek word “emetikos” which means “to vomit” and “phobia” which means fear. It is an extremely intense aversion to watching or hearing other people vomit or the fear of you vomiting. It can manifest itself as the fear of being sick and even the slightest thought of vomit could trigger an anxiety attack.

This mental health condition is considered a phobia because it involves an irrational and persistent fear of something, in this case, vomit. This fear can be so intense that it disrupts a person’s daily life and can lead to social isolation, avoidance of certain situations, and intense distress.

Like a lot of phobias, emetophobia typically starts as a minor fear which progresses to one that induces panic, anxiety, or distress. Emetophobia occurs both in children and adults with many adults reporting it to have begun during childhood.

Fear of Vomit

The fear of vomiting may be related to other disorders and phobias such as agoraphobia, fear of flying, and OCD. Emetophobics are not just afraid of vomiting, some might be scared of doing so in public spaces so they may avoid social situations that may lead to them vomiting or witnessing someone else vomit such as parties, restaurants, and others. Individuals with OCD may also be emetophobic due to their aversion to germs or unclean situations.

In an internet survey conducted by Lipsitz et al, they found that the fear of vomit could result in challenges in leading a normal life. Many find traveling to be a problem, some may even find it uncomfortable being around children. Some emetophobic women were found to have delayed or avoided pregnancy to avoid the morning sickness resulting from the first trimester. When they did get pregnant, they found it all the more challenging.

They may also find challenges when it comes to food too. A lot of emetophobic people cook and eat their food in a specific manner, frequently checking it for its freshness or overcooking the food to avoid contracting any potential foodborne illness. They try to avoid eating out as much as possible or even avoid certain foods entirely due to any negative association they may have with them, especially if it relates to vomiting.

Although the anxiety that results from emetophobia might feel overwhelming, this mental health condition can be treated with the help of a therapist.

One of the leading causes of a phobia of vomit is a traumatic experience with a relation to vomit. For example, a person who has been severely sick or probably experienced food poisoning may begin to develop a fear of puking as a result. This could result in a morbid fear that they will get sick again which causes severe anxiety attacks in situations where there is a perceived risk of puking.

Genetics can also play a role in the development of phobia of puking. Studies have shown that certain genetic factors can increase a person’s likelihood of developing an anxiety disorder, including phobias. This suggests that a person may have a genetic predisposition to emetophobia activated by environmental factors, such as a traumatic experience or a history of anxiety.

Cultural and societal influences can also contribute to the development of emetophobia. Vomiting is often seen as a source of shame and disgust in many cultures, which can lead to a fear of vomiting. For example, in some cultures, vomiting is associated with poor hygiene or a lack of self-control, which can lead to stigma and shame.

Lastly, certain personality traits may also play a role in the development of emetophobia. People who are perfectionists or have high standards may be more likely to develop emetophobia, as they may fear that vomiting will cause them to lose control or fail in some way. This fear of failure can become so intense that it leads to a persistent fear of vomiting.

 Emetophobia Symptoms

Not enough is known about emetophobia but there are some general symptoms seen in individuals living with emetophobia.

One big sign of a phobia of vomit is that you likely put effort into avoiding situations where you or someone else may vomit.

Some other symptoms & behaviours that might signify that you’re emetophobic include:

  • Fear of eating new foods or drinks
  • Eating very little and only at home
  • Throwing food away before it expires
  • Constant investigation of food to see if it has spoilt.
  • Overcooking their food
  • Being very germophobic
  • Avoiding clinics or hospital that have sick people or people vomiting
  • Excessively washing food and hands.
  • Avoiding social situations with alcohol
  • Avoiding crowded environments
  • Avoiding weird or bad smells like garbage
  • Having panic attacks at the slight thought of puking
  • Avoiding drugs due to nausea anxiety

Emetophobia symptoms can appear in various ways and the emetophobic individual may even be aware that the reaction that occurs  because of their phobia isn’t normal.

For example, they may do everything they can to avoid going to the hospital when they are ill because of the smell or the possibility of seeing a sick person puke. They know this is not normal behavior and being aware of their condition does not do much in helping them if they don’t seek treatment in fact, they may experience shame leading them to try to hide their condition from others.

Diagnosing Emetophobia

Extreme and irrational fear of a particular situation or a specific object which leads to anxiety or panic when exposed to it is usually diagnosed as phobia, especially when it begins to impact your normal daily life in negative manners.

Some criteria that need to be met for a diagnosis of emetophobia include:

  • Actively avoiding any situation that could involve seeing or hearing vomit or result in vomiting.
  • An extremely fearful response that happens when the patient is exposed to the thought or sight of vomit.

Emetophobia can sometimes have similar characteristics as agoraphobia. The phobia of puking or seeing other people puke may get so strong that it results in panic and difficulty when trying to leave your house. But ,if the only reason you are avoiding public spaces and gatherings is because of the fear of vomiting then, you’re likely going to get diagnosed with emetophobia, not agoraphobia.

Emetophobia Treatment

If you do have emetophobia, don’t be alarmed, there is good news. There are highly effective treatments available for emetophobics. A combination of therapeutic treatments and medication will be very effective for people living with emetophobia.

Here’s an answer to your question of how to get over emetophobia.

As always, seeking the advice of a health professional is very important. Reach out to your doctor for advice first, they can then direct you to a mental health professional experienced in treating people with phobias. Your therapist can then help you uncover the root problem behind your intense fear, which could be related to past traumatic events. They can then work out a plan of treatment most suitable for you.

Emetophobia’s treatments are:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the usual treatment for phobias and works great for emetophobia also. This course of treatment focuses on changing the negative thoughts, feelings and behaviors that could contribute to your anxiety and fear. The therapist will work with you to identify the negative thoughts, such as the belief that vomiting is the end of the world. By reframing these thoughts, you can reduce your anxiety and start to overcome your fear.

Another effective form of treatment is exposure therapy. It involves safe and controlled exposure to your fear which in this case is vomit. Exposure therapy is used to help you understand that the fears causing you so much anxiety aren’t as harmful as you might think. It pushes you to face your fears and build a tolerance to it.

Medication can also be used to assist in managing the anxiety and panic resulting from emetophobia. Anti-anxiety medicine can help you reduce your symptoms so you can focus more on therapy and exposure exercises.

How To Get Over Emetophobia?

Coping with emetophobia can be quite difficult but with the help of a professional therapist and by sticking to your therapeutic treatment, you can get better. You can also start adopting healthy habits and behaviors that could reduce your risk of stress vomiting. Habits like having nutritionally balanced meals, taking enough water, and getting plenty of exercise regularly.

In conclusion, you are not stuck with emetophobia, it is a treatable disorder, and with the right combination of therapy, medication and good habits you can overcome this phobia and regain control  of your daily life.

Understand this, treatment may take some time, but with persistence, dedication and a will to get better, you can overcome your phobia and start living your life to the fullest.