Vomit Phobia, or Emetophobia, is an intense fear or anxiety surrounding vomiting such that an individual experiences extreme distress when feared situations regarding vomit are experienced. Fear surrounding vomit may include a fear of vomiting, a fear of feeling nauseated or a fear of seeing others vomit. Individuals experiencing Emetophobia typically experience catastrophic thinking around vomiting believing they may vomit endlessly or choke amongst other things. Emetophobia is maintained by a cycle of fearful anticipation and avoidance the continually reinforces the fear of vomiting in a similar manner as to that by which Panic Disorder is maintained.
What are the symptoms?
The common symptoms associated with Emetophobia are as follows:
A fear of eating foods, consuming alcohol or taking medication or anesthetic that may induce vomiting.
A fear of hospitals, nursing homes, public toilets or sick or injured people from where or whom a vomiting bug may be contracted.
A fear of travelling or amusements parks where vomiting is more likely to occur.
A fear of pregnancy that may induce morning sickness or vomiting during delivery.
Immediate panic and irrational thinking at the thought of potentially vomiting.
Refusal to eat or drink resulting from the belief that one will not vomit if their stomach is empty.
Refusal to be near people or places that may induce vomiting.
Assume that vomiting may be a symptom of any illness one encounters.
Why does it occur?
While it is difficult to ascertain the exact cause of Emetophobia, like other Specific Phobias, Emetophobia typically develops from a traumatic experience that may have involved the individual themself vomiting or the individual seeing another individual vomiting. Emetophobia may also develop as a result of fears regarding the loss of control such that the phobia is induced by the lack of control an individual has when vomiting.
What treatments are available?
Exposure therapy has been found to the highly effective in the treatment of Emetophobia. Exposure is this particular context does not necessarily require an individual to vomit. Rather, an individual may be exposed to situation, objects and activities that are typically avoided for fear of vomiting.
As vomiting is an experience that is almost always unpleasant, exposure therapy in this context does not seek to change an individuals reaction to vomiting but rather seeks to aid individuals to conduct their lives in a manner that is not restricted by their fear of being exposed to situations, objects and activities that may induce vomiting.