Are you afraid of eating in a restaurant because you’re afraid you might throw up?
Do you tremble when you see someone on TV vomit?
Do you feel a sense of panic when your stomach turns queasy?
If so, you may suffer from the fear of vomiting, or Emetophobia.
The thought of vomiting is not something anyone enjoys, however, if the fear is so strong it is interfering with your life, you may need to learn more about emetophobia. Learning more about your phobia and ways to manage the fear—or at least cope with the symptoms—can lead to a more normal and productive life.
What Is Emetophobia?
Emetophobia is an irrational, intense fear of vomiting.
Emetophobia comes originally from the Greek words emetikos meaning “vomiting” and phobos meaning “fear.”
The fear of vomiting can be so severe that even the mention of the word can bring on symptoms of the fear. The fear can also include fear of others vomiting as well as fear of nausea.
Those that suffer from the fear of vomiting are not just put off by vomiting, but actually have an intense fear of vomiting that slowly develops into a phobia which impacts the person’s enjoyment of life.
In many cases, if you have emetophobia you may also have related fears as well. These include the inability to stop vomiting, not being able to reach a bathroom in time, choking on vomit, being embarrassed by vomiting in front of others, and being admitted to the hospital.
In the majority of cases, the fear begins in childhood. A traumatic event such as vomiting as a child or watching another person vomiting can set the seeds for the phobia to develop.
Initially, you may avoid foods and other things that you associate with vomiting. As the fear increases, you may begin constantly checking your temperature to ensure you are not getting sick. You may start staying away from others in case they are sick.
The fear of vomiting can grow so strong you may be unable to leave your home for work or to visit family. The idea is that you never know when you may vomit, so you want to be close to home in order to avoid things that make you feel nauseous.
The physical symptoms associated with the fear of vomiting include:
- Avoiding foods that you think will make you vomit
- Eating slowly
- Eating small portions
- Eating only at home
- Checking food constantly to ensure it is still good
- Avoiding touching things that could have germs including doorknobs, countertops, or toilet levers
- Washing hands excessively
- Washing food excessively
- Washing dishes and cooking utensils excessively
- Avoiding medicines that might make you throw up
- Avoiding alcohol that might cause you to vomit
- Avoiding crowded public areas
- Avoiding all things that trigger your fear including foods that made someone else vomit
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Fast heartbeat
The psychological symptoms of vomiting include:
- Inability to cope with anxiety
- Feeling vulnerable
- Panic attacks
- Intense fear of seeing someone vomit
- A tremendous fear of having to vomit and no bathroom close by
- Severe fear of not being able to stop vomiting
- Panic at the thought of being in a crowd with no way out if some vomits
- Constant, irrational thoughts linking things to a vomiting experience such as a certain shirt or place
Overcoming fear of Vomiting
Self-help Options: What Can I Do to Help Myself with Emetophobia
The best self-help for emetophobia is to learn your triggers such as a certain foods or places. From there, have a close friend or your partner rank the triggers that you avoid out of fear. Once you have the list, you start with the one that is the lowest trigger and expose yourself to it until you can handle it without experiencing a gag reflex or fear of vomiting.
Try saying the words: vomit, throw up, puke.
Watch videos of others vomiting.
Of course, if the fear is so strong that you are having issues maintaining a healthy lifestyle, it would be in your best interest to seek professional help.
Professional Help Options
There are different therapies a counselor can use to help you with your fear of vomiting. One of the most common is exposure therapy. The therapist will slowly introduce you to the foods or items that trigger your fear. You may be presented with photos of vomit or even videos. Your therapist will do this in a manner that is comfortable to you, so you do not have added stress.
Another form of therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, helps you learn why you have the fear and aids in changing your thought processes. Your therapist will help you learn how to change negative thoughts into positive ones.
Medications Used for Emetophobia
Medications may be prescribed by your therapist, however, medications can only help relieve symptoms. The medications often prescribed include beta blockers. These work to reduce heart rate and blood pressure. The idea is to take these before you are going to be around a trigger, so it can help to keep you calm and lessen the gag reflex.
Benzodiazepines are used to help with anxiety disorders, but they may also provide relief from symptoms such as shaking and panic. These can include lorazepam or Xanax. Bear in mind, these are sedatives that can help you feel less anxious, but they can be addictive and aren’t recommended for long-term use.
Simple Tips to Avoid Your Fear of Vomiting
The best and easiest tip to avoid emetophobia is to eliminate safety measures you carry with you for “just in case” situations. These can include a change of clothing, something to vomit in, or even an umbrella during a hot summer day without a chance of rain.
Worry can be your major hurdle. If you are constantly worrying about vomiting, you cannot enjoy your day. Train your brain to remember that you are not sick, therefore, you are not going to vomit.
The fear of vomiting does not have to control your life. You can enjoy a life that is full of fun once you learn how to cope with your phobia.