Nobody likes throwing up and most people prefer to avoid it.
For some people, however, the fear of vomiting is so great that just the thought of throwing up or vomiting makes them feel sick, put under extreme stress, or even have a panic attack.
Does the thought of throwing up or vomit make you feel extremely anxious? Are you afraid of throwing up in front of others?
Do you panic when someone else threatens to throw up? Then you may be suffering from emetophobia or vomiting .
It is important to know how to overcome emetophobia. Discover practical tips to treat anxiety about vomiting.
What is Emetophobia?
Emetophobia is a frantic, irrational fear of anything related to vomiting or vomiting.
If you suffer from vomiting, not only do you hate having to vomit yourself, but you also immediately panic if someone nearby is not feeling well.
If you suffer from emetophobia, you undoubtedly want to know what this phobia can do to you in the future.
Vomiting and vomit make you so anxious that you avoid eating or drinking certain things and avoid situations where someone could potentially vomit. It is a very annoying condition that can take over your entire life.
For example, some people with emetophobia also avoid going to the pub. Imagine if someone who has had too much to drink throws up.
Visiting friends with small children can also be a problem for someone with emetophobia.
What if the children have eaten too much and don’t feel well because of this? What if they ate something they didn’t like? What if the smallest sprout in the family doesn’t digest its milk properly?
Women with emetophobia may also not want to have children. The fear of morning sickness is often so extreme that they decide not to get pregnant.
If you have emetophobia, you live in a constant fear that you will be exposed to vomiting or vomit, whether it is your own or someone else’s.
Do you recognize this annoying feeling and are you ashamed of it? Then realize that you are not the only one with this problem. Vomiting is not often talked about out of shame and doctors often do not recognize this condition either. Yet the fear of vomiting is the seventh most common phobia in the world.
If you suffer from emetophobia, you are probably wondering where this fear comes from. So let’s take a look at the possible causes of vomiting anxiety.
How does fear of surrender arise?
Experts have not yet found a clear cause for emetophobia. Most often, this condition is the result of traumatic experiences or underlying psychological conditions.
Researchers at the University of Groningen usually see the causes of emetophobia in childhood or adolescence. However, you can also develop emetophobia later in life.
Traumatic experiences with vomiting and vomit
Perhaps you remember the first time you encountered vomiting?
If you often vomited as a child and this caused you a particularly unpleasant feeling, this may have been a traumatic event for you. If you then feel the urge to vomit as an adult, you experience that terrible feeling from your childhood again, as it were.
On the other hand, it is also possible that you had a bad experience with someone else who had to throw up. If you were thrown up at a party with friends in your childhood by someone who was quite drunk, this too may have been a traumatic event for you that gave you an extreme aversion to vomit.
Underlying psychological conditions
Yet it also often happens that you can no longer remember what exactly was the reason for your phobia.
Scientists Davidson, Boyle and Lauchlan already devoted a study to this in 2008 ( 1 ) and guess what? People with emetophobia are much more afraid of losing control of something or themselves than people who do not suffer from this condition. Vomiting is considered by them to be a complete loss of control. An extreme fear of losing control of something can be a cause of emetophobia.
Even if you have a very low self-esteem or are very perfectionist, you can be extra prone to developing emetophobia. You are then afraid that that ‘knot’ in your stomach will cause you to vomit – usually at the most impossible moments during stress.
In people with emetophobia, the fear of vomiting or coming into contact with vomit can become particularly extreme.
Symptoms of panic in emetophobia
Just hearing the words to vomit, vomit, or throw up can trigger particularly extreme reactions in someone with emetophobia. Seeing someone throw up or have a tendency to vomit themselves can also lead to true panic attacks.
Experiences with Emetophobia
“Lisanne has suffered from emetophobia since her puberty. As a child she was often ill and sometimes spent weeks in hospital.
She attributes the cause of her vomiting anxiety to the many hospital visits where she was often in a room with other sick children. This has affected her to such an extent that she is extremely afraid of throwing up in public. Driving alone by car is just fine, but Lisanne does not dare to go on a trip with friends.
The fear of getting carsick and having to vomit is too great for this. A visit to the cinema is also out of the question for Lisanne. The moving images instill so much fear in her that she fears it would make her feel sick. Lisanne herself thinks that her fear of vomiting dominates her social life.”
“Lars has a terrifying fear of becoming nauseous due to spoiled food. The thought of bacteria and micro-organisms that could possibly cause a stomach or intestinal infection makes him feel extremely anxious. Shopping takes Lars much more time than the average Dutch person .
He carefully checks the expiration date of all products and only buys prepackaged products that he has known for years. Lars never drinks alcohol because it could make him nauseous and going to the pub where someone could possibly be drunk, Lars never does.
Lars himself suffers from his condition, but the fear of having to vomit is stronger than himself.”
Consequences of Emetophobia
As the above stories demonstrate, emetophobia can have quite a negative impact on your life.
Because your fear of vomiting and vomit is so great, you often avoid social situations and your freedom of movement is limited.
Some people who suffer from emetophobia can even develop an eating disorder because of their obsession with potentially contaminated food.
4 Tips for Emetophobia
You may not like to hear it, but there is no miracle cure for emetophobia. That is the case with most phobias, by the way.
Medicines can be used that counteract all kinds of fears and cognitive behavioral therapies can also help you. Some patients are even treated with hypnosis.
If you don’t want to go that far in treating your emetophobia, there are plenty of ways to overcome it yourself. You will then have to rely on yourself and your willpower to do things differently.
Below are 5 tips to live life without fear of vomiting:
Tip 1: breaking the circle
The strange thing about this condition is that people with emetophobia may not have vomited or been exposed to vomit in years.
This of course reinforces their feeling that they are ‘doing a good job’, that indeed by avoiding certain situations they do not come into contact with vomiting.
If you suffer from emetophobia, it is important to break this cycle. Just because you avoid certain situations doesn’t mean you don’t qualify with vomit.
When you keep a journal of your daily habits and try to break them one by one, you’ll find that the chances of you throwing up or qualifying for vomit are virtually nil.
Tip 2: search for the background
Try to figure out where this fear comes from.
Was it a specific event? Is it a well-founded fear? What are the chances of this event happening again?
If you consider the chance that this will happen to you again less highly, then a first step towards healing has already been taken.
Tip 3: dare to talk about it
Emetophobia is often taboo. Many people are ashamed of this condition. Somehow they realize in themselves that their extreme fear is unfounded, but they cannot overcome it.
A phobia is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s something that happened to you without your will. A good discussion about this with a friend or family member you trust can help you realize that not everywhere is a danger that you will qualify with vomit.
Tip 4: beta blockers
While medications cannot specifically treat or make a phobia go away, certain medications can help reduce the symptoms of anxiety or panic.
Beta blockers can help prevent elevated blood pressure and heart rate and other physical anxiety symptoms that result from adrenaline. These are usually taken before you get into situations that could trigger your phobia.
Benzodiazepines are sedatives that can help you feel less anxious, but they can be addictive and are not recommended for long-term use.