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Friday, July 10, 2015

Fear of Throwing Up

by Dr. Lindsay Kramer, psychotherapist and staff writer at The April Center For Anxiety Attack Management - Los Angeles

Emetophobia is a word that most of us are unlikely to have encountered.  Precisely defined, it is the fear of throwing up.  Expanded, this can include a fear of vomiting in public, a fear of seeing vomit, a fear of witnessing another person vomit, or a fear of being nauseated.  Although Emetophobia is not as recognized as, say Agoraphobia or Claustrophobia, it has been stated by the International Emetophobia Society to be the fifth most common phobia.  In fact, one article states that a search of the phrase “fear of being sick” discovered nearly 29 million websites.  So let’s talk in detail of how this fear of throwing up develops, the effects it can have on a person, and how it can be treated.

Emetophobia affects predominantly females, although it can also be present in males.  It is found more acutely in adolescent populations; however, recent research has indicated an increase among adult populations as well.  Like most phobias, the fear of vomiting is most likely linked with a traumatic experience (in this case, one of throwing up).  It has also been connected to a person having witnessed a family member or a friend being sick or hospitalized.  

A person suffering from Emetophobia can experience severe limitations in his or her daily life.  Similar to Panic disorder, there is a repetitive cycle that occurs in Emetophobics.  First, there is some sort of anxiety trigger related to vomiting.  This could be a friend getting the flu, watching someone vomit on TV or a feeling of being full after a meal.  This trigger brings up thoughts of vomiting, and the person begins to “check” his or her body for signs of nausea, stomachache, etc.  Then the phobia phase takes over and the person engages in behaviors to rid him or herself of the anxiety.  For instance, they might leave work early or avoid eating to prevent any chance of throwing up.  This cycle (fear, anticipation, looking for signs of trouble, and chronic avoidance) tends to characterize the life of an Emetophobic.

Now, since chronic avoidance is a key element in the phobia of throwing up, Emetophobics can become severely disabled in their lives.  It is not uncommon for someone suffering from this phobia to avoid restaurants, hospitals, public places, and contact with anyone they might believe to be ill.  Female Emetophobics have also been known to avoid getting pregnant for fear of morning sickness.  These efforts to protect against vomiting can imprison a person inside their own fears.

Emetophobia can be successfully treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  This type of therapy involves gradual exposure to the fear, which in this case, would be vomiting.  This is not to say that an anxiety doctor would require the person in treatment to vomit; rather, it is intended that the person practice with situations, objects, and activities that they fear would lead them to throw up.  In other words, anxiety treatment would focus on gradual exposure to that which the person has been avoiding.  Anxiety doctors work to reduce the fears associated with vomiting, and re-engage the person in activities that are important to them.  

I hope that this blog provides a clear understanding of Emetophobia.  It can have devastating effects on a person’s life, but proper treatment and a trained anxiety doctor can ensure that one leads a healthy and normal life. 

All the best,  
from The April Center For Anxiety Attack Management - Los Angeles

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