What is Emetophobia?

Emetophobia is the irrational and abnormal fear of vomiting. Though perhaps related to fears of motion sickness, heights, etc., Emetophobia is the specific fear of vomiting without any need for a conditional cause.

This specific phobia can also include subcategories including a fear of vomiting in public, a fear of seeing vomit, a fear of seeing someone vomiting, or fear of feeling nauseous. It is common for Emetophobics to be underweight, or even anorexic, due to strict diets and restrictions they impose on themselves to avoid throwing up.

Emetophobia is not limited by age or maturity level. There are cases of this present in childhood and adolescence, as well as adulthood.

The root word 'emesis' is Greek meaning 'an act of vomiting' and the word 'phobia' comes from the Greek word ‘phóbos’ meaning 'fear.'

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Symptoms of Emetophobia

  • Extreme Anxiety, Dread

  • Shortness of Breath
  • Rapid Breathing
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Excessive Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dry Mouth
  • Confusion / Inability to Articulate Clearly
  • Lack of Focus
  • Irritability
  • Shaking
  • Feelings of Powerlessness
  • Obsession with the Subject of the Phobia
  • Fear or Feelings of Losing Control
  • Avoidance Behavior
  • Headaches

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Causes of Emetophobia

Emetophobia is a specific (or “isolated”) phobia, centered on non-social key factors. Isolated phobias tend to have some previous trauma (often in childhood and often physically injurious) as a root cause; a fear of bees may stem from an injury in childhood, for instance.

Upbringing can also play a role, such as parental warnings about a direct threat (such as “snakes can bite and kill you”) which is especially notable in cases where a threat is more imminent. (An allergy to bees or peanut butter, for instance, would naturally reinforce a real medical concern.)

It is thought that genetics and hereditary factors may play a role in specific phobias, especially those related to a danger of injury. (A primal “fight or flight” reflex may be more easily triggered in those with a genetic predisposition, for instance.)

By contrast, social phobias (like a fear of body odor or touch) are less well-understood, are driven by social anxiety, and are broadly labeled as “social anxiety disorder”.

In all kinds of phobias, external experiences and / or reports can further reinforce or develop the fear, such as seeing a family member or friend who is affected. In extreme cases, indirect exposures can be as remote as overhearing a reference in conversation, seeing something in the news, on TV, or in the movies.

Emetophobia, like most phobias, stems from a subconscious overprotection mechanism, and as with many phobias can also be rooted in an unresolved emotional conflict.

Some Emetophobics report a specific traumatic experience with vomiting, almost always in childhood, but many do not. (A specific past trauma is not required for the formation of this fear.) Some authorities have suggested that sufferers are victims of childhood abuse, sexual or otherwise. While this is occasionally true, it seems to be no more prevalent than in the general population.

Some experts believe that Emetophobia may be linked to worries about lack of control.

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Treatments for Emetophobia

  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

  • Habit Strategies To Relax
  • Cognitive Therapy (CT)
  • In Vivo Exposure
  • Response Prevention
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Group Therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Energy Psychology
  • Medication
  • Meditation

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