Does vomit make you uncomfortable?
It is not rare to be disgusted by vomit, but this disgust is temporary. Emetophobia is therefore much more than that, it is a real obsession and a fear of vomit in the broadest sense. And yet, the subject is still very taboo. It is difficult for people suffering from emetophobia to dare to talk about what they experience.
1. What is emetophobia?
Considered a member of the anxiety disorders family, emetophobia is the exaggerated fear of vomiting. It is not only a matter of disgust, it is a daily haunting that never leaves the mind. This fear manifests itself both when the person vomits or risks vomiting themselves, but also when they see someone else vomiting and even imagine someone else vomiting. These ideas lead to uncontrollable panic attacks. It is classified and considered as a specific phobia, and yet, it causes many associated difficulties (such as weight loss, cuts in social ties, etc.), or even creates other anxieties (social phobia, agoraphobia, public transport, hypochondria, etc.). Unfortunately, emetophobia is still too little known or too little talked about.
Little by little, this phobia settles in and takes up more and more space, and just mentioning the word “vomit” can end up creating discomfort.
2. What is the origin of emetophobia?
As with all phobias and anxieties, there is no single, universally valid reason why you suffer from emetophobia. However, an event that occurred was probably the reason for the incipient emetophobia. It could be an event that seemed harmless but was actually considered traumatic. Indeed, it is possible that it was because you were sick as a child, a gastro for example, and when you vomited, one of your parents was not present and you felt a negative feeling of abandonment, and that this generated anxiety.
It is also possible that this phobia appeared because of a conditioning to a situation. For example, you have had a particularly stressful day at work, and a lot of anxiety related to it, and you pass a person on the street who is obviously overly drunk and vomiting. So you equate your anxiety with the vomiting situation.
Finally, it is possible that the origin of your emetophobia is associated with a trauma related to the mouth, for example, a forced fellatio, excessive food ingestion etc.
3. What are the symptoms of emetophobia?
The symptoms of emetophobia are similar to all phobic or anxiety situations. It usually generates an anxiety attack at the sight, action or thought of vomiting.
This anxiety attack generally manifests itself through anxious thoughts, but also through physical sensations. These physical reactions can be hot flashes, chills, an accelerated heart rate, breathing difficulties, trembling, muscle tension, nausea, etc. On the latter, you then enter a vicious circle of anxiety: vomiting makes you anxious but when your anxiety is too great, your nausea increases. However, it is important to remember that anxiety causes nausea, but not vomiting.
Although anxiety attacks are symptoms of emetophobia, it is important to note that emetophobia may itself be a symptom of another hidden condition.
4. What are the consequences of emetophobia on daily life?
Daily life when suffering from emetophobia is governed by the agonizing thought of vomiting. This thought is continuous, invasive and intense.
It impacts many areas: social, personal, professional. Indeed, it becomes difficult for you to take public transport, to see sick people, to go to alcoholic parties, to go to restaurants etc. This means that you increase your risk of developing agoraphobia, aviophobia, social phobia, etc. You then decrease the number of outings with your friends and restrict your circle and activities outside. You would not accept a job that requires you to take public transportation. You feel isolated, and go into mental overdrive to avoid all situations that might hurt you.
You also limit what you eat since you live in fear that what you eat might make you vomit. So there is also a risk of an associated eating disorder.
5. How do I deal with the anxiety of my emetophobia?
When you are faced with the situation, it is not always easy to manage your emotions and anxiety.
Take time to breathe. As you breathe in through your nose, take the time to let the air into your lungs and body. Then exhale through your mouth and feel the air leave your body. Do this a few times (3 or 4 times is enough).
Then become fully aware of your body, in the present moment. Try to make a small scan of your body by analyzing what feelings you have in each member of your body.
Finally, imagine a place you like, a moment you love, a reassuring person, a pleasant smell that puts you in a safe place where you feel calm.
6. How do I treat my emetophobia?
As with all anxieties, early treatment of this phobia will help to reduce the symptoms more quickly. If you feel that you are experiencing a “simple disgust” and that it is taking up a lot of space in your life, don’t be afraid to talk about it around you. There are many people who can hear you without judging you. Health professionals are there for that: psychologist, psychiatrist, general practitioner, nurse, etc. They will know, if necessary, how to help you. They will know, if necessary, to redirect you to the appropriate professional.
Cognitive-behavioral therapies are particularly effective in the treatment of emetophobia. This therapy consists of treating the phobia through exposure in order to create a habituation to the situation. In this therapy, the psychologist helps you to work on automatic thoughts and to learn how to manage your emotions in order to respond effectively to the anxiety. The virtual reality exposures make it easier to access situations, while having complete control over what is being proposed to you. The exposures as well as the results are progressive and gradual.