The fear of vomiting, or emetophobia, is a lesser known anxiety disorder. It surprises people to learn just how much of an effect it can have. They don’t realize how much any anxiety condition can limit a person’s ability to thrive and to enjoy a decent quality of life.
The lack of awareness is apparent in the shortage of academic interest and research on emetophobia. People with well-known fears like flying on a plane or giving a speech in public have many options for treatment. Emetophobics, on the other hand, are more or less left to fend for themselves. Some of them don’t even know there are others who suffer from the same fear.
A Recent Study of Emetophobia
Fortunately, some mental health specialists have begun to take notice of emetophobia.
Just last year, psychology researchers in the Netherlands organized a comprehensive study of people who have emetophobia.
The researchers made some important observations about the population of emetophobic people being studied. Emetophobia can have many different causes and effects. For instance, the self-described emetophobics varied in what they considered the most anxiety-inducing. A portion of the group was terrified of the thought of seeing someone else become physically sick. Others described being more fearful of actually being sick themselves. Some were mainly concerned with being seen by others when vomiting and consequently being negatively judged. The psychologists in the study speculated that emetophobia can develop from a deeper fear of being “contaminated.” This leads to avoidance of a number of situations and people.
Many people who fear vomiting to the extreme have at least one other disorder. Serious mental health issues that were found in many of the emetophobic participants include depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, agoraphobia, and hypochondriasis.
The emetophobic participants in the study most often suffered from OCD or agoraphobia. While emetophobia usually precedes agoraphobia, OCD can develop before or after emetophobia. Though not specifically mentioned in the study, a fear of choking can also be linked to emetophobia. It’s unclear which fear causes the other, however.
Some of most frequently reported symptoms experienced by the emetophobics include nausea, palpitations, perspiration, and a sense of unreality or disconnectedness (“derealization“). Many of these symptoms are seen in connection with other mental health disorders such as panic disorder (e.g. nausea, palpitations, sweating) and depression (derealization).
Getting Treated for Emetophobia
One good thing from the study is that the majority of the participants did seek help for their emetophobia. The best way to do this may be to research reputable and licensed professionals who have experience working with emetophobic patients. There are treatment centers which specialize in helping people with anxiety disorders such as phobias. Emetophobia is not easy to treat, but finding a cure is possible with patience and determination.