How to Overcome a Fear of Throwing Up – Emetophobia Therapy
A fear of throwing up otherwise known as Emteophobia is a phobia that is not very well publicised. Everyone has heard of a fear of flying or a phobia of spiders but emetophobia appears to fly under the radar even though we regularly see clients for this problem.
The problem is debilitating as it can cause problems not just emotionally but your eating, physical health, social life and family relationships. Unlike say fear of lifts which can be avoided it is almost impossible to avoid this fear as it is linked with food and you have to eat every day.
What is the Fear of Throwing Up?
So what exactly is a fear of throwing up? Usually, it involves a worry that you are going to be sick in a certain situation. You could worry that you might:
- Be sick if you eat a certain food or go to a particular restaurant
- Encounter someone who has an illness that you could catch
- Be sick if you were to get pregnant
- Vomit if you drink too much
- Get ill and that illness might make you throw up
In order to protest yourself from the possibility of going somewhere or eating something that might put you in a situation that you consider risky, you start to put in place avoidance tactics. The bigger the phobia the more the avoidance behaviours grow.
Many of our clients will only eat a narrow range of foods that they consider safe. Many refuse to eat out in restaurants because they are worried about the food not being cooked properly. Plenty will go out of their way to avoid people who are ill including their own family members. This can be particularly worrying if they have children who are more likely to get bugs or illnesses that they pick up from school.
As the phobia gets worse the avoidance practices become more extreme. Younger women may refuse to have children because of the fear of morning sickness. Food choices become increasingly limited so that the person loses significant amounts of weight because they are not eating enough.
Is Emetophobia a Mental Illness?
Emetophobia is not a mental illness such as a psychiatric disorder like Schizophrenia. Instead, it is classed as a specific phobia by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
Phobias are simply a form of anxiety disorder. Although distressing they can be treated with medication or talking therapy. We regularly work with emetophobia to help our clients overcome their fears. As with any phobia work centres around understanding the origin of the problem, overcoming avoidance strategies and reducing stress and anxiety.
What are the Symptoms of Vomit Phobia?
The symptoms of vomit phobia have similarities to other anxiety disorders and can include:
- Fear and anxiety
- Feelings of nausea
- Racing heart rate
- Use of mints or antacids in the belief they will settle the stomach
- Weight loss from not eating enough
- Avoidance behaviours – doctors, hospitals, restaurants, certain foods
- Worrying about the location of bathrooms
In severe cases, it is possible that people may have a panic attack if they become too overwhelmed by their anxiety.It is also possible that just hearing or saying the words vomit or throwing up can elicit an anxiety response even though these words cannot possibly harm or hurt a person physically.
Therapy for emetophobia works by reducing the anxiety symptoms and helping clients to start to challenge their fears.
Why do I have a Phobia of Throwing up?
So where exactly does a fear of throwing up come from? You certainly aren’t born with it which means that you experienced an incident revolving around vomit that made you upset.
Our clients may have developed their fear after an illness as a child that made them vomit. This could have been a one-off experience such as waking up at night and feeling ill and then being unable to find an adult to help or a prolonged issue for example in a hospital. The situation would have made them feel out of control, anxious and worried about what to do.
A phobia of throwing up can also be triggered by watching someone else being sick and feeling panic and fear about not being able to help or seeing the other person distress.
Once the fear has begun the child begins to take avoidance steps to ensure they don’t experience anything similar again. Of course the more they start to avoid the problem the bigger the fear becomes.
Overcoming a Fear of Vomiting Phobia
A fear of throwing up whilst debilitating is very treatable providing a client is willing to participate in therapy to change the fear. There are some specific steps that we like to take with our clients to help them change how they feel including:
- Stress and Anxiety Reduction
- Correcting Outdated Belief Systems
- Reducing avoidance/safety behaviours
- Confronting the Problem Head-on
- Stopping the Fear of Fear Itself
Stress and Anxiety Reduction for Emetophobia
If you are feeling in a highly anxious state to the point where you are near a panic attack because of your problem regularly then you need to learn how to calm down. It will be impossible to get control of your problem until you have the headspace that allows you to think rationally and take steps to help yourself. The best way to do this is with self-hypnosis for anxiety reduction.
Self-hypnosis for anxiety, when practised regularly, helps to calm the mind down. You are forced to take some time out to focus on doing nothing apart from breathing slowly and deeply and allowing your mind to go calm and still. The more you zone out into this relaxed space the more your background levels of anxiety start to reduce.
We ask our clients to use our audio daily to start the process of calming them sufficiently for therapy to take place. Our anxiety download program consists of five audios which are perfect for helping to relax your mind.
Correcting Outdated Belief Systems
Our clients have the fear of throwing up because of outdated belief systems. Part of their mind is still stuck with the terror that they wouldn’t be able to cope with an episode of illness. Plus their fear is completely out of proportion with the likelihood of being ill.
When you have experienced a problem where you felt out of control of vulnerable as a child a part of your mind tries to do everything it can to make sure you are never in a similar situation again. This is a survival mechanism that has gone awry because the lesson you learned as a kid is never as bad when you are an adult.
As an adult, if you are ill you can cope. You know what to do and what you should and shouldn’t eat or drink. You understand that the episode will generally not last very long and that it will be soon over. A child doesn’t have that information which is why the vomiting feels so scary. We help our clients to understand that as an adult they have more resources to deal with situations.
In addition, we like to make our clients aware of how much time and energy they are putting into their worries for an incident that is highly unlikely to occur. Most people can count on one hand the times when they have been sick.
Reducing Safety Behaviours – Emetophobia
Most people with emetophobia have built up a series of safety behaviours to help them cope with their fears. This may be popping antacids in the mistaken belief it will settle their stomach or only eating certain “safe” foods.
In therapy, we work with our clients to change these behaviours and slowly eradicate them. One of our clients would regularly eat mints thinking it would stop her feeling nauseous. We gradually got her to phase the mint eating out so that she could go about her day without constantly checking in with her stomach to see if she felt ill.
Any behaviours that prop up emetophobia should be stopped gradually to help lessen the need to always be doing something to “prevent” being ill. Remember the average person in the street doesn’t need to eat antacids unless they have heartburn.
Confronting the Problem Head On
To really stop a fear of throwing up a client should be willing to take steps to start to confront the problem head-on rather than continually trying to run away from it. Every time you run away from a fear or a phobia it will only make it worse.
Usually, we work with our clients to come up with a hierarchy of fears around their problem graded from 1 to 10. Number 1 will be the least fearful thing they can think of doing whilst number 10 is the worst. Whilst working together we help our clients to confront each of the fears on the list starting with the lowest first.
As an example, our clients least fearful aspect of emetophobia might be eating fewer mints. Their most feared issue might be sitting in a doctors surgery. We help them to confront their fears one by one until finally, they are comfortable everything on the list.
When you confront your fears they start to dissolve away as your mind realises there is no danger.
Stopping the Fear of Fear Itself
Therapy for emetophobia also works by helping our clients stop the anticipation of the problem. Our clients are not being sick every day so their fears are unfounded. Their real worry is the anticipation of being sick. The only issue is that they could worry every day for 10 years about being ill and nothing may happen.
The real problem with emetophobia is the worry about being ill is actually worse than the vomiting itself. Who wants to worry every day for ten years and find that nothing happens? This uses up a ton of time and energy that would be better placed into doing something else.
Stopping the worry loop ends the emetophobia. When our clients realise they have been worrying about fear itself and how pointless it is they find it easier to end the unhelpful thought patterns.
Therapy for a Fear of Throwing Up
Getting help to overcome a fear of throwing up is easier than ever and we offer online emetophobia therapy sessions worldwide. Remember that vomit phobia is incredibly common even though you may not have heard people talking about the problem. That is usually because of the subject matter and embarrassment rather than it being rare or untreatable.
If you would like help to manage your emetophobia then contact us for details of our anxiety programs using the form below and we will be happy to get back to you.
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