The Fear Throwing Up & Vomit | Emetophobia in Children & Teens
Does your child or teen have a fear of throwing up? Does your child avoid going to school, eating specific foods, or are they fearful about catching an illness? If your child has a fear of vomiting, or seeing someone else vomit, they may be struggling with Emeophobia. At GroundWork CBT in Orlando, our child anxiety therapist specializes in the treatment of emetophobia in children and adolescents through an effective and evidence-based treatment approach.
Most sufferers of emetophobia fear vomiting themselves, while a few only fear seeing someone else vomit. Despite the fact that many professionals have never heard of this anxiety disorder, it is a fairly common phobia, manifesting mainly in women and more in adolescents than adults. Emetophobia can range from mild anxiety and avoidance symptoms, to severe anxiety, inducing panic attacks and significant avoidance and life disturbance. Exact prevalence is unknown, but it is estimated that emetophobia affects 1-7%.
Both children and adults with emetophobia tend to avoid situations that could potentially cause or involve vomit. Avoidance of external threats can cause the individual to become hypervigilant and extend to avoiding wide ranges of foods, activities, while engaging in significant checking and safety behaviors, this contributes to its common comorbidity with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Safety behaviors can include rituals around food, checking expiration dates, cutting out food groups, avoidance of words or thoughts about vomit, or avoiding people who are or may become ill. Children and teens often come up with elaborate plans to prevent themselves from vomiting, while also obsessing over what would happen if they do vomit or become ill.
Cognitively, children and teens with emetophobia often self-monitor for feelings of nausea and stomach discomfort, often reporting that they feel ill. Children struggling with emetophobia will often request to stay home from school and avoid activities due to these physical sensations, often creating a secondary issue of school avoidance.
If you suspect your child or teen may be struggling with emetophobia it is extremely important to find a qualified and trained therapist to accurately diagnosis and treat the disorder. Although many therapists claim to treat phobias, it is important to find a therapist that specializes in this area due to the complexity of emetophobia treatment. Evidence-based emetophobia treatment does not include further avoidance behaviors, or traditional talk therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) are the gold standard for effective emetophobia treatment, it is important to find a therapist that has been specifically trained in these areas of treatment. At GroundWork Counseling in Orlando, our child and adolescent anxiety therapist is specifically trained to treat anxiety disorders utilizing ERP and CBT. We provide effective treatment for emetophobia that is directive, goal oriented and structured, helping the client to gradually face and overcome their fears.
- excessive cleanliness
- fear of food poisoning
- fear of eating outside of one’s home, or eating food one has not prepared
- nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhea a great deal of the time. (While these symptoms should be checked out, they are usually due to anxiety.)
- scanning the room for trashcans, exits, or bathrooms
- engaging in rituals surrounding food
- seeking reassurance from family members
- researching symptoms online
- checking seals and expiration dates of foods
- rigid rules around food storage and food safety
- fears of taking any medication that may have nausea or vomiting as a listed side-effect.
- fears and avoidance of animals who vomit
- fear of small children (as they vomit more often, sometimes without warning, and they are more prone to viruses)
- fear of anesthesia – due to vomiting as a side-effect
- fear of hospitals and nursing homes
- fear of traveling (in case they are motion sick, or someone else is)
- fear of amusement parks where people may be sick on rides
- fear of television and movies (more and more, vomiting is becoming commonplace in the media)
- fear of public toilets (as someone may come in and vomit)
- anger, frustration and despair at not being understood, believed or supported – especially about the severity of the feelings of terror and horror.
- panic, and continue to have a series of panic attacks over long periods of time (as they are unable to avoid the stimulus which is their own body)
- assume (incorrectly) that a symptom of the panic attack itself will be vomiting
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