Emetophobia, or fear of vomiting or seeing vomit, is an anxiety disorder that affects more people than you may think. Research shows that emetophobia can affect up to 10% of the population, and even though it has been recognized as a mental health issue for over 20 years, many individuals who suffer from emetophobia remain undiagnosed and unsupported.
The symptoms of emetophobia often include feelings of dread, panic and fear related to vomiting, as well as avoiding activities that may involve vomiting or the possible risk of it. This can lead to individuals avoiding foods, situations and activities that they believe may lead to vomiting or seeing vomit. Other symptoms may include physical reactions such as sweating, trembling, nausea, and panic. Emetophobia can also lead to feelings of shame, isolation and depression due to its effects on social activities and relationships.
Common Behaviors Of People Struggling With Emetophobia:
- Avoidance of Expired foods
- Avoidance of Travel (due to fears of motion sickness
- Avoidance of perceived undercooked foods
- Avoidance of Bars or alcohol
- Avoidance of Public places (due to fear of exposure to germs)
- Avoidance of Social activities that may involve food or drinks
- Avoidance of eating in restaurants
- Avoidance of Grocery shopping or food-related errands
- Avoidance of rides at amusement parks
- Avoidance of Doctor visits / medical offices
- Avoidance of certain medications that may cause vomiting
People with Emetophobia often engage in safety behaviors such as:
- Regular use of anti-nausea medications such as Zofran
- Seeking reassurance from family, self, or medical professionals
- Seeking reassurance from the internet
- Avoidance of many daily activities involving food or germs
- Compulsive hand washing/sanitizing
- Obsessive checking for expiration dates on food products
- Obsessive checking for undercooked foods
- Asking friends/family about their own physical wellbeing (are you sick / nauseous?)
- Avoidance of friends/family members who are sick or may be sick
- Eating only certain foods that are quickly prepared or pre-packaged
- Eating only certain types of foods (i.e. only dry or bland foods)
- Avoiding new foods
- Obsessively watching for signs of nausea/vomiting in other people or themselves
- Avoidance of activities that may involve vomiting
Unfortunately, despite the prevalence of emetophobia, knowledge about this disorder is limited and resources for those suffering are often hard to come by, leading to people often being misdiagnosed, and not being offered effective therapeutic options.
It is important to note that emetophobia can be a debilitating disorder, affecting individuals on both a physical and psychological level. The good news is that emetophobia does not have to be a life sentence. With proper evidence-based treatment and support, individuals can learn to manage their emetophobia symptoms and live happy, healthy lives. While recovery from emetophobia requires patience and practice, emetophobics can take comfort in knowing that they are not alone and that help is available.
At GroundWork Counseling in Orlando, we’re proud to offer evidence-based care to adults, children, and adolescents struggling with emetophobia. Our clinical team has significant experience of helping individuals overcome emetophobia through CBT and ERP therapy.
CBT Therapy for Emetophobia:
CBT is a type of therapy that involves examining one’s thoughts and behaviors, and how they can be modified to reduce emetophobia symptoms. Through this process, individuals can learn to challenge their negative thinking patterns and replace them with more positive coping strategies. This may include exposure therapy, which involves gradually exposing oneself to fearful situations in a safe environment for the purpose of desensitization. CBT also involves education about emetophobia which helps people gain perspective on their fears and understand the root causes of emetophobia.
ERP Therapy for Emetophobia:
ERP is another type of evidence-based therapy designed to help individuals confront their emetophobic fears in a structured way. The goal of ERP therapy is to help emetophobics cope with their fears by gradually confronting them in a gradual manner. Through this process, emetophobics can learn to challenge their irrational beliefs about emetophobia, practice confronting anxiety, and eventually move toward recovery from emetophobia.
Successful Emetophobia Therapy:
At GroundWork Counseling our therapists have specific CBT and ERP training, including advanced training from The McLean Institute (an affiliate of Harvard medical school), The International OCD Foundation, The Association for Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy, The Albert Ellis Institute in New York City, and The Anxiety and Depression Association of America. In addition, Courtney Hubscher, has been a featured expert and interviewed by the nationally recognized Emetophobia podcast by Anna Christie.
At GroundWork Counseling Orlando, we understand the unique challenges of emetophobia and provide evidence-based care tailored to each individual’s needs. Our experienced therapists are here to help you or your loved one manage emetophobic symptoms in order to live a happy, healthy life. Contact us today for more information about our services or to schedule an appointment.