Why the fear of vomiting drastically limits life

Emetophobia: Why the fear of vomiting drastically limits life

Getting on a plane already triggers panic, but it’s not the fear of flying. The meter-high roller coaster is not an option, but fear of heights is not. Whether plane, altitude or party nights, they all have one thing in common: there is a risk of people throwing up. And that is exactly what triggers the anxiety disorder emetophobia.

What is emetophobia?

Emetophobia: the fear of vomiting – in oneself or in others. Just the thought of throwing up or possibly seeing other people triggers fear and panic in those affected. So it’s not just a natural disgust at vomit, it’s partly an irrational fear. Not all emetophobia is the same. For some, the mere thought of throwing up is enough to trigger panic.

Causes of Emetophobia

The anxiety disorder emetophobia has only been the subject of current research for a few years. The cause cannot yet be clearly clarified. However, experts assume that, for example, traumatic experiences in connection with handing over can be a trigger. In addition, an increased sensitivity to disgust most likely also plays a role.

Another child may have thrown up in the classroom and the teacher reacted violently, or you were even laughed at as a child because you had to throw up yourself. However, the individual causes often remain unclear.

These symptoms identify emetophobia

The following symptoms may indicate emetophobia:

  • The fear of one’s own or someone else’s vomiting is very strong and lasts for a long time.
  • Most sufferers are aware that their fear is irrational and goes beyond normal vomit disgust.
  • Situations and places where one could throw up or others throw up are avoided. Affected people avoid big parties, party miles, planes, trains, buses, ships and start to only eat food that is “safe” for them.
  • Either just imagining or experiencing vomiting – in yourself or in others – triggers symptoms similar to those of a panic attack: palpitations, lumpiness, a sinking feeling in the stomach, difficulty breathing, feelings of anxiety, dizziness, tremors and sweating.

The consequences of the fear of throwing up

This strong fear and panic can cause those affected to severely limit their lives in order to avoid the situation of vomiting. On the one hand, places are avoided where there is a higher probability that someone could throw up. These can be big celebrations, but also birthdays or barbecues in a small circle. Those affected then withdraw further and further until it can happen that they no longer leave the house out of fear – because especially in big cities it can happen that someone relieved themselves at a corner of the house the night before.

Those who are not only afraid of others vomiting, but also or increasingly afraid of their own vomiting, usually begin to stop eating. The diet becomes one-sided and only “safe” food is eaten, which does not lead to throwing up. This can go so far that those affected (almost) stop eating.

Special case: emetophobia and pregnancy

The phobia plays a special role in the desire to have children. For most emetophobic women, pregnancy alone is almost unthinkable. The fear of morning sickness outweighs massively. In some cases, sufferers even cut off contact with pregnant friends to avoid witnessing sudden vomiting. It is precisely in such moments that therapeutic help should be sought, because anxiety can increase during pregnancy. One-sided and often insufficient nutrition can also harm mother and child.

But pregnancy is not the only problem. Once the baby is born, the fear can increase even further. Because babies spit, because of their anatomy they can’t do anything else. Being a mother and an emetophobic is therefore a huge challenge, even impossible for many. If the phobia is far advanced, those affected also avoid meetings where children are present, the risk is then often too high for them. Friendships, but also family relationships with siblings, for example, can suffer as a result.

Diagnosis and cure of emetophobia

It is not easy to make a clear diagnosis at first, but it is important. Both adolescents and adults are affected, women are more often affected by emetophobia. Emetophobics often suffer from constant nausea, which can increase even further the more attention and fear is drawn to the vomiting. In this case, the nausea itself is often a symptom of anxiety.

Due to the reduced food intake, many sufferers lose a lot of weight. Therefore, the disease is often confused with anorexia or irritable bowel syndrome. The disease must also be distinguished from hypochondria. Those affected are not fundamentally afraid of diseases, but of a specific symptom – vomiting. Exact data on how many people are affected by the anxiety disorder do not exist. Since many do not know that they suffer from an anxiety disorder, they do not put themselves in the hands of a therapist.

However, once the diagnosis has been made, there are good chances of recovery. The most commonly used approach is behavioral therapy. Emetophobics need to confront the situation they fear. You work with pictures or videos. In addition, those affected should seek out situations that they would actually avoid. Little by little, they overcome their fear and can return to normal life.

Sources used: schoen-klinik.de, clinicum-alpinum.com, lifeline.de

Bridget

Source: Brigitte

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