Emetophobia (fear of vomiting): symptoms, causes and treatment

Vomiting and vomiting by themselves is not one of the most pleasant experiences a person can have, as they are often associated with other discomfort or pain as well. However, it is a natural act that our body performs when it thinks it needs to eliminate the agent causing the discomfort, so it does not always lead to pathology or disease.

However, there are a small number of people who experience an absolute and intense fear of anything related to vomiting. This is known as emetophobia, a specific type of phobia which we will talk about throughout this article.

    What is emetophobia?

    Emetophobia is a psychological condition classified under specific anxiety disorders. Like other specific phobias, it stands out because the person who suffers from it experiences a deep fear of a specific object, person or situation.

    In the specific case of emetophobia, this an exacerbated fear occurs in the face of any stimulus related to vomiting. Although anyone can express feelings of aversion towards them, in emetophobia the person experiences a deep sense of fear, which is also irrational, uncontrollable and persists over time.

    Situations that can cause this anxiety reaction in the person range from throwing up, both on one’s own and seeing others throwing up, such as the feeling of nausea that precedes the vomiting or the vomiting itself.

    It is estimated that around 5% of the world’s population suffers from this exaggerated fear of vomiting and vomiting behaviors occurring with almost the same incidence in people of different ages and sexes, with cases recorded in childhood as well. , adolescence than adulthood.

    Some of the characteristics that most people with emetophobia share include anxious personality traits that tend to increase their stress and nervousness levels whenever they are in places like health centers or with people. sick because they are faced with the possibility of seeing someone vomiting.

    Likewise, these people tend to change their eating habits. consuming only foods that they are sure not to vomit. Sometimes this behavior can become so severe that it often leads to eating disorders such as anorexia.

    The reason is that the person limits the amount of food per day or refuses to eat for fear of vomiting. This comes with the feeling of anxiety that emetophobia causes every time they eat, making this act a constant torment and suffering.

    What are the symptoms of this fear of vomiting phobia?

    Since emetophobia falls under the classification of specific phobias or anxiety disorders, their clinical picture is similar to the rest. Symptoms included in this diagnosis they can be divided into physical symptomatology, cognitive symptomatology and behavioral symptomatology.

    These symptoms can appear both by the presence of the phobic stimulus and by the imagination or mental representation of it. As a result, the following symptoms may appear in emetophobia, classified under the above categories:

    1. Physical symptoms

    Following the appearance of the phobic stimulus, in this case any stimulus related to vomiting, overactivation of the nervous system occurs. The product of this increased functioning are all kinds of alterations and changes in the body.

    Some of the many physical symptoms that a person may experience include:

    • Elevated heart rate.
    • Increased respiratory rate.
    • Feeling of suffocation, suffocation or shortness of breath.
    • Increased muscle tension.
    • headache.
    • Stomach upset and upset stomach.
    • Increased sweating.
    • Dizziness and lightheadedness.
    • Nausea and / or vomiting.
    • Loss of consciousness or fainting.

    2. Cognitive symptoms

    Along with physical symptoms, emetophobia is also distinguished by the presence of a whole repertoire of cognitive symptoms including thoughts, beliefs and imaginations about possible dangers or harm vomiting or vomiting may result.

    The development of these distorted ideas and beliefs appears irrational and uncontrollable, leading to the progression of this phobia. To these ideas are added a series of mental images of a catastrophic nature which flood the mind of the person.

      3. Behavioral symptoms

      Finally, the effect of cognitive symptoms results in the appearance of a certain number of behavioral symptoms. In this case, the symptomatology related to the behavior of the person manifests itself by means of avoidance ducts and exhaust ducts.

      Avoidance behaviors are all behaviors that the person adopts in order to avoid the phobic stimulus. In this case, the individual may refuse to eat, eat excessively slowly or eat only selected foods, or refuse to go anywhere they can witness anything related to vomiting.

      As for escape behaviors, these appear when the person could not avoid encountering an event related to vomiting, so they will adopt all kinds of behaviors allowing them to get out of the situation as quickly as possible.

      What are the causes?

      Although trying to find out the specific origin of a phobia is quite a complicated task, in the case of emetophobia, a large number of patients report experiencing very unpleasant or dramatic situations in which vomiting or feeling sick. act of vomiting have appeared one way or another.

      However, there are many more cases in which the person is unable to associate this fear with a traumatic experienceIt is therefore hypothesized that there are other factors that can play an important role in the development and appearance of a phobia, such as a genetic predisposition or learning by imitation.

      Is there a treatment?

      In cases where the phobia can be very bothersome or even dangerous, the patient may resort to psychological intervention, which it can help decrease the intensity of symptoms to the point of making them go away.

      Although there are many psychological interventions and therapies that, performed by a professional psychologist, can be effective. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the one that brings better and faster results.

      This type of therapy generally includes three different and complementary types of actions. On the one hand, we find cognitive restructuring, thanks to which the person manages to change his distorted thoughts and beliefs.

      In addition, live exposure or systematic desensitization techniques are used. the person gradually faces the phobic stimulus, Either live or using the imagination.

      Finally, this is accompanied by training in relaxation techniques which decreases the arousal levels of the nervous system and encourages the person to face the feared situation or object.

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