Have you seen someone extremely afraid of vomiting, sickness or feeling nauseated every time? The intense fear of vomiting, fear of throwing up in public, feeling pukish under stressful and anxiety-provoking conditions… is known as emetophobia. It is derived from the amalgamation of two Greek words, viz. εμετός or emesis meaning to vomit and φόβος, meaning phobia or intense irrational fear.

I had a client of mine who would feel pukish under stressful conditions, while leaving home and in social settings. His phobia was so intense that he would eat ice cubes, chewing gum in order to pacify himself. In worst cases, he would also hold ice cubes in his hand to feel good. Emetophobia is not restricted to any certain age group. Starting from childhood to old age, it can affect people of any age range.

Emetophobia can seriously impair normal life functioning if it is not properly treated. Sometimes it presents itself with comorbid symptoms like agoraphobia, social anxiety, stress, fear of flying etc. Women in the reproductive age are pregnant women are among the worst sufferers of emetophobia. Since it is associated with vomiting, it makes the pregnancy phases even more difficult. You will be surprised to know that some women avoid getting pregnant due to profound emetophobia symptoms. They fear the vomiting episodes during pregnancy and morning sickness too.

Therefore, emetophobia is a serious condition for the ones who suffer from it. Not only the victims, but also the caretakers of emetophobia sufferers also have a hard time in helping them and dealing with them. Now, let us look into the pathological aspects of emetophobia:

Causes of Emetophobia

  • Possible traumatic experience with vomiting.
  • Experience of childhood abuse (physical/sexual).
  • Anxiety and its profound symptoms.
  • Lack of a sound locus of control or sense of self-control.
  • Environmental factors and effects one’s surroundings.
  • Illness, pregnancy or alcoholism.

Emetophobia is caused due to several reasons and each and every age group is vulnerable to it.

Symptoms of emetophobia

  • Restlessness and anxiety
  • Digestive upsets
  • Feeling nauseated or need to vomit
  • Palpitations, profuse sweating
  • Stomach pain

Though the symptoms may seem only a few in numbers, they are too difficult to bear. Sometimes, emetophobia is so severe that the patient falls into a trap of depression and suicidal tendencies.

Treatment of Emetophobia

This is another aspect that will surprise you even more. Usually people suffering from any psychological or physical ailment feel better by taking medications. But, emetophobia is one such condition in which people avoid taking medicines. Since some medicines lead to feelings of nausea and vomiting, therefore patients with emetophobia often avoid taking medications. In exceptional cases, some feel well after starting medicines, some also do well after taking gastrointestinal medicines too.

Effective treatment of emetophobia however, comprises of psychotherapies and counseling. Exposure therapies, systematic desensitization, behavior therapy, cognitive behavior therapies, etc. are the ones that are most beneficial in the treatment of emetophobia.

Emetophobia is a very critical ailment to bear and overcome. It affects one’s personal, educational, social, professional… almost all the dimensions of life. Therefore, people suffering from emetophobia need your empathetic understanding and care.