Emetophobia is the irrational fear of vomiting. Be it yourself, your family, friends, colleagues or people you work with. It can even be random people on the road! Even the thought of it is unthinkable and sends you into a panic attack.
All humans have this amazing way to protect ourselves so that we’d have better chances of survival. Fear is one of these remarkable things that keeps us safe by helping us avoid danger. However, not all fear is justified. Some may even be misguided because of certain experiences that lead to our mind believing in the wrong thing. Vomiting is one of them, its true purpose is actually to help us survive by getting rid of bad things in the stomach, yet for some reason, we managed to treat it as the ultimate fear. What we truly need to do is not to get our conscious and logical mind to realise this, but our subconscious mind.
The Characteristics of Emetophobia
1) The concept of of vomiting and nausea is so unthinkably scary that it’s considered the worst thing ever, you’d rather die, or get anything else!
2) If someone close to you vomits, you immediately want to run the other direction.
3) You fear pregnancy and having a child because of morning sickness and the fact that children often gets sick.
4) You avoid restaurants or fast food places in fear of eating bad food.
5) Your kitchen cleaning standard is mountain high, as in all food must be cooked thoroughly, you wash your hands many times, you make your husband or parents wash their hands if they’re touching food you’re about to eat.
6) You fear traveling to other countries because you may get sick there, as you’re not sure about food safety standards.
7) You feel nauseous more than you vomit, because you suffer anxiety from the fear of vomiting.
8) You remember when you last vomited, and usually is many years ago.
9) You avoid wearing the clothes, using the cup, pillow or clothes you were wearing or using the last time you vomited.
10) You are superstitious about a certain thing helping you. For example, your grandfather may have told you that water helps vomiting, so you view water as a life saver, and may need it with you all times, otherwise you become severely panic stricken.
11) If a food ever made you or someone you knew ill, you will certainly never touch it again. (For example: Your friend said his father got ill after eating kebabs in the city, you decide never to eat hat again, or when you were young, you ate mooncakes that made you vomit and afterwards, you could never look at them the same way again)
12) You often feel bad or selfish for your irrational fear, yet you cannot help it.
13) The mere thought of your childhood vomiting experience is bad enough to send you into a panic.
14) You remember and fear the exact time of your last experience. (For example, if you remember last vomiting around 1am, you may be super anxious at night time, or have trouble sleeping).
15) Whenever you visit family or friends, you need to know if anyone has been sick in the past week.
16) If someone mentions they’ve just vomited, you immediately panic – not about if they’re alright, but about if you’ll catch it.
17) You fear touching animals in that they may bring some disease.
18) You wash your hand multiple times in the day, especially before you eat.
19) You try avoid using your hands if possible, thinking that even touching any part of the room may make you sick.
20) You fear certain parts of the year because you heard stories about bugs that cause people to vomit. For example, the winter vomiting virus.
21) If you accidentally watch a video of someone vomiting, you immediately feel queasy and want cover your ears.
22) If you hear someone vomiting, you will most definitely cover your ears and start panicking.
23) You cannot go into or use the toilet after someone has vomited in there for many days.
24) You start feeling relieved when you find out that some internal factor caused their illness, such as a reaction to a drug, or overeating, or their own anxiety. (Because you won’t catch it!)
25) You had one or multiple bad childhood experiences that you know have caused your phobia.
26) If food has fallen on the ground or touched anywhere dirty, it’s unimaginable trying to eat it.
27) You find it extremely difficult to go near a clinic or hospital, feeling as if you’ve been contaminated with illnesses. You also feel scared at the thought of ambulances, especially the sirens.
These are just some of the symptoms of emetophobia, and I have most of them. Yes, I am also an emetophobic, that’s why I’m writing this. They all say, your experiences will bring the most value to people since you went through it, so you understand it better than anyone else.
Don’t blame yourself for being emetophobic
Firstly, I want to say that no matter how guilty or horrible you feel, it’s not your fault. It’s absolutely natural to fear that you’ll catch whatever they’ve got instead of worrying about them. We need to ensure that we’re safe before we can think about anyone else. That’s basic human nature.
Other people are able to take care of their loved ones if they’re vomiting because they don’t see it as a nightmare as we do. They literally don’t get the physical symptoms we get when we’re frozen in fear. Vomiting is indeed an irrational fear, but I feel most of it has to do with our childhood. Perhaps a traumatic experience caused our brain to be miswired, and now the signal for vomiting means a sign of danger. It’s likely that our upbringing has trained us to think that vomiting equaled danger, worse than death!
I bet non-emetophobics would also react this way to something they truly feared!
How to Cope with Emetophobia?
1) The first thing you need to do is help others around you understand your problem. Explain that it’s not in your control, and being judgmental doesn’t help. Give them resources to emetophobia articles online and let them read all about it.
2) Sometimes, what really helps me is studying more about it, finding the scientific reason why people vomit. A great example was, I felt somewhat relieved to learn the reason behind vomiting being almost contagious (in that if one person saw another vomit, they automatically feel like it too) is that it’s a survival instinct. Back in the past when people lived in tribes, they would also eat the same foods. So if someone else ate bad food, you probably did too. Vomiting actually increases the chances of survival making everyone empty out their stomachs.
3) Learn more about what’s actually inside your stomach. Also know that the yellow stuff is inside your stomach even if you don’t vomit. Sometimes, we may see those stuff as some alienated muk that’s going to kill us. No, that stuff is in our stomach right now!
4) Learn more about why vomiting happens, know that it’s a way for us to protect ourselves from bacteria, virus or poisons.
5) Make a recording for yourself. Record an mp3 with calm music added in the background. Talk about exactly what you learned, about why vomiting shouldn’t be feared. Your subconscious may not agree with you, but if you play it enough (even when you’re sleeping), it may make a difference. In a way, you’re making your own relaxation CD.
6) Do not try and solve this by forcing yourself to vomit, tell your family that too so they don’t try anything.
7) Get someone else to reiterate why vomiting isn’t supposed to be so scary.
8) See a therapist who specialises in emetophobia. Nowadays, there are many on the internet who specifically focuses on this subject. Do not go for the quick fix, because those are most likely to be fake.
9) Try hypnosis or self hypnosis, they have shown to be very beneficial for some emetophobics.
10) Try self cognitive behavourial therapy if you can’t afford a therapist. Slowly expose yourself to the concept of vomiting. Start by reading words and imagining it, then move up to seeing cartoons or animations, gradually look at photographs of things like vomit basins or hospitals, then move up to looking at unwell people, gradually pictures of people vomiting, and then sounds and videos. Do not attempt everything at once, start with a little each time, expose yourself and as soon as you feel anxious, try relaxation and breathing techniques until your anxiety decreases. Do this gradually over time, do not attempt to burn through it, because it won’t work that way.
11) Learn when you’re talking yourself into a panic and reverse those thoughts, such as “I’m going to be sick…” Instead, try replacing them with, “the purpose of vomiting is to protect myself by emptying everything in my stomach. I will not be afraid!”
12) If you’re thinking of being pregnant, talk to your doctor about your fear and he may be able to recommend something. I read somewhere that some people used anti-emetics like Zofran, that was safe.
13) Keep ginger with you all times, it does wonder to nausea.
Information about Emetophobia, Did you know…?
Did you know that while vomiting is unpleasant for most people, it creates absolute terror to emetophobics? They may pass out, feel as if they’re getting a heart attack or worse, feel NAUSEOUS!
Did you know that emetophobia sometimes comes with anxiety? You may feel anxious about vomiting, which will cause you anxiety, which then causes nausea, which makes you fear vomiting even more. It can be a vicious cycle, where you don’t even know if the nausea is real or caused by anxiety.
Did you know that many emetophobics can control themselves to the point where they actually don’t vomit, even when they are so nauseous that most non-emetophobics would have vomited by then.
Did you know that non-emetophobics actually think nausea is a lot worse than vomiting?
Did you know that many emetophobics also sail through pregnancy without vomiting once?
Did you know that while non-emetophobics can be jealous that emetophobics don’t vomit for so long, most of the times we’re jealous they can vomit without fear? (If only we knew how that felt…)
Did you know that
if you can program your subconscious to see vomiting as a non-dangerous thing you may not feel that overwhelming fear?