I’m yet to meet a person who doesn’t find vomit unappealing. Whether you are the unfortunate person being sick, or an onlooker or carer; the smell, sounds of retching, and fear of contagion make it a horrible experience. For some people, the smell or sight of vomiting makes them gag or almost be sick themselves! But for an even smaller group of people, an extreme and intense fear of vomiting causes them to develop emetophobia.
What is Emetophobia
Emetophobia is when a person has a severe phobia of vomiting or seeing others vomiting. Sufferers of the condition can feel the need to do certain things to try and avoid the fear, such as avoiding eating certain foods they think will cause nausea, obsessive personal hygiene to prevent catching vomiting bugs and avoiding drinking alcohol. It is usually triggered by a negative episode of being sick, particularly a long or public one.
Extreme cases of emetophobia can cause malnourishment, or an anxiety that is so bad that the person will even avoid things like getting pregnant (due to the morning sickness). Severe emetophobia can also cause a person to actively avoid places where they think someone might be sick, like the pub. It can even cause someone to hide from places they need to go to, such as work or school, for fear of catching germs that will lead to being sick. These are called avoidance behaviours. And even if they seek refuge at home, they can still be set off by seeing vomiting on TV.
How Prevalent is Emetophobia?
Anxiety UK, which runs a telephone helpline, says that 1 in 20 of the calls they receive involve signs of emetophobia. Research and data also show that the phobia seems to affect more women than men. It can also be linked to other disorders and fears, like OCD, eating disorders, and fear of gagging and swallowing food due to the choking risk. The cruel irony of emetophobia is that the amount of anxiety it causes can actually lead to nausea and digestive issues.
Many emetophobics hide their condition due to feelings of embarrassment and shame, or a fear of being judged. They often report being told ‘oh, well nobody likes being sick’ which only minimises the seriousness of their condition. Well known emetophobics include Charlie Brooker, Bella Ramsey, Denise Richards and Ashley Benson.
Emetophobia is a stressful and anxiety-ridden disorder which is unpleasant and has an impact on the sufferer’s quality of life. It causes mental, emotional and physical symptoms, impacting every facet of a person’s wellbeing. I take great satisfaction in helping my clients deal with such issues and in assisting them in lessening or healing the effects of such a debilitating issue, using hypnotherapy.
How Hypnotherapy Can Help
Hypnotherapy is a great tool for emetophobia, because it takes the client out of their normal heightened state of anxiety and compulsions, and into one of calm and reflection. Once they are in this relaxed state, and not constantly worrying about vomiting or avoiding germs, they can begin to reflect on where the fear stems from, and what in particular frightens them. Often it comes from being scared of losing control of one’s own body. This fear of being ‘out of control’ can make an emetophobic hesitant to try hypnotherapy, due to the fear that they will no longer be in charge of their mind and body. I can confirm that in my sessions, clients are fully aware of what they are saying and doing and will remember everything afterwards. They will not do anything that they do not want to, because they are in control.
Hypnotherapy can change the life of someone who has spent many years controlled by their phobia; it can allow them to live a life with less worry and fear, and more enjoyment. Whilst clients are in a state of hypnosis, I can help them see vomiting as something less traumatic, more an occasional bodily function, and they can begin to associate the act with feelings of calm and acceptance.
Alternatively, regression hypnotherapy takes the client into their subconscious mind and past, to see if that is where the phobia comes from. They may have been scarred by a nasty bout of vomiting they faced themselves, or from watching a family member suffer and being unable to help them. Understanding and acknowledging this can help the client to reframe the experience, and see how it is less traumatic through an adult lens, and how they are now in control.
If you suffer from emetophobia that impacts your life, please do reach out to me for help.