Emetophobia: fear of vomiting

Written by Jane Pendry

Emetophobia Emetophobia is the fear of vomiting, or watching others vomit. The condition can be terrifying and debilitating. Even anticipating vomiting can cause significant anxiety or panic. Those affected can feel trapped and terrified because they can’t escape situations that cause panic and fear.

Sometimes emetophobia is rooted in a terrifying childhood experience, but this isn’t always the case. When we are physically sick, we activate our sympathetic nervous system which raises our heart rate and triggers sweating and shaking just as if our fight, flight, fright response had been activated. That’s why this phobia can be so persistent and debilitating.
The treatment for emetophobia is not the same as for other phobias, which are usually removed through the NLP or hypnotherapy rewind and reframe sessions in 1 to 3 sessions.

What’s the difference between emetophobia and other phobias?
Sufferers of emetophobia often experience the classic symptoms of panic attacks: rapid heart rate, churning stomach and breathlessness. The condition can affect self-esteem, relationships, social interaction and even careers. Consequently, the condition is defined as a complex phobia.

Ordinary phobias cause distress, fear, and panic, but usually only when people come into contact with the thing or situation that causes their fear (ie spiders, dogs, dentists, needles). The reason emetophobia can feel so crippling is that the fear and anxiety can be continual, pervasive, and frequent.

Many people suffer in silence, either believing nothing can be done to resolve it, or fearing treatment will involve exposure to vomit and traumatise them further.

How can Solution Focused Hypnotherapy help?
Hypnotherapy has been proven to be highly effective for emetophobia, reducing anxiety and easing the fear response to normal healthy levels.

The basic feature of any phobia is a conflict between the conscious and unconscious minds. Working at a deep subconscious level, Solution Focused Hypnotherapy helps clients re-programme their thoughts about food, socialising and other negative or fearful associations with being sick.

Solution Focused Hypnotherapy steadily dissociates feelings of fear, anxiety and panic from any and all associations with vomiting. Then, using the imaginative part of the mind, you can create a safer and more secure response to situations where you or someone else might be sick.

Hypnosis undertaken with a qualified and accredited hypnotherapist is safe, relaxing, and natural. We use guided visualisation and Ericksonian suggestions - not commands - to gently ease our clients into a trance-like state where they remain conscious and in control but deeply relaxed and suggestible.

Our scripts have been developed by experts and are tried and tested. Descriptions of more appropriate behaviours elicited through the Solution Focused element of hypnotherapy sessions can be added as you progress.

What clients appreciate most about this approach, is that they don’t have to re-experience the trauma during therapy.

What triggers emetophobia?
As a complex phobia, emetophobia has a number of possible triggers. One of my clients was triggered by hearing or seeing other people being sick and another was frightened of being sick herself and was triggered by hospital visits and sickness bugs going around.

Below is a list of further triggers that can cause a panic and phobic reaction:

  • Feeling nauseous or unwell
  • Vomiting or watching or hearing other people vomit
  • Previous experience of chemotherapy
  • Seeing animals vomit
  • Feeling out of control
  • Hearing about an illness going around that includes vomiting
  • Watching a television show or a movie where someone vomits
  • A visit to the doctor or dentist
  • Having to check into the hospital or visiting someone in hospital
  • Fear of germs or infection
  • Consuming food that you have an idea might make you sick

I am sure there are many more.

Some people will fear all and any vomiting, whether caused by alcohol consumption, morning sickness, medication, or a virus. Others’ fear is linked to infections and viruses only.

What is the impact of having emetophobia?
Emetophobia can make people nervous about having medical treatment or going to hospital because sufferers don’t like to be around anyone who is sick or who might be sick. Sometimes people refuse to go to pubs, clubs, and restaurants and are even nervous of eating all or some foods in case they make them sick.

When the phobia is this intense, it can have a serious impact on everyday life. Ordinary activities such as drinking, eating out, travelling, visiting relatives, having children, or visiting the doctor or dentist are all potential issues. Sometimes the disorder results in persistent and intense anxiety and panic disorders. Quite often, emetophobia leads to depression, generalised anxiety, and in severe cases to agoraphobia, social phobias, and OCD.

No need for analysis or reliving traumatic experiences
Solution Focused Brief Therapy, which lies at the core of Solution Focused Hypnotherapy, works with your Best Hopes. SF Therapists do not need to dive into your past to uncover or analyse the cause of your emetophobia. If you are a sufferer, you don’t need to discuss your phobia in detail or relive traumatic events. We gently work with where clients are now, helping them take steady steps forward by asking carefully framed questions that help them imagine new ways to feel, new solutions and alternative possibilities even before we begin hypnosis.

How long does it take to get better?
Emetophobia is a complex condition that may require several weeks of therapy, a minimum of three weekly sessions, and possibly up to ten or more when the condition is thoroughly embedded and lifelong.

If you suffer from emetophobia, and choose a Solution Focused Hypnotherapist to help you, you will always leave sessions feeling refreshed and uplifted, and each week you will notice your general stress levels subside and your anxiety about vomiting and related activities lessen until, finally, the problem has been resolved for good.

To find a Solution Focused Hypnotherapist please see the Association for Solution Focused Hypnotherapist (www.afsfh.com) or if you live or work near Headington, contact me for your initial consultation.

Jane Pendry
Sense-Ability Hypnotherapy & Coaching
07843 813 883



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