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22 Things You Need To Know About Emetophobia

Warning: Symptoms of emetophobia — an extreme fear of vomiting — will vary from person to person. Hearing about people's experiences may be triggering.

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1. People who live with emetophobia have an extreme fear of vomiting or seeing/hearing other people vomit.

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Dr David Veale, a consultant psychiatrist in cognitive behaviour therapy at the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust and the Priory Hospital in north London, told BuzzFeed: "A fear of vomiting is quite common in about 7% of the population but a specific phobia of vomiting where there is significant distress and avoidance is less common, about 0.5% of the population, and mainly in women." That 7% figure comes from a study done in the Netherlands, but Veale says the figures "are likely to be similar around the world."

2. Living with emetophobia can be extremely debilitating.

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Symptoms of emetophobia can be mental, emotional, and physical. The anxiety and fear associated with the phobia can vary from mild feelings of apprehension to a full-blown panic attack.

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3. Emetophobia often leaves people in a constant state of worry.

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An emetophobic who wished to remain anonymous told BuzzFeed: "I worry about anybody in reaching distance of me looking pale, or looking unwell. If they are, for the rest of the day and night, it's all I'll worry about. It causes serious anxiety and sometimes depression."

5. A film, TV show or a video game where characters are sick can be an absolute nightmare.

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This is how Phobias at the Movies came about. It's a no spoiler movie site that gives users the information they need to watch movies without fear or anxiety.

6. Emetophobia is very hard to talk about because a lot of people have never heard of it before.

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It also comes with feelings of embarrassment and shame. "I wish people knew that it's a crippling fear, not something to poke fun at," an anonymous emetophobic told BuzzFeed.

7. Some make light of the phobia or say things like: "Well, no one likes vomiting, do they?"

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Ellie, who has lived with emetophobia since she was eight years old, told BuzzFeed: "I wish people knew that saying 'no one likes being sick' is the biggest insult they could say. It makes you feel like you're overreacting or somehow your anxiety is irrelevant. Although people mean well, saying this sends us into a spiral of anxious, guilty horror."

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8. Emetophobia can feel totally inescapable: Sufferers are essentially afraid of their own bodies.

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Emetophobia has shown links to sensitivity towards bodily cues like stomach distress, headache or dizziness. Even a hint of an upset tummy can trigger panic attacks.

10. Some people have had their emetophobia for as long as they remember, whilst others have had their condition triggered by a specific event.

Emetophobia is sometimes caused by a traumatic experience such as a stomach virus, food poisoning or seeing someone else be sick. Dr. David Veale adds: "Their experiences of vomiting may have also occurred before clear memory."

11. For a lot of emetophobes their fear of vomiting has to do with the fear of losing control.

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"I hate feeling out of control of things, especially my body," an anonymous emetophobe shared with BuzzFeed. There's also the fear that the "vomiting will go on forever" Veale added.

12. They rarely leave the house without their safety kit, which often includes: antacids, peppermints, airsickness bags and headphones (to cancel out the sound of anyone else being ill).

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14. Food can be tricky because some food textures trigger nausea.

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There are rituals and eating restrictions many emetophobes impose on themselves to avoid the perceived risk of vomiting. Some emetophobes can't eat anything that's uncooked or they have to thoroughly inspect every piece of food before consuming it.

15. Because of this a lot of emetophobes are misdiagnosed with an eating disorder.

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Mark Sykes and his colleagues note how people with emetophobia are often misdiagnosed because the behaviors associated with their phobia mimic the symptoms of obsessive compsulsive disorder, panic disorder, panic disorder with agoraphobia, generalised anxiety disorder and other conditions.

Veale adds: "Sometimes if a patient is very very underweight and avoiding food as to not wanting to vomit, the phobia presents itself as anorexia."

16. Emetophobes may also avoid venturing outside due to fear of catching a stomach virus.

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Scott Stossel writes in My Age of Anxiety: "I keep a detailed mental map of recorded incidences of norovirus (the most common strain of stomach virus) and other forms of gastroenteritis, using the Internet to track outbreaks in the United States and around the world."

17. Emetophobia can make it difficult to socialise.

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In a case study outlined in Cognitive and Behavioral Practice the emotophobe in question shared her apprehension about eating out and she "declined social engagements with friends due to fears of vomiting in public, as well as concerns over the cleanliness of restaurants and the preparation of her food."

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19. Some emetophobes will avoid travelling.

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Traveling often comes hand in with the fear of being travel sick which is why many emetophobes avoid it all together. Other emetophobes avoid travelling too far because they constantly have to run back home in case they need to be ill.

20. When a loved one of an emetophobe has the flu it can be very tricky to look after them.

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Emetophobes may feel a compulsive need to quarantine themselves from that person.

21. However, for some, caring for a loved one or becoming a parent has actually helped to ease their condition.

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One anonymous messenger told BuzzFeed: "Having children has helped though. If you really care for someone and they vomit a lot, you have no choice."

22. People who live with emetophobia don't have to to live with the condition forever.

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Treatment varies. Some people have found cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to be successful, others have gone through exposure therapy and some credit medication that helps reduce panic attacks.

Veale adds: "There is nothing to lose and nothing to be ashamed of" when seeking help for your emetophobia. For more information there's a chapter in Veale's book Overcoming Health Anxiety specifically on emetophobia.

Although this list represents only a handful of experiences, we hope you find some solace in knowing others might be going through what you are.

Symptoms of anxiety disorders and phobia vary from person to person but talk to your GP if your emetophobia is affecting your day to day life.

For more info go to Anxiety UK or Emetophobia Help.

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