Emetophobia: An abnormal and persistent fear of vomiting. Sufferers of emetophobia experience undue anxiety even though they realize their fear is irrational. They usually are especially worried about vomiting in public and embarrassing themselves. Consequently, they often avoid office meetings, banquets, dances and other social gatherings. The anxiety produced by this phobia can cause stomach “butterflies” and nausea.
“Emetophobia” is derived from the Greek word “emetos” (vomiting) and “phobos” (fear). Related English words include “emesis” (vomiting), “emetic” (that which induces vomiting, such as the syrup of ipecac used to bring up poisons) and “emetology” (the study of vomiting). Emetophobes fall into two categories:-
- Those who primarily fear THEMSELVES vomiting and
Those who primarily fear OTHER PEOPLE vomiting.
Generally the phobia starts in childhood and when a parent is uneasy about vomiting, this sometimes leads to the child also developing the phobia. There doesn’t appear to be any single cause for developing emetophobia although tentative links have been made with childhood abuse and bad experiences of vomiting e.g. due to food poisoning. However, in the vast majority of cases, the
emetophobe has no idea why they have the phobia. It can further be divided into two groups:-
‘TYPE 1’ (Anxiety-Biased) : Those who suffer from an underlying anxiety disorder, often accompanied by panic attacks and mild to moderate agoraphobia. In these emetophobes their anxiety leads to symptoms of nausea, which then induces further anxiety.
‘TYPE 2’ (Nausea-Biased) : Those who have physical illnesses which can cause symptoms of nausea. This triggers a phobic reaction to the nausea leading to anxiety and possible further symptoms, including more nausea.