Emetophobia is an extremely common phobia, yet it is not normally talked about.
Emetophobia is the fear of vomiting.
Emetophobia is a very real phobia, and it causes intense symptoms of anxiety and distress around events pertaining to anxiety. This could include:
The fear of vomiting
The fear of others vomiting
The fear of vomiting specifically in public
The fear of seeing vomit
All of these are aspects of emetophobia. Emetophobia can become so debilitating that a person cannot even talk about vomiting without starting to panic.
Emetophobia is extremely common.
While it is hard to say just how common emetophobia actually is, a quick Google search will bring up a plethora of results on the topic. It is common enough that Buzzfeed has written an article on it, people have created entire counseling courses for the treatment of emetophobia, and there are forums everywhere on how to cope.
The one key part of struggling with emetophobia is that it is different than having another type of phobia. Yet to people on the outside this is not immediately clear.
What is the difference?
When people have a phobia such as acrophobia (the fear of heights), it really should not affect their day to day operations too much, especially if it is on a milder scale. Think of how many times in your day to day life you need to climb a ladder, fly on a plane, or do a high ropes course? Many people can function daily perfectly fine without participating in these activities. Of course it can still affect your life, preventing you from taking a plane for vacation, or going to the highest floor of a tall building, but someone who has acrophobia should be able to ignore their fear most of the time.
Emetophobics do not have the same luxury. (Excuse me if this sounds catastrophic, I am an emetophobe). When you are emetophobic, you are afraid of your own body. If you get nauseous, you cannot just run away or choose not to do it. Someone who is afraid of spiders can run at the sight of spiders, an acrophobic can choose not to climb that ladder. If your body decides it needs to throw up, there is no running for the emetophobe.
For people with emetophobia, vomiting is always a danger. All the time we are faced with things that can make us sick. We could get car sick, we could catch a stomach bug, or we could even just eat food that doesn’t agree with us. Our entire life is shadowed by the fact that vomit may be right behind us.
This also explains how it so greatly affects a persons day to day life. Someone with emetophobia will take great lengths to avoid catching any illnesses. Emetophobes have rituals that they partake in so that they feel “safe”. We panic with each sour stomach. We avoid eating out. We fear wintertime and its germs. We constantly check ourselves and others for signs of illness. It is consuming.
Emetophobia is a cycle. First, something will happen that will trigger the vomit thought. This could be a TV show, a joke made by a friend, a post made on Facebook about their great-aunt Betty catching a bug, or a twinge in their own stomach (which could just be anxiety!). After the thought, someone with emetophobia will instantly start evaluating themselves for signs that they themselves could be ill. Once an anxious person spends enough time worrying about vomiting, their body will give them a “reason” to worry. Maybe they start to sweat. Maybe their stomach starts to hurt or feel a little queasy. Maybe they lose all appetite. Are they sick? Nope! Just anxious. Does the emetophobe know this in their panicking state? Nope!
This is how the spiraling thoughts about the fear of being sick can lead a person to leave work or school, make them avoid situations where they may not be able to run if they do start feeling ill, and just generally be stuck in a rut of negative, panicking thoughts.
So, that is emetophobia. It is common. It can be life-altering. It is different.