Thrive programme can help you overcome Emetophobia (fear of being sick)

The Thrive Programme can help you to overcome emetophobia (a phobia of vomit or being sick)

Emetophobia, a phobia of vomit or being sick, is a condition for which Thrive consultants are commonly consulted.

Most people with emetophobia predominantly fear being sick themselves, although some additionally or only fear others being sick. Studies have indicated that anywhere between 0.1% and 8.8% of people may be affected by emetophobia (see Hout & Bouman, 2012). Our clinical experience suggests that that that the prevalence of a phobia of vomiting may be towards the higher end of this spectrum, and that there are many people who have a less severe fear of vomiting, which still, nonetheless, impacts upon their lives. Research (e.g. Hout & Bouman, 2012; Lipsitz, Fyer, Paterniti & Klein, 2001, Veale & Lambrou, 2006) and our own clinical experience have suggested that emetophobia mostly affects women.

Those with emetophobia often spend a lot of time feeling highly anxious about being sick and usually significantly restrict their lives. They often go to great lengths to avoid experiences and situations where they might be sick or catch an illness that could result in vomiting. They may avoid parties, public transport and eating out. Those with a fear of vomiting often restrict their diets, eating only ‘safe’ foods, or those that they have meticulously prepared themselves. They may be scrupulous about hygiene, engaging in frequent rituals relating to personal hygiene and cleaning, in an attempt to avoid catching any sort of illness that could result in vomiting. Women with emetophobia may even avoid getting pregnant, or if they have children may feel completely unable to care for them when they are sick. One recent research study found that 49% of participants with emetophobia had avoided having children because of their fear (Veale & Lambrou, 2006).

A few examples of how individuals who had emetophobia felt that their fear impacted upon their lives, prior to undergoing the Thrive Programme, are as follows:

“For the past 8 years I didn’t go anywhere, my head was always down, my attendance at school was very poor due to the phobia, my eating habits were terrible, night times were hurrendouse and most of my day was spent in my bedroom crying.”

“I had suffered with emetophobia (a huge fear of being sick) for the last twenty years, and it was ruining my life: I couldn’t go out, couldn’t get a boyfriend, was obsessional about what I ate, and lived a life full of anxiety.”

“I struggled to eat in restaurants, sit in crowded, enclosed spaces, travel on public transport, even eat certain things without panicking about being sick in front of everyone. I searched for exits and toilets compulsively everywhere I went.”

A recent European research study found that nearly 30%

of the professionals questioned (mostly psychologists and psychiatrists) had never heard of emetophobia and most (61.3%) felt that it deserved more attention (Vandereycken, 2011). The scientific literature in relation to emetophobia is limited, numbering only around 30 papers, compared to many thousands for, say, ‘arachnophobia,’ a phobia of spiders. Research has highlighted that emetophobia is often a chronic condition and that those with the phobia have frequently sought help, but found treatments largely ineffective (e.g. Veale & Lambrou, 2006). Many professionals, also, believe that emetophobia is a difficult condition to treat (Veale & Lambrou, 2006).

The Thrive Programme has substantially helped many people with emetophobia to overcome their anxiety surrounding vomiting. The programme provides people with in depth self-insights and enables them to challenge and change the underlying limiting beliefs which are creating and maintaining their fears. Some comments relating to how people who had emetophobia have changed their lives after undergoing the Thrive Programme are as follows:

“It helped me to gain control of my life again and feel excited to start living life without having to worry about sick. For the first time in years, I sat in the middle aisle at the cinema without worrying someone was going to be sick and I even had an ice cream halfway through. I used to avoid parties and big events with alcohol but now I am looking forward to joining in with my friends and also having a few drinks myself. I’ve even come off all my tablets as I feel I don’t need them anymore.”

“I am now so positive and happy, I take the good out of any situation, I walk with my head held high, I’m going out shopping e.t.c, my eating habbits are improving and I generally love the company of others again! I feel so resillient now.”

“I used to say that I suffered from emetophobia, like I was a victim of this uncontrollable thing. After my sessions with [the Thrive Consultant] I now understand that my phobia stems from mismanaged thinking and that I have the power to control how and what I think about.”

Hout, W.J.P.J. & Bouman, T.K. (2012). Clinical Features, Prevalence and Psychiatric Complaints in Subjects with Fear of Vomiting. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 19, 531–539
Lipsitz, J.D., Fyer, A.J., Paterniti, A. and Klein, D.F. (2001). Emetophobia: preliminary results of an internet survey. Depression and Anxiety, 14, 149–152.
Vandereycken, W. (2011). Media Hype, Diagnostic Fad or Genuine Disorder? Professionals’ Opinions About Night Eating Syndrome, Orthorexia, Muscle Dysmorphia, and Emetophobia. Eating Disorders, 19, 145–155
Veale, D. & Lambrou, C. (2006). The psychopathology of vomit phobia. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 34, 139–150.