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Though there is dispute on how to rank human fears, fear of throwing up is relatively common. True emetophobia, the fear of vomiting, getting nauseous, or watching others get physically ill, is not exactly the same thing. Many people possess a moderate fear of throwing up and they’re repulsed by it, but few have a fear that is so irrational that it inhibits daily living. A true phobia is always an extreme and irrational fear from which people usually can’t recover without therapy. So it’s fair to state that fear of throwing up is common but emetophobia is not.
Fear of throwing up isn’t unusual, and many note that watching someone else get ill causes a gag response. This can be challenging, especially for those who work in healthcare fields or who care for kids, since children are prone to occasional stomach flus. Some people may be afraid enough of vomiting that if they start to throw up, they automatically fight it. This often makes throwing up a longer process, people gag and retch more, and the tensing of the muscles to avoid vomiting can create a more unpleasant experience. Truthfully, there are few people who enjoy this activity, but fighting it tends to lengthen the time it takes and make it more wretched than it has to be.
Most people experiencing the fear of throwing up are minimally impacted by it. It could become unpleasant while caring for people who are ill or during a bout of the stomach flu, but it isn’t likely to cause lasting problems. They still might fight vomiting, if sick, or quickly move away from anyone else who appears to be ill.
In contrast, true emetophobes fear subjects related to vomiting so deeply that it can have a significant, deleterious effect on pursuing daily living. Depending on how strong this fear is, people might very well end up seldom leaving their homes because they’re afraid of getting a flu, being sick in public, or seeing anyone get sick. They might avoid all areas where vomiting could occur such as schools, hospitals, movie theaters, amusement parks, or public bathrooms. A bout of the stomach flu could be torturous to a person with this fear.
Even thinking about the subject of vomiting could be enough to produce strong anxiety in the emetophobe. Anxiety symptoms could include heavy breathing, perspiration, racing heart, full-blown panic attacks, and ironically, anxiety can make people feel nauseous too, which only worsens the matter. It’s understandable that people with a strong fear of throwing up might end up having little interaction with the outside world.
While withdrawing from the world might be understandable, it’s also avoidable. Many people with phobias are helped with therapy. The most common treatment types for phobias are cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and hypnosis. While treatment is still in progress, people might benefit from medications that can help reduce anxiety. It takes hard work to conquer a phobia, but it is possible, and with this work, many who have suffered a strong fear of throwing up are able to resume more normal lives.