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Emetophobia is uncontrollable and irrational fear of regurgitation, and encompasses both aversion to watching other people regurgitate and the fear of developing nausea and vomiting. The mere sight or the smell of vomiting makes the patient restless.
People suffering from emetophobia worry on a daily basis about having an unpleasant encounter that cause them to vomit in public, or seeing vomit. For instance, they worry about possible germ contamination or stale food in restaurants that may cause vomit. Left untreated, this phobia affect the victim’s life, causing them to avoid social situations and avoid some type of foods. Extreme emetophobia makes the patient reluctant to step out of their house, and even refuse to become pregnant owing to the fear of having to vomit. The person tries to control all variables including those outside one’s control, and the treatment tries to resolve this issue.
Image Credit: flickr.com/Tiago Ribeiro
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A common prescription for emetophobia cure is psychotropic medications such as benzodiazepines and antidepressants. Anti-nausea, anti-anxiety, and anti-emetic medications also find effectiveness. Such medications however diminish the manifestations of the phobia rather than cure, and come with many side effects. Some people suffering from emethobia remain averse to medication owing to fear that such medication might make them nauseous.
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Relaxation Techniques and Activities
Of the many suggested cures for emetophobia, leading an active lifestyle, and taking regular breathing exercises rank as the easiest and most cost-effective option.
The major cause for emetophobia is anxiety. Regular deep breathing exercise helps calm the mind and body, leading to a relaxed state and subsiding anxiety. Leading an active lifestyle, and keeping the mind occupied with constructive activities such as reading a book, gaming, or anything of interest also allows the mind to divert attention from the worry of vomit.
This approach remains effective for mild emetophobia rather than severe emetophobia.
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One of the effective cures for emetophobia is systematic desensitization, a technique of controlled exposure to the phobia.
In this therapy for emetophobia, the psychotherapist or psychiatrist provides the patient with graduated exposure to vomit, through means such as an artificial vomit toy, making the patient watch movies of people vomiting, replicating the smell of vomit, and other such interventions, to de-sensitize them.
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Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is a proven cure for many conditions, and emetophobia ranks amongst the conditions that this approach cures.
In CBT, the therapist tries to understand the origins of the phobia and identify ways to eliminate such influence. For instance, the root cause of emetophobia may be a person having faced unpleasant experience of vomiting as a child. The therapist tries to identify the health condition that caused such childhood vomit, and on establishing that such conditions no longer exist, the patient is able to resolve the phobia.
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Neuro Linguistic Program
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a psychotherapy approach that establishes a relationship between behavior and subjective experiences or patterns of thought underlying such behavior. It aims at programming the subconscious mind to change such behavior.
NLP considers the occurrence of phobias such as emetophobia as due to malfunctioning of the programs and constructs within the brain, and attempts to resolve such malfunctioning.
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Hypnoanalysis is a therapeutic technique where the therapist uses hypnosis to relax the patient and makes the patient release bottled-up emotions, conflicts and anxieties through the technique of free association.
Curing emetophobia using hypnoanalysis involves trying to resolve the anxieties and emotional conflicts that cause the anxiety at a subconscious level rather than treat the symptoms and problems at the conscious levels. The therapist pushes to the surface the underlying causes that make the hypnotized person fear vomit.
The major advantage of therapies such as CBT, NLP, and hypnoanalysis is the absence of any side effects or complications. Success however depends on the patient’s cooperation and commitment.
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Another treatment approach for emetophobia is by making dietary changes to incorporate healthy eating guidelines. Caffeine, sugar, and chocolate, for instance triggers and exacerbates anxiety, and the dietary approach to cure emetophobia recommend avoidance of such foods.
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Online emetophobia support groups in places such as Yahoo! Groups is a good place to share information and help cope better with the condition.
Self-treatment however rarely works, and can be counterproductive. All the treatment methods listed above works only with the recommendation and involvement of a registered physician.
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- International Emetophobia Society. http://www.emetophobia.org/. Accessed 12 January 2011.
- WebMD. "Anxiety and Stress Management" http://blogs.webmd.com/anxiety-and-stress-management/2007/09/fear-and-phobias-6-emetophobia.html. Retrieved 12 January 2011.
- “Emetephobia." http://healthyhuman.net/emetophobia/index.php. Retrieved 12 January 2011.