The fear of vomit or vomiting, known as emetophobia, is a very real and often debilitating form of childhood anxiety. As with any phobia, the fear can be overwhelming, causing sufferers to avoid contact with anything associated with vomit or things that could lead to vomiting. This includes sick people, activities that can cause dizziness or overheating, and even food. In fact, emetophobics may reduce food intake or avoid certain foods altogether. While emetophobia is not considered an eating disorder, it can lead to one without proper treatment.
Link Between Emetophobia & Eating Disorders
Most people have a natural aversion to illness, however, the fear for emetophobics is all-consuming and disruptive to their daily lives. The perceived threat of vomiting is so catastrophic that they will do anything to avoid it, which is why some sufferers develop an abnormal relationship with food and eating. They may stop eating to avoid feeling full, even if they are still hungry, or resort to eating only certain “safe” foods, believed to be less likely to cause nausea.
In extreme cases, this refusal to eat may look like an eating disorder known as anorexia nervosa. Some emetophobics are mistakenly diagnosed with eating disorders. Individuals suffering with anorexia have an irrational fear of weight gain that results in extreme weight loss. Like emetophobics, those suffering from anorexia have an unhealthy relationship with food because of what it could lead to – vomiting for emetophobics and weight gain for anorexics.
While emetophobics are not changing their eating habits for the purpose of losing weight, they often exhibit the same types of behaviors as those suffering with anorexia. The “why” they are not eating is completely different but the behavior can be similar.
• Skipping meals or making up excuses for not eating
• Aversion to eating in public or around others
• Avoiding events or places where food may be served
• Maintaining a strict set of eating or meal rituals
• Eating only “safe” foods
Whether an emetophobic is restricting the amount of food, the type of food, or both, they are likely to consume far fewer calories than needed to maintain a healthy weight. This can lead to malnutrition, cardiovascular problems, osteoporosis and other serious health problems.
Treatment for Emetophobia & Eating Complications
If your child is suffering with emetophobia and subsequent eating complications, the Turnaround Anxiety program can help. Our 10 part at-home treatment program speaks directly to your child and teaches him or her to effectively overcome their fears. Developed by a psychologist and licensed professional counselor, all of our award-winning audio programs come with a money-back guarantee. Learn more about Turnaround’s Emetophobia Treatment Program.
We purchased the turnaround curriculum as well as the emetophobia supplemental back in December of last year (2018) for our 10 year old daughter following her developing this extreme phobia after a stomach bug. We haven’t been able to finish even the turnaround to be able to start working on the emetophobia due to her extreme panic and I wonder if you have any suggestions. We are on counselor #3; the first one basically said she couldn’t help after our child began regressing six months in and the second one practices EMDR and said he couldn’t proceed due to her unwillingness to face even a small amount of her phobia. We have only had one session with counselor #3. We also started medication because she just couldn’t function through one day without a panic attack. We’re about 7 weeks in with 3 dose increases and still struggling with daily anxiety about getting sick. We can’t find anyone in our area that claims to specialize with this phobia so we’re just trying to make the best with what we have available (in East TN), but really want to help our child before she does develop an eating disorder or before she begins refusing to leave the house! Any insight would be appreciated!!