Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Emetophobia

By: Suzanne Feinstein, PhD

For most people the act of vomiting is temporarily unpleasant and unsettling, but for some people it is devastating and has a significant impact on the quality of their lives. In fact, just the “V’ word alone is enough to create intense discomfort, and thus, for the remainder of this article I will be sensitive to my readers and abbreviate the dreaded word. The irrational and exaggerated fear of V*ing and/or seeing someone V* is known as emetophobia and is one of the more common phobias.

Often, people with emetophobia experience panic attacks since they have a lower physiological threshold to tolerate discomfort and stress. Similar to people with panic disorder, many people with emetophobia have a heightened physical reaction when confronted with potential stress triggers, and report feelings of nausea, choking sensations, dizziness, difficulty breathing, racing heart, etc.

Although not true for all emetophobes, some people can recount vivid memories of an event which precipitated this phobia. For example, a 3rd grade girl became so distraught after witnessing a boy V* after a pizza party that, subsequently, she has refused to eat pizza, will not step foot inside a pizzeria, and avoids all parties where pizza is present.

As the years have progressed, her fears have become more generalized, causing her to avoid all foods which contain any cheese, sauce or bread. She avoids eating at restaurants and has become excessively concerned with hygiene for fear of contracting an illness which may result in V*ing. For this reason she is uncomfortable with physical closeness and compulsively washes her hands if she comes in contact with a perceived contaminant. Though she has always dreamed of having children, she fears pregnancy because of the possibility of morning sickness and worries about not being able to care for her children when they are sick.

Recently, she has stopped traveling due to her increasing sensitivity to motion as well as her fear that she will not have easy access to a bathroom. She is chronically nauseous and carefully plans her activities around proximity to a bathroom. Unfortunately, this is an all too common example of how this anxiety disorder can become debilitating if left untreated.

Fortunately, Advanced Behavioral Health has designed an effective treatment to help people with emetophobia. In addition to using sensitivity and understanding, we utilize effective cognitive behavioral strategies to help you identify triggers, restructure your irrational thoughts and modify the maladaptive behaviors that reinforce your fear. We always take into consideration your level of distress and carefully formulate a systematic treatment plan to help you alleviate your discomfort and better manage your anxiety. We look forward to assisting you toward a healthier and more productive lifestyle.

Please contact us to learn more about how we use short-term Cognitive Behavior Therapy to effectively treat Emetophobia, understand how to navigate your insurance policy, and inquire about available appointment times.

Call (646) 345-3010 or e-mail

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