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5 Self-Help Strategies for People with Emetophobia

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Living with emetophobia is not easy. Learning to manage your symptoms takes time, energy and courage—there is no quick fix option. Though there are multiple routes you can take to seek treatment, it can be hard to decide where to begin and whether you’re even ready to take that step.

One of the best ways to start is to implement some self-help strategies. After all, even small steps can make a huge difference to your overall well-being. Plus, the process of working on yourself is empowering in its own way and can give you the confidence to take control of your life and maybe even access professional support in the future.

In this article EmetoGo presents 5 self-help strategies that can vastly improve your experience with emetophobia. Let’s begin!

1. Accept and learn about your condition

As with many conditions, acknowledging that you have emetophobia is the first step to a healthier existence. There should be no shame around this—phobias are more common than you might think and there wouldn’t be a specific name for this one if plenty of other people hadn’t experienced it before you! So, rather than trying to ignore the problem, embrace the fact that you are emetophobic, because this will allow you to begin dealing with it.

They say knowledge is power, so use reputable online resources (NHS, Anxiety UK, Mind) to educate yourself on emetophobia. Be careful not to take this one too far, though. Sometimes researching how a phobia presents itself in other people can provide you with even more things to fear, and that’s the opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish! Reading about the basics of emetophobia, however, can be useful and should confirm the idea that you are not alone in your experience.

The most important thing to expand your understanding of is how emetophobia affects you. Ask yourself things like:

  • When did it start?
  • What are my main triggers?
  • Which situations cause me the most distress?

Make a note of these details so you can start mapping out how the condition impacts your life. This information will be really helpful when you start planning how to tackle your symptoms.

2. Life adjustments that will make living with emetophobia easier

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Image source: Kelly Sikkema (via Unsplash)

Support network

It’s fairly common for people to feel a certain amount of embarrassment around their phobia, particularly if it affects their life in a significant way. This sense of shame can stop you letting family and friends know what you’re going through. As a result, some individuals find that their emetophobia pushes them to live a fairly lonely existence. Under these circumstances, it’s extremely hard to prevent the phobia from getting worse.

Humans are social creatures, and interactions with others (from basic small talk to deep conversations) are important for our mental health. If you’re going through a hard time, one of the best things you can do is confide in a loved one. Whether it’s a family member or a friend, tell someone about your emetophobia and how it makes you feel.

Be prepared for the fact that they may initially offer unhelpful responses like “Well, nobody likes being sick.” It’s normal for people to be confused at first. If possible, exercise patience and don’t let such reactions put you off telling somebody else. Over time you will find better ways to explain your condition to others so that they can be more understanding. A great way to protect your mental wellbeing during this process is to establish some boundaries.

Lifestyle choices

We all know that diet, exercise and sleep play a major role in our quality of life. The problem is that, when you’re struggling, it can be very hard to motivate yourself to make healthy choices. Furthermore, emetophobia can wreak havoc upon your eating patterns, as a fear of vomit can make you extra wary of what you put into your body.

Being proactive about such things can make it easier to stick to good habits even when your phobia is trying to throw up obstacles. For example, if your house is always stocked with food types that are non-triggering and filling (like oats, rice and crackers) you’re less likely to starve yourself when your anxiety levels are high.

Think about small adjustments you can make to take care of your body. Whether it’s a pre-bedtime bubble bath or a regular morning walk with a friend, having these routines already established will be a big help when you’re experiencing a rough patch.

Coping methods

When trying to cope with a phobia, some people fall into the trap of avoidance. This involves steering clear of anything that could possibly trigger their fears. Shutting yourself off from the world, however, is not coping—it is allowing the phobia to completely control your life.

As far as is possible, try to go about your days as normal. This will be much easier if you always come prepared with things that make you feel better. Practise relaxation techniques like breathing exercises that you can rely on when your anxiety starts to rise. Always carry a bag containing items that help reduce nausea, like mints, water and essential oils. Simply having these things at your disposal can reduce your chances of experiencing a full blown panic attack.

3. Prepare yourself for the worst

Disclaimer: this self-help strategy is not suitable for those with severe emetophobia. If just the thought of vomiting is too much for you to handle at this time, skip to the next section.

By this we do not mean you should live in a state of fear. It’s more about accepting the fact that because the thing you fear is a normal bodily function, it may happen one day. Yes, we’re talking about what to do if you actually have to vomit. Obviously this is the last thing you want to think about, but having some kind of plan in place can make the whole thing less daunting.

Let’s be honest, whatever you do, this is going to be a scary and unpleasant experience for anyone with emetophobia. The good news is that a lot of emetophobes who have thrown up (of which there are many) confirm that it is no way near as bad as they anticipated it to be. Plus, your body carries out the act for a reason, and so you are likely to feel a sense of physical relief once it is over.

As strange as it is, think about the best case scenario if your worst fear becomes a reality. Would you rather be alone or with a friend to keep you company? Inside or outside? Eyes open or closed? If the time comes you may not actually have a choice, but it’s good to have an idea of what you want as trying to achieve it can be a distraction from what is happening. Some emetophobes find it comforting to hold their nose and plug their ears while it’s happening. You might even pre-plan the clean up operation, so that it can all be over as quickly as possible.

Filling in these details, as anxiety-inducing as it might be, can remove the element of the unknown which makes everything seem more scary than it actually is.

4. Find your community

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Image source: Chris Montgomery (via Unsplash)

We’ve already covered how confiding in friends and family about your emetophobia can be very beneficial. Another type of support that can be just as powerful, if not more, is finding a community of people who really understand what you’re going through. In other words, seek out people who also have emetophobia.

If you live in a large town or city, there may be phobia support groups that you can join. It’s definitely worth doing some research on the various anxiety (phobias are considered anxiety disorders) resources in your area. The most fruitful place to search is likely to be online. There are many emetophobia communities to be found on various forums and message boards. The Reddit emetophobia thread is a great place to start.

When getting involved in a new community, be careful to respect the rules and treat everybody with kindness. Some forums, for example, require that users censor potentially triggering words or stories.

5. Remind yourself that further help is out there

Self-help techniques can be really effective at managing your emetophobia symptoms. However, always know that there is further help out there. Even if you don’t choose to access it, just the knowledge that there are multiple treatments available to you can be reassuring. It might even make your attempts at self-help more successful, because there isn’t too much pressure on it to work well if you know in the back of your mind that there are other options.

You can even try some versions of therapy on your own. This is possible with approaches like exposure therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy. For the former, try gradually introducing mild forms of what you fear into your life. As for CBT, you can find various worksheets online that will help you to separate your thoughts, feelings and actions and consider how your perception of the world affects your emotions. When trying any of these techniques, it’s important not to push yourself too far without the supervision of an expert.

Self-help methods provide an effective and empowering way to cope with a phobia. When attempting any of the strategies listed above, take it one step at a time and be kind and patient with yourself.

Of course, the best way to manage or overcome a phobia is with professional help. This most commonly comes in the form of therapy or medication. To find out what’s available in your local area, you can consult your GP. Keep in mind that there is often a delay when trying to access such services.

If you’d rather avoid waiting lists and talk to a therapist from the comfort of your own home, then EmetoGo can help. We have a friendly team of experienced therapists who provide a range of online therapy packages. To get started, simply fill out a contact form and we’ll do the rest.