Have you ever heard of the fear of vomiting? Neither had I, until this date three years ago. I thought that I was alone in the entire world until then, having this embarrassing and ridiculous fear.
Lately I even found out that this phobia is actually a common, yet so very little investigated problem in the world. The largest online forum for emetophobia, and this specific phobia – currently (January 2011) with +18 000 members and growing every day. I always thought that I was a freak, but getting deer into this subject in fact helped me to realize that I was only suffering from a milder version of it, I was actually very lucky.
Many of my fellow emetophobes are in a severe state of this condition, having to rush in and out of emergency wards with panic attacks, depression and sometimes attempts to suicide. The constant anxiety means that they have to be on sedatives just to make it through their days.
And many of us, with little or no understanding at all, neither from our family and friends, nor from the professionals and medical establishment who really are the ones that are provided to help and support us. Quick note, the word emetophobia is not even recognized in the spell check dictionary. The suffering, the shame and lack of knowledge is still immunity.
On top of all this, the public health system in most countries is in most cases organized so that the fact this is just nothing else but a phobia, will put the patients in low priority, which instead may end up in tragedy.
With fear of not being taken seriously, many emetophobes report that they do not dare to be frank about their phobia, even when they look for professional help. They just get diagnosed for general anxiety, which only keeps them in the shadow of no-man's-land, and out of the core of the problem.
This disturbing taboo can very well officially result in eating disorders, OCD, social phobia, to name some. Young students are being robbed of their own education everyday, because of their so disabling panic and fear.
We all need to spread more and more awareness about this silent suffering, and in my opinion it's urgent. Today it still seems like these people have no where else to turn but to the internet.
Exposure therapy is generally not recommended for emetophobia, at least not together with a therapist that still does not have enough insight how this phobia works. In this situation the therapist will be in control over the process, which could be hazardous for the mental health of the client. Remember, these are people that censors the word vomit if you understand what I mean. A better solution would be to for example give a homework of some kind, where the clients can just sit silently by their own and learn to know their fear better and better, on their own conditions.
It is very important that the client is in control when it comes to be more and more in contact with his / her fear. Otherwise the fear may take over and win. A therapist can only support this gentle step by step process.
When I realized the extent of this mental condition and all the useless suffering following along with it, that's when I decided to do what I can to spread awareness about this phobia. Deep down we all have our fears and challenges, that can be a trigger for personal growth. Thank goodness it looks like we live in a world that opens up more and more to relate and speak freely about difficult emotions and topics.