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Let’s be honest – who out of any of us enjoys throwing up? It is not a nice experience for anyone. However, for some people the fear of vomiting, seeing other people vomit or just seeing vomit is so great it can stop them from doing simple things like enjoying a meal in a restaurant or enjoying trips out with family and friends.
It is the sixth most common phobia, but surprisingly little is known about the condition. The word Emetophobia is derived from the Greek word "emetos" meaning vomiting and "phobos" meaning fear.
Most emetophobics have to try and control everything they see and do to fit in with their fear. These behaviours are very similar, if not the same, in most emetophobics. There may be frequent hand washing, an inability to eat in public or be seen eating by anyone else.
Some emetophobics are incorrectly diagnosed with an eating disorder, because the nature of the condition means that they can eat very little or have a very restricted diet (sufferers may be phobic about eating certain types of food or avoid foods that are of a particular colour).
Emetophobics have adopted many of the same coping strategies as people who suffer from OCD. Door handles may be opened using sleeves, tissues, gloved hands etc, toilets flushed by using their feet instead of their hands and anything that has to be eaten using the fingers - for instance, sandwiches - can be eaten down to where the fingers have touched the food but then discarded.
Treatment for Emetophobia can be more difficult than OCD – though it uses much the same principles; gradual exposure to the thing the sufferer fears most.