Are phobias, like vomit phobia, real?

Are phobias, like vomit phobia, real?

Are phobias, like vomit phobia, real?Phobias like vomit phobia (known as emetophobia, a fear of being sick, phobia of vomit) feel very real to the sufferer. But they are only as real as you believe they are…

Are we born with phobias?

No one comes into the world born with phobias. How can we, when we don’t know what anything is? If we aren’t born with it, it means we must have (inadvertently) developed the phobia ourselves. Underlying all phobias are unhelpful belief systems and powerless thinking. The Thrive Programme goes into more depth about how we create our phobias and anxiety, which you can learn about in the Thrive Manuals or the Cure Your Emethopbia and Thrive Workbook.

Events and experiences

It would be easy to believe that some phobias come about through an unpleasant experience, for example being bitten by a dog. It stands to reason that one may become fearful of dogs immediately after the incident. This fear may grow to become a full blown phobia of dogs. But what about the person who is bitten, as badly, by the same or similar type or size dog, and still functions normally around them? Two very similar situations but two very different outcomes.

The difference is in how we process the situation afterwards. A person is bitten by a dog, they feel a bit shocked and shaken. The dog is hauled away and the person’s bite is treated. The person feels relief that there was no major damage done. The situation could end there, but instead the person who ends up with the phobia of dogs processes the experience poorly.

They imagine the scenario over and over again, creating more anxiety and helplessness each time they re-imagine it. Every time they see or think of a dog, they will likely recreate the scenario in their mind again in a negative way, creating a strong association between dogs and anxiety and terror. The dog bite has gone from a one-off, slightly scary and unpleasant experience, to a hugely terrifying ordeal that invokes the flight or fight response at the mere thought of it.

Once the dog bite incident is over, it doesn’t exist, other than in the imagination. Up until that point, the person was fine around hundreds of dogs. Any fear and anxiety after the event comes from the anxious thinking created, and not the actual dog bite. The person is now creating the anxiety and terror, not the dog. This is the key to unlocking any phobia. The phobic event is not something that is happening to the person, it is the anxiety they are creating after the event that creates it. If they weren’t having those anxious and terrifying thoughts about the dog, they wouldn’t be feeling anxiety and terror.


Phobias can be created around anything and everything – not just because of a traumatic incident. Many people come to us and say they had a particularly traumatic experience of being sick, which is why they have a vomit phobia. But there are also many emetophobes who have never been sick before. The Cure Your Emetophobia and Thrive Workbook can teach you how you have created your vomit phobia, and how you can re-program your thinking to quickly and effectively overcome emetophobia. You can also work through the book with one of our Thrive Consultants.

This article was written by Shirley Scott – Thrive Consultant Shirley is based in Clapham, London

The research-backed Thrive Programme teaches you how to take back control and develop a robust, thriving attitude. Find out more about Thrive.

Read our Emetophobia Research Paper and find out more about research into Emetophobia

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