Is Emetophobia (a fear of being sick) caused by an event or experience?
The short answer to this question is ‘no’ – a fear of being sick is not caused by an event or experience.
Emetophobia – or any phobias for that matter – is created ‘internally’ (inside your mind) by the way you think, by your belief systems, and by the way you react emotionally to events and experiences in life. Having said that, I have treated hundreds of emetophobes – and supervised the treatment of thousands of others – who believed that their phobia had a specific cause or ‘triggering event’. Part of the reason for emetophobes belief in an ‘external cause’, is due to the catastrophic way in which the media (especially ‘reality’ TV shows) describe and treat people with phobias: ‘it all started when Jane was bitten by a dog’.
Another reason why phobics believe their phobia was caused by a specific event is because it seems to make sense: “I didn’t have my fear of being sick until I fell pregnant”… it would make sense that potential exposure to sickness (morning sickness) could make a person have a fear of being sick – just as being bitten by a dog might give you a fear of dogs, being locked in a lift might cause you claustrophobia and being in a car crash might give you a fear of driving. None of these things are actually true though. Think of car crashes for a moment: most of us know someone who has been in a car crash, many of us have been in one personally. They can be very frightening, and yet, how many people do you know with a fear of driving? A fear of driving is one of the least common phobias people consult therapists for. There are just as many Irish people with a fear of snakes, and yet there are no snakes in Ireland… there are millions of people with a fear of flying, and yet none of them have ever been in a plane crash??
Phobias are not caused by external events – they are caused by the way we think and feel, and what we believe about external events. Millions of people get nipped or bitten by the family dog at some point, and it doesn’t create a phobia, a very small proportion of people create a phobia in relation to an event. (Click to find out more about how to overcome fears and phobias with the Thrive Programme).
Another reason why people with a fear of being sick – more so than any other phobic person – might believe that their phobia is caused by an external specific event (or events) is because emetophobia is so debilitating, it leaves sufferers feeling so powerless and out of control. If you have suffered from a huge phobia for a number of years, and tried everything you can do to get rid of it, you are going to find it very difficult to think ‘I’m creating this phobia’.
I spent 20 years treating emetophobes with a special type of analytical hypnotherapy – a process that attempted to find and locate the ‘root cause’ of their phobia. It was quite successful – somewhere around 60-70% of sufferers did seem to get better – but not because we found the ‘traumatising event’ that created their fear… because they found what they BELIEVED was the cause and hence felt better, relieved and purged. The difficulty with the hypno/psychotherapy approach is that – though I had a good success rate myself – therapy often not only didn’t help at all, and sometimes even made people worse. It was great if you successfully got all the way through it and found your ‘magical’ cause, but no bloody good if you didn’t. This was the main reason I started to develop The Thrive Programme ten years ago. (Find out more about Thrive)
There is not a case history anywhere in the available research into emetophobia that describes a fear of being sick caused by a specific event or events. Also, if phobias were caused by ‘traumatic external events’, then you would expect to find more emetophobes in a situation where people are exposed to vomit and vomiting on a regular basis – such as when going through a course of chemotherapy? Not true. There is research in this area that shows that the incidence of emetophobia within a group of people going through chemotherapy, is actually the same – or less – than in the general population.
It’s very important as an emetophobe to understand the above – that emetophobia doesn’t happen ‘to’ a person, that it isn’t caused by an external event or events – because you will feel much more powerful, and put in much more effort to overcome your phobia, when you know that it is something you have unwittingly created yourself. If you have created it, then you can un-create it.
Your life doesn’t have to be ruled by your fear of being sick. You can overcome emetophobia in 6 weeks – locate a licensed Thrive consultant
What is Thriving? The Thrive Programme explained