I’m having a problem with my vomiting phobia. I was able to significantly lessen my spider phobia via exposure, but unless I force myself to vomit (which, for obvious reasons, I am highly reluctant to do*), I don’t have hardly any exposure to it. The problem is, I’m nauseated frequently enough to make me rather miserable on a semi-frequent basis (yes, I’m under the care of a physician).
So, tell me, have you ever eliminated/severely lessened a phobia? How did you do it? Or, how to you cope with a frequently activated phobia?
Thanks in advance.
*Although, I admit, part of me is going, “Oh come on. One weekend and a bottle of ipecac and you’ll be home free!” I’m going to go ahead and assume that that’s a really, really dumb idea.
I am slowly getting over my bird phobia. I moved to New York, otherwise known as Pidgeonopolis, and the lack of bird attacks is helping me realize that not all birds are harboring a desire to peck me to death.
One of my phobias was to do with escalators. Part of my wider set of phobias about a fear of falling or losing my footing. To tackle the escalators thing, I chose a small set of escalators close to where I worked back in the '80s, and practised. And practised, practised, practised … Fear gone. I treat 'em with respect but I’m okay with those moving metal steps now. (There’s one exception which is part of the Melbourne subway system, due to its speed, but hey – one out of hundreds ain’t bad.)
supergoose: Love your username! Well, I love geese in general. Not geese on potholders and paper towels; I mean I love geese flying overhead and honking to one another in that distinctive goose way!!
Anyway, I used to fear kids, but then I had one. I mean really; because I had a lot of trouble with other kids growing up, and because I didn’t have cousins or neices or nephews or anything around me ever…I thought I wouldn’t know what to say to them, or how to relate to them. Turns out they are often more like me than grownups are!
But that doesn’t really hold any useful advice for you. Honey, I had a lot of fears when I started out; and though my family will probably never understand my 'lifestyle", the fact is that most of the things I used to be afraid of no longer scare me because they have happened and I know they are survivable.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I loathe nausea, and I hate to throw up. I can change diapers all day, but if even my cat throws up, I can’t deal with it. I think my son is the coolest kid on Earth, because he never spit up on me! In my case, it’s mostly the smell. (maybe if you hold your nose when you get sick, it might be easier for you?)
But in light of all my experiences, I’m tempted to say that the ipecac idea might not be the worst way to go. I mean, if that’s what it takes. My reasoning: the number of times you will actually need to vomit in your life will be relatively few/ hardly any. It’s only the fear of vomiting that is making you miserable. That’s no way to live.
I have a phobia of stinging insects which is slowly getting better through living in a place where the wasps are plentiful but, for most of the year, quite laid-back. I don’t know if I’ll ever manage to get rid of the fear totally, but I have reason to hope now that I will manage to crank it down from “life-disrupting phobia” to “ordinary fear and loathing”.
I also have a phobia of deep water which I am attempting to overcome by learning to swim. We’ll see how that goes. At the moment just getting out there every week and going to swim class feels like a minor victory, but ah, we haven’t gone into the deep water yet…
I have a major phobia of driving. I got over my fear of flying by distraction (the iPod Touch makes it too easy to get through a flight–just put on a movie!) but I don’t think distraction works very well for driving, sadly. I had to drive my husband to the ER in December (and later home from surgery) and it was…amusing, to say the least. No clue how to get over that one–a driver who is near-paralyzed with fear is not a very good idea.
I overcame my fear of flying (heights) by spending one hour a day for three months straight deliberately leaning over railings and standing on staircases and anything else I could do to get myself used to the feeling of being afraid. I’m not really sure how one would do exposure therapy with vomiting. I have an aversion to vomiting too; I would guess most people do, though I wouldn’t call it a phobia so much as something I really, really hate to do/see/be around. In this case I’m guessing thought-stopping might be effective. If you feel yourself getting nauseated, and start thinking oh my god I’m gonna… then just try to avert your attention to something else, don’t allow the anxiety-producing thoughts to continue as much as possible. Or you could imagine the worst case scenario in vivid detail and realize it’s really not that big a deal. At some point, you have to let go of your resistance or else you’re just going to suffer more.
Count me in as another person who suffers from the fear of vomiting. I’m afraid of vomiting myself, or even witnessing another person vomit. I can’t even deal with it very well if someone throws up in movies or on television. I’ve suffered from this phobia since I was a small child.
I don’t purposely expose myself to vomit, but I don’t do everything possible to avoid it anymore either. I found that joking about it, making fun of myself, and just being honest with myself and my friends about my fears made things much easier to deal with.
As for a full cure, I don’t think that’s possible without therapy. I talked to a friend once who happens to be a therapist, and he told me that exposure therapy for something like vomiting doesn’t involve taking ipecac or anything. It works best if you visualize it as vividly as possible and use relaxation techniques at the same time. When I say vividly, I mean everything. You have to imagine the sensation of throwing up, the smell, the taste. . . you get the picture. Not pleasant, but much better than the real thing.
Feel free to PM me if you want to talk. Also, you can google “emetophobia” if you want more info.
You guys are the best! Thank you so much for all of your replies, and my very best wishes for all of you in dealing with your phobias.
It had never occurred to me that visualization could be used for exposure. I’m going to try that. And I will definitely be trying to develop good thought relaxation and diversion techniques, especially with being able to let go of my fears and resistance. That’ll be useful in many areas of my life, I imagine.
If I stumble across any major breakthroughs, I’ll be sure to post back so that all of you can take advantage of them too.
And brujaja, thank you! I love geese, too. Actually, I pretty much love all birds, and I got a big kick out of the thought of a goose with superpowers.
Aversion practice is for training animals.
People don’t need to smell a lot of vomit to be cured.
Since it’s all mental, and you are aware of your own mentality, you should be able to work it out by thinking not smelling.
Obviously you stated it as something that should be overcome, so that’s a good step. It separated your adult thinking from your childhood reaction of flight.
Now you just have to practice thinking about what you will do next time. Perhaps you decide that the next time you run into vomit you should just tell yourself something practical. So figure out in advance what that would be. Perhaps tell yourself “smells have never hurt me”
I do appreciate your advice, but I find that I do need *something *to make the phobia kick in, generally feeling a bit sick to my stomach, or if someone in the room vomits (the worry being that whatever made them puke is contagious). Most of the time, I can just say to myself, “It’s not that big of a deal, and if it happens, you’ll live.” But then I get a little car sick, for example, and suddenly I’m scared to death to vomit and feel more like, “If I have to vomit even just one day for the entire duration of my life, I just don’t want to live.” Irrational, yes, but that’s pretty much the definition of a phobia, if I understand correctly.
I think the main thing is, I need to learn how to counter the actual feelings of fear that I get, and I don’t think I could be successful separating the object of my phobia from the emotional response without experiencing the emotional response. And I know just thinking in general about vomiting wouldn’t be enough to cause that response.
YMMV, as always.
Edit: And for future reference, “Aversion practice is for training animals” is somewhat insulting, assuming you mean to separate (and elevate) humans from animals and are thus dismissing anyone who uses aversion as an animal. You could also argue that humans are animals and get a completely different meaning from that sentence, but I have the feeling you meant the former.
Mine may be a little more relevent due to lack of exposure. Though I haven’t kicked it I have/had a strong phobia of various large undersea animals (especially Sperm Whales, I reckon it has to do witha museum with a giant sculpture of one that looked like it was going to eat me back in Wisconsin). I’ve kicked it quite a bit by, not visualizing it (It always just ends with me in the bottom of a dark ocean with a scuba suit and getting eating), but rather to make the event comic in some way. Is the whale weaing a party hat? Does he stop to recite the Walrus and the Carpenter? At least now I can watch things with Sperm Whales pictured in them and read Moby Dick (well, i could before but I actually ENJOY IT now…).
Same with you, maybe you vomit confetti in your visualization. Just be creative (I have an overactive imagination so it may vary on your creativity juice level). But if you make it somewhat comical you can get over it.
Edit: The trick is to have it ominous and feel the fear and THEN spring the surprise otherwise you don’t get any exposure to the fear and you end up not preparing yourself for it.
I’m not sure what you mean here. I never said that supergoose had to smell vomit, I said that she had to visualize the sensation completely, smells and all. Also, why would you make a comment comparing phobia treatment to training animals? That was pretty rude.
I’ve been deathly afraid of spiders - primarily tarantulas - my whole life. To the point where if I accidentally thought of one at night I’d have a hard time getting to sleep. Forget even looking at a picture of one. If I turned a page in a magazine and saw a tarantula I would involuntarily freak out, throw the magazine across the room, and pick it up later and throw it away.
I’ve know consciously for years that this is ridiculous so I slowly started allowing myself to think about them, then started reading about them online (with images turned off in my browser), then looking at pictures of them out of the corners of my eyes, etc, and slowly increasing exposure.
I’m still not 100% comfortable with them but the breaking point where I knew I wasn’t “afraid” of them anymore was while watching an episode of Wild Boyz. They were somewhere that had a large native population of giant tarantulas and they were throwing them at each other as pranks. I felt really bad for the spiders and started seeing them as innocent, fragile, almost “cute” creatures.
The last step that I plan on taking eventually is holding one. I’m not sure if I’d be ok with it right away but the main thing that’s holding me back is just not having access to one.
I’ve treated each phobia differently -
I was terrified of the sea, all it’s beasties and tricks with riptides and undertows, until I learned to scuba dive. I went from feeling panicky to entranced, as all the good stuff is under the surface.
Same with heights, only more of an instant confrontation - it’s hard to maintain a panic response to a flight of stairs after you’ve parachuted from a Cesna!
Spiders and other crawlies have succumbed to repeated exposure. My heart-rate barely rises these days as I drop things on bugs or stomp them, before scraping up the goo in a tissue and flushing it.
Do you have a zoo around you? Most zoos I’ve been to have insect/arachnid/reptile days occasionaly where they give a short presentation every few hours and let people hold the animals (tarantulas and snakes are usually the two biggest ones IME).