A research paper on the little-known but chronic condition of emetophobia, or an extreme fear of throwing up, was presented to the Royal Society of Medicine in a bid to raise awareness about the phobia amongst doctors and the public.
Emetophobia - the extreme fear of vomiting - affects around 3.5 million people in the UK – around 90% of which are female.
This under-researched psychological disorder results in sufferers carrying out a range of safety-seeking and avoidance behaviours, such as avoiding particular forms of transport, restricting their food, maintaining very high levels of hygiene, avoiding becoming pregnant and keeping away from people who are ill.
Therapist Rob Kelly, who is the UK’s expert on emetophobia, presented the paper to mark National Emetophobia Awareness Day which will also outline treatment for sufferers based on scientific and psychological research and principles.
The paper examines previous research into the condition with one study showing that although almost half of doctors had seen cases in their own practice, nearly 30% of them had never heard of the phobia. A majority of the professionals regarded the disorder as deserving of more attention.
Emetophobia often starts in childhood, and previous studies have shown an average onset of nine years of age. The condition often has a chronic course, with average durations of the phobia exceeding 20 years. What is more, over 90% of respondents experienced distress from emetophobia symptoms 52 weeks a year and over 70% said they were distressed 6 to 7 days a week.
Researchers have noted that emetophobia shows similarities with a number of other disorders including social anxiety, OCD, panic disorder and health anxiety.
However, research into the condition is scarce which means treating it has been difficult for medical professionals and patients. Kelly hopes that his paper and Thrive treatment programme, about which he has also written a book, will help raise awareness of the condition and lead to successful cure for sufferers.