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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5809
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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I have emetophobia...I am terrified when anyone close to me

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I have emetophobia...I am terrified when anyone close to me vomits. My son just got over a stomach bug and I am absolutely no help to him at all. My husband has to completely handle it. I do not know how to get better and my heart races and I go into a full blown, crying panic attack... can I be helped?
Hello, I'd like to help you with your question.
Any phobia, no matter what it is, is rooted in anxiety. Fear of vomiting is the same, a fear of how you feel when confronted with vomiting. Anxiety is created when your thoughts are cause your mind to think your in danger, such as when you see someone get sick. That began when your father would come home drunk and dry heave. The sights and sounds of seeing your father created a strong fear reaction for you. Because of that, when you think of someone vomiting, your body reacts by releasing adrenaline into your system. Adrenaline cause you to feel the body symptoms that are common with anxiety. It is much like after you have had a bad scare except with anxiety, there is no focus. The only thing you have to focus on is how you feel. And because your thoughts are probably always on alert, so is your body. This may be why you always feel anxious and scared.
The good news is that anxiety is easy to treat with therapy. In therapy, you learn to pay attention to what you are thinking to make yourself anxious. You can also deal with the root of your fear, which is how you felt about your father. The therapist then can help you change your thoughts and therefore how your body reacts to your thoughts. And by dealing with the root of your fear, you can take the power out of the anxiety. You also can learn about how to let yourself float through your anxiety thereby gaining more control over how you feel. When anxiety comes on, you allow it to flow over you without tensing or panicking in response. This makes the anxiety reduce or go away faster. To find a therapist, talk to your doctor about a referral. Or you can search on line at
Medications are helpful to ease the symptoms but they vary in their effectiveness. Each person has their own body chemistry and what works for one may not work for another. Also, once you take medication for a while, your body becomes accustomed to it and you either need an increase in dosage or you need to try a new medication. But medications can help to reduce your symptoms quickly so you can work on overcoming your fears.
You can also help yourself at home. There are numerous resources to help you learn more about anxiety. Here are some to get you started:
The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund Bourne is excellent for any fears. It is self help and contains everything from supplements to relaxation techniques.
The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Anxiety: A Step-by-Step Program by Bill Knaus Ed.D. and Jon Carlson Psy.D. Ed.D.
From Panic to Power: Proven Techniques to Calm Your Anxieties, Conquer Your Fears, and Put You in Control of Your Life by Lucinda Bassett
You can find these books on or your local library may have them for you.
I hope this has helped you,
TherapistMarryAnn and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Kate, I already take Cymbalta for depression...I also know how I feel-felt about my father. He is deceased and I still have ongoing issues about my youth and adulthood. I mostly need to know what I can do to be able to help my son if I am here alone with him or myself because my heart races to the point I feel like I am dying and I also have tachycardia which makes it worse...

It may also help you to use imagery to help you see yourself helping your son. Start by imaging your son telling you that he feels sick. Then sit with that thought until you feel calmer. Then go to the next step and imagine your son saying he might vomit. Sit with that until you feel better. Keep going until you are able to think of these steps without feeling overwhelming fear. This would be easier to work on with a therapist but you can also do it alone if needed.

It also helps to learn how to relax. Here is a resource to help you:

The more you practice this technique, the easier it will be to stay calm when you feel anxious.