Phenomenology, Clinical Correlates, and Impairment in Emetophobia

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Emetophobia, or a specific phobia of vomiting, is an underresearched disorder characterized by extensive avoidance and safety-seeking behaviors. Extant literature has primarily focused on online support groups and qualitative investigations, thereby limiting the generalizability of results. As such, this study sought to examine the clinical correlates, phenomenology, and impairment related to emetophobia in 436 undergraduate students. About 5% of the sample exhibited significant emetophobia symptoms (n = 21), with all participants in this subsample reporting an age of onset prior to adulthood. In addition, participants’ most distressing aspects of emetophobia were reported to be the somatic sensations of vomiting and the social impact of the disorder. For the entire sample (N = 436), emetophobia symptoms were associated with heightened anxiety, somatization, and depressive symptoms. In addition, functional impairment was observed across home/family, school/work, and social domains of life, even after controlling for the effects of anxiety and depressive symptoms. Detailed results and implications of the findings are discussed, and suggestions for future studies are presented.

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