However, understanding why you have a fear of throwing up is a very important step in overcoming emetophobia. There are two main schools of thought regarding how emetophobia is developed…
You Fear Throwing Up From Experience
Most people fear throwing up because of one or more experiences in which they were sick under extremely stressing conditions, typically occurring when they were younger. For example, maybe as a young kid you were sick when your house was a damaged by a violent storm and your parents weren’t home.
Through the process of psychological conditioning, the fears and emotions associated with those incidents became associated with vomiting by your brain. While this association is false, in that the connection between those feelings and vomiting were merely circumstantial, this process of association is a regular reaction by your brain. This reaction is meant to protect you from experiencing those emotions and feelings again, but unfortunately your brain does not understand that it was not the act of vomiting that brought on the emotions in the first place.
Your Fear Throwing Up From Lack of Experience
This scenario is often considered second to the aforementioned scenario because it is both less common and hard to recognize. The theory behind this cause is that your fear of throwing up could have developed due to a unique LACK of vomiting in your developmental years. Like a fear of the unknown, you brain does not know what to make of nausea or sickly feelings, and thus over time you begin to fear them because “who knows what will happen if you get sick.”
Nature of a Learned Behavior
Both of these reason to fear throwing up have something in common: they are a learned behavior. What this means is that it is something you develop as opposed to being born with it or being born genetically susceptible to it. Anything that is a learned behavior is also possible to be “unlearned.”
The trick is that just as your emetophobia did not develop overnight, and neither is it possible to unlearn over night. Even if your emetophobia was developed over a single month, the behavior has years of reinforcement that has helped to solidify it in your mind. This is why it is so hard to cure emetophobia. Think of it like the saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” The longer you are set in your ways, the harder it is to change them.