Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Emetophobia

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is defined by WebMD as “a type of anxiety disorder…that traps people in endless cycles of repetitive thoughts and behavior.” Emetophobia is also an anxiety disorder, but it involves a strong, uncontrollable fear of vomit or of vomiting. These probably sound like two very different illnesses. However, both conditions have the potential to disrupt a person’s life. Here’s how symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Emetophobia can overlap.

A person with OCD will repeat the same behaviors over and over again. He or she feels compelled to do certain actions to relieve anxiety. The anxiety stems from mental fixations which may be caused by a malfunction in the brain. These ideas or thoughts are incessant; they remain stubbornly on the affected person’s mind and are out of his or her control. The only way a person with OCD feels he or she can stop the persistent thoughts is by performing some ritualistic behavior (a compulsion).

So here’s what sometimes happens in the mind of a person with OCD: A troubling thought may present itself, such as ‘Did I lock the front door before I came to bed?’ This idea starts to plague the person, who feels increasingly anxious and out of control. Eventually he or she will have to get out of bed and check that the door is locked.

This often happens to healthy individuals as well. Unfortunately, in a person with OCD, the feeling of needing to go and check the lock will probably continue. He or she will get up several more times to see that the door is locked. People with extreme OCD may get up many more times throughout the night, to the point of hardly getting any sleep. Obviously having to work the next day would only make the situation even more stressful.

For someone with Emetophobia, obsessive thoughts are focused on the fear of vomit. An emetophobic worries that he or she will encounter a situation in which someone gets physically ill. The fear of seeing someone vomit or becoming sick oneself can lead to a  general fear of germs.

An emetophobic who also fears germs can develop compulsive habits. Similarly to obsessive-compulsive people, some emetophobics wash their hands over and over again because of the irrational fear of contamination.

Another scenario an emetophobic may encounter is this: After a trip to the grocery store, an emetophobic may wash fruits and vegetables repeatedly. Like any person, an emetophobic will also want to make sure foods in the house are fresh. Unfortunately, an emetophobic will repeat this action compulsively; he or she will check and re-check that food is safe to eat many, many times. The behavior becomes irrational, but the person with Emetophobia can’t overcome his or her worry that something eaten will lead to illness and vomiting.

If you think you may have OCD and Emetophobia, you should definitely seek help from a licensed counselor or clinician. OCD and Emetophobia are very serious conditions, especially when combined.