The Role of Imagination in Emetophobia

Do you know what makes a phobia so powerful? People will imagine the object of their fear in vivid detail. They may also recall a specific incident related to the feared object in their mind until they feel panicked.

How Does Your Imagination Heighten Your Fear?

A report by Price et al. (2006) provides insight into how Emetophobia (“specific phobia of vomiting”) is exacerbated by mental imagery.

Many people who suffer from phobias can link the onset of their fear to a single, negative memory. Sometimes the memory of the event tied to a phobia will be exaggerated or distorted; in some, it seems strangely clear and detailed. Intrusive imagery is described by Price et al. as thoughts or mental images that are “frequent and distressing.” These images include recollections of unpleasant events as well as feared scenarios that have never occurred. Intrusive imagery is found to affect people with depression as well as other people with specific phobias (e.g. specific fear of snakes). Since most people who have Emetophobia develop the condition in childhood, the memory seems even more threatening and traumatic.

Rumination is the repetition of negative thoughts or memories. It can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. A piece by the associate editor of PsychCentral compares rumination to “a record that’s stuck and keeps repeating the same lyrics.” People feel that they cannot control theses thoughts which disturb their ability to function.

Researchers involved with the report propose treating the intrusive imagery in order to treat the condition. This is recommended for a variety disorders including Emetophobia and social phobia.

Techniques to Reduce Negative Imagery

There are strategies that can be taught to confront negative, irrational thoughts and ruminations. Involving yourself in healthy activities like exercise and meditation is recommended. If you enjoy reading or watching funny movies, that may also help you to temporarily forget what’s bothering you.

A lot of people find themselves worrying when they’re trying to go to sleep. Taking deep, calming breaths and trying yoga techniques before bed may help with relaxation and allow you to get to sleep.

It is also important to take the time to address your fears and worries. You have to consider why a situation bothers you and proactively think about how you can solve your problem. If there’s absolutely nothing you can do to change a bad situation, you must train your mind to let it go. It isn’t easy by any means, but it’s well worth the effort.