Autobiographical memories of vomiting in people with a specific phobia of vomiting (emetophobia)

David Veale*, Philip Murphy, Nell Ellison, Natalie Kanakam, Ana Costa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
1042 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Background: Vomiting is an almost universal phenomenon, but little is known about the aetiology of a specific phobia of vomiting (SPOV). The associations with vomiting during childhood and autobiographical memories may have relevance for our understanding of the development of SPOV and its treatment.

Method: Two groups: (a) a group with SPOV (n = 94) and (b) a control group (n = 90) completed a self-report questionnaire assessing their lifetime memories of both their own vomiting and others vomiting.

Results: People with SPOV recalled the memories of their own and others vomiting experiences from an earlier age and rated them as significantly more distressing than the control group. There was no difference between the groups in the number of memories of their own vomiting recalled before the age at which vomiting became a problem. However, the SPOV group recalled more memories of others vomiting before the onset of the problem. After the age at which the phobia became a problem they recalled less memories of their own vomiting and more memories of others vomiting than the control group. They recalled significantly more memories of vomiting associated with inter-personal events, health or emotional or unrelated life events.

Conclusions: Avoidance and hyper-vigilance for others vomiting after the onset of the phobia may have slightly reduced the risk of vomiting. There is some evidence for associative learning in SPOV with aversive consequences of vomiting and an unrelated life event. It suggests a model of autobiographical memories of vomiting that have lost a time perspective and context, which are being reactivated with cues for vomiting. The limitations of the study are those of memory biases in both groups. 

Original languageEnglish
Article numberN/A
Pages (from-to)14-20
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Volume44
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013

Keywords

  • POSTTRAUMATIC-STRESS-DISORDER
  • Vomiting
  • Specific phobia
  • SENSITIVITY
  • Emetophobia
  • INDIVIDUALS
  • FEAR ACQUISITION
  • CLINICAL PATIENTS
  • ETIOLOGY
  • WATER
  • ANXIETY RESPONSE PATTERNS
  • MODEL
  • Autobiographical memories
  • ORIGINS
  • Associative learning

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