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Fear of Vomiting

My daughter is 10 years old and in 5th grade.  Ever since she was in 1st grade, she has been afraid of vomiting.  I think something happened to her in 1st grade either she got sick or was made to eat her lunch which made her feel sick.  Since then, when she gets nervous, she feels she is going to throw up.  I get calls from the school saying she doesn’t feel well but I can usually get her to go back to class and finish the day.  She is now making a habit of feeling sick before her hockey games until about the third period.  Once she knows it is soon over, she feels fine.  She is an excellent player and wants to play, but says she doesn’t know how to stop her mind from worrying.  

Dr. Neuman writes:
Phobic men and women often develop a fear of losing control.  Sometimes this is expressed as a fear of “going crazy” or fainting of screaming and, not uncommonly, a fear of vomiting.  Almost always these fears are unjustified.

Occurring in a child, such a fear would usually be called a social phobia.  You are quite correct to encourage your daughter to attend class and her various other activities.  At this point, I would do two important things: I would tell your daughter that this is a common worry and the chance of her actually throwing up is close to zero.  Secondly, I would discuss with her what she imagines throwing up to be like and that people do throw up sometimes.  Usually there is time to get to a bathroom to vomit in private but even in public, this is not a terrible experience.  Play down the idea of being embarrassed by ordinary physical weaknesses.  Also have her focus her attention on the game or counting backwards from 100 by 2’s or doing girls names, A is for Anne,  B is for Barbara, C is for Carol, etc. so that she is focused on something in the present and does not have that “what if” thinking about what might happen in the future.


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