Can phobias such as emetophobia be cured? What about other anxiety disorders such as OCD or panic disorder? How about depression? These are questions I get asked a lot, especially since I entitled my own story “cured of emetophobia.” It’s a misnomer. Anxiety disorders such as OCD, phobia, panic disorder, etc. are not diseases therefore they cannot be cured. They are "disorders" meaning there is a problem with the way your brain processes data. Things that are not dangerous cause anxiety when they normally wouldn't. Irrational things are acted upon, which leads to temporary calm (such as rituals in OCD). This is a screw-up in brain "wiring." Depression is a mood disorder which involves the chemicals of the brain as opposed to wiring. Sometimes anxiety disorders respond to fixing the chemicals for depression - we don't really know why. So if you’ve been prescribed an anti-depressant for your anxiety, it will probably help you a lot.
Both anxiety and depression respond to treatment (therapy), and both respond to medication. So between those two things you can experience an anxiety-free life and a depression-free life. Unfortunately, you always have to keep using the tools that worked to make you better in the first place. Much like addiction, the alcoholic can be successfully treated however they can never drink again. They have to always be working at the factors that accompanied their alcoholism. Phobics have to always be working at the factors that contribute to their phobia/anxiety.
I still have the tendency to become anxious in any given situation. But I have become so expert at implementing the tools of "positive cognitions" + "relaxation ability" and "body awareness" that I can recognize anxiety rising in its very small, insignificant stage and simply take one long breath and it's gone. So....what does that mean? Does it mean I still have an anxiety disorder and always will? Maybe. But for sure it means I have a relaxed, peaceful and joyful life and I never give vomiting a second thought.
I moderate the largest emetophobia website in the world (www.emetophobia.org). In talking with thousands of emetophobes there for the past ten years I notice two very prominent things among them. The first is hopelessness - "I will never be cured" - and the second is a kind of denial that has no words. If I could put words to it, they might be "I'm not able (or willing) to put in the work that it takes to recover from this phobia because it isn't fair that I've got it in the first place so I will just try everything in my power to never vomit again and that's all I care about." Now nobody says this and probably nobody consciously thinks it. But subconsciously, it's there.
Is there a cure? It’s the wrong question. It’s like asking “is there a cure for not being able to run a marathon?” No. But you can train for a long time and run a marathon, and if you keep your training up you will always be able to run a marathon. Those who can hope beyond hope and who can muster up the courage and the fortitude to do whatever it takes to get over emetophobia can have a 100% anxiety-free life like I do. There are no limits to the human spirit.