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Vomit Phobia – Fear of Vomiting (Emetophobia)

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Flu season will be quickly upon us and with it comes an unfortunate increase in the likelihood of experiencing fevers, coughs, runny noses, vomiting, and the like. Although no one enjoys being sick, this time of year poses particular challenges for individuals suffering from “vomit phobia”, or emetophobia, the fear of throwing up. The fear of vomiting can affect individuals of all ages. It sometimes emerges in childhood and, if untreated, may follow a relatively chronic course. However, it can also develop well into adulthood, sometimes taking root after a negative health experience (e.g., after getting food poisoning or after experiencing an episode of severe or uncontrolled vomiting). Vomit Phobia in Children and Teens Consequences associated with the fear of throwing up can be extreme. In children, vomit phobia can lead to school refusal and avoidance. Academic performance may...

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Postpartum OCD – Fear of Harming Your Baby

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Parents brace themselves for many changes when a new baby comes home. As new routines replace old, life quickly becomes a confusing jumble of cherished memories, bottles, and dirty diapers. Parenting can be joyful, but it can also be terrifying. Parenting comes with many important responsibilities, and it can be intimidating–if not downright frightening–to be responsible for protecting and caring for a vulnerable new life. What is Postpartum OCD (ppOCD)? For some parents (mothers and fathers alike), new parenthood may spark postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a surprisingly common anxiety disorder that is associated with violent and disturbing thoughts, images, or urges (Fairbrother & Abramowitz, 2007). Symptoms may begin suddenly after the new baby arrives home, or pre-existing OCD symptoms may be exacerbated by new parental responsibilities. Postpartum OCD symptoms can involve virtually any type of OCD symptom, but harm obsessions...

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Suicide Obsessions: Fear of Killing/Harming Yourself

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Thoughts of death, dying, and suicide are an unfortunate reality for many individuals. In the U.S. alone between 2008 and 2009, approximately 3.7% of adults (8.3 million Americans) reported having suicidal thoughts (Crosby et al., 2011). During that same time frame, approximately 2.2 million U.S. adults reported making specific plans to commit suicide. An estimated 1 million Americans attempted suicide, and 36,035 individuals died as the result of suicide. Clearly, suicidal thoughts and actions impact a significant number of Americans. Although suicidal thoughts are most often associated with depression, suicidal thoughts are not experienced exclusively by those who are clinically depressed. Suicidal thoughts may also accompany other mental health conditions and may even occur in healthy individuals in the general population. Not all thoughts related to suicide pose the same level of risk. Suicidal thoughts can range in intensity....

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Fear of Hurting Other People

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The fear of harming others can be a sign of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a neurobiological condition that is associated with repetitive, intrusive, distressing thoughts that can’t easily be dismissed. Fear of Harming Other People On Purpose Some aggressive obsessions involve the fear of harming others intentionally. In my last post about the fear of hurting other people on purpose, I identified several specific examples of harm obsessions. These included the fear of losing control and murdering your child, the fear of stabbing a loved one, and a variety of other fears involving violent, murderous, or criminal acts. In some of these examples, anger was a trigger for OCD obsessions. Fear of Harming Other People By Accident Other harm obsessions involve the fear of causing accidental harm, usually through negligence or carelessness. Individuals with these fears often feel that if...

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Aggressive Obsessions: Fear of Harming or Killing Others

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Aggressive obsessions go by many names. Harm obsessions, violent obsessions, morbid obsessions…the list goes on… These symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) involve the fear of harming or killing other people. In other cases, aggressive obsessions are directed at the self, such as when individuals experience unwanted, intrusive, and recurrent thoughts about hurting or killing themselves (suicide obsessions). This post will focus on aggressive obsessions that involve the fear of harming or killing other people. Aggressive obsessions involving suicide and self-harm will be addressed in a subsequent post. Fear of Harming or Killing Others Aggressive obsessions often focus on violent, murderous (stabbing, shooting, choking, poisoning), or criminal (arson, bank robberies) acts and involve graphic mental images of blood, injury, and death. Individuals with violent obsessions may fear becoming serial killers or deliberately hurting someone they love. Aggressive obsessions affect individuals...

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Harm Obsessions & Violent Obsessions

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Imagine that you’re leaning down to kiss your young daughter goodnight, when BAM! You are jolted by an image of yourself stabbing her to death. Alternatively, picture yourself as a young child who is intensely afraid of playing with your new puppy…not because you’re afraid of dogs but because you are afraid that if you touch it, you might lose control and snap its neck. In either scenario, the most horrifying part is that you’re afraid that you might secretly want to act on these unwanted thoughts. After all, why would the thought keep coming if it didn’t mean something? Violent Obsessions, Harm Obsessions, & Bad Thoughts This is the daily reality for many adults, teens, and children who experience harm obsessions, also known as violent obsessions, a type of OCD symptom that involves unwanted, repetitive violent thoughts, impulses,...

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