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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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Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) Symptoms

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Symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a somatoform disorder that closely resembles obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder include excessive concern about perceived physical flaws, defects, or imperfections. Individuals with body dysmorphic disorder become obsessed with these unwanted aspects of their appearance and perform a variety of rituals and avoidance behaviors in order to disguise or conceal these “flaws.” BDD symptoms typically result in extreme distress and a variety of social and occupational difficulties. Body dysmorphic disorder symptom areas vary between individuals and commonly focus on the skin, hair, weight, and specific facial features, such as the nose (Philips, 2005). In The Broken Mirror (2005), Dr. Philips breaks down the frequency of different types of BDD concerns: Skin 73% Genitals 8% Hair 56% Cheeks/cheekbones 8% Weight 55% Calves 8% Nose 37% Height...

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Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

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What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)? Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is not formally classified as an anxiety disorder; however, it shares many overlapping features with anxiety disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In contrast to OCD which typically focuses on specific external feared outcomes, body dysmorphic disorder involves hyper-attention to one or more perceived bodily defects, imperfections, or flaws.  BDD “flaws” are experienced as distressing and intolerable. In some cases, the imperfections that bother individuals with body dysmorphic disorder can be perceived by other people, but BDD magnifies and distorts these imperfections in the eyes of the sufferer.  In other cases, individuals with BDD notice and attend to “flaws” that cannot be readily perceived by others.  Regardless of the form of one’s symptoms, body dysmorphic disorder is associated with extreme distress and shame.  Moreover, because BDD-related “flaws” are often perceived as being...

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Treatment of Unwanted Thoughts & Sensations in OCD

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In my post about the treatment of sensorimotor OCD, a reader asked about the ultimate goal of treatment. Should the goal of treatment be to never notice an unwanted thought or symptom? Suppressing Unwanted Thoughts & Sensations in Pure-O & Sensorimotor OCD Let’s explore this idea in detail. Suppose I adopt the goal of being 100% symptom free. After all, this is the endpoint of treatment that most people are seeking. What are the implications of this goal? You will likely slow down your progress. Why? Because every day you will encounter something that violates your expectations. Unwanted thoughts are a normal part of the human experience. Everyone has thoughts that are unwanted, aggressive, selfish, perverse, or deviant at times. For people without OCD, these thoughts tend to be fleeting because the thoughts themselves aren’t treated as significant. They...

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Thought Control & OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)

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OCD & Thought Control Can I learn to eliminate my OCD thoughts? I hear this question all the time from new patients who are searching for ways to suppress their unwanted thoughts. When I answer this question with a resounding “no”, there is often much surprise and grief. After all, this is why they’re coming to see me. Many people with Pure-O OCD imagine thought control to be the only way to improve the quality of their lives. Unfortunately, thought control conceptualized in this way is not an attainable goal in OCD treatment. Our brains just don’t work like that. I explain it like this, “A penguin obsessed with flying is an unhappy penguin.” Expecting thought control to work is a little bit like a penguin flapping its wings and expecting to fly. It may work for the other...

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