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“It was not until January 2014 did I know that an anxiety disorder like emetophobia even existed. That was the first time when my daughter Nisha, who had just turned 15, had a severe bout of vomiting and, though she got better in a couple of days, she was not the same girl that I knew, anymore. The next 6-8 months was the worst with series of panic attacks, anxiety about food. A young and lively girl suddenly behaving weird is very hard on her parents. Blood tests conducted showed no deficiencies. Was it teenage angst or some other anxieties?  We also had a big move ahead of us in April, from India to Mexico, as my husband was posted to Mexico for 4 years.  Nisha was a budding junior tennis player from India and was looking forward to move to Mexico. We just wanted to see her happy again.

So, sitting back and reflecting on her childhood, my husband and I realized that even as a young kid she avoided many foods, was obsessive about checking expiry dates on products, even told us when someone was sick at school she did not feel good and many other incidents were clear signs of phobia for vomiting.

Thanks to technology, a google search on phobia for vomiting showed up this word emetophobia. Many self-help websites, forums on emetophobia, You Tube videos of emetophobics, the search was endless.  I had to look for online help, as it would be hard to find a psychologist/ therapist speaking good English in Mexico.

From August 2014, once we had settled here in Mexico, from a self-help website, I started with exposure therapy for Nisha. It helped a little but after a point, when we were doing actual videos and sounds she panicked a lot. I stopped right there as I am not trained to do all this. That is when I started a serious search for online help. It was very confusing, is this the right choice? would it help Nisha? And one day, by chance, I hit upon this you tube video of Rob Kelly. It is a long 70 minutes video, I watched the video a couple of times till I was convinced that this is what will help Nisha. Though Thrive too is a self- help program, considering Nisha’s age, I decided to do the program with a Thrive consultant. Rob connected me to James Woodworth. James had a session or two with Nisha before we started the actual program. It was hard to believe that simple things like self-esteem, social anxiety and external locus of control are the causes behind many anxiety disorders, especially emetophobia.

James has been very patient, understanding and accommodative during the six skype sessions with Nisha, which we started in January 2015. Now in June, I see a transformed, Thriving & ever Thriving Nisha. Also with a lot of support  from her brother and dad, she is a lot more comfortable eating out in restaurants, panic attacks are rare to never. We never talk of her symptoms, as the underlying factors of the phobia were something different. My special thanks to James to help us understand her phobia and help Nisha Thrive in all aspects of life.”

V.S. (Mexico)

“Hi James, Just an update on Nisha.

Nisha finished her online school in time, to join the high school here. ( A huge sigh of relief for all of us) She is on the university tennis team too.

Last week, she traveled with the university team to participate in a tournament and stayed away from home for about a week. She did pretty well with regards to eating out and not feeling any anxiety. Its the first time in 2 years that she has eaten out for a whole week.We are proud of her.  Thanks James


V.S. (Mexico)



“My daughter Jessica has recently completed the Thrive program with James to help her overcome her emetophobia.

I first contacted James when my daughter had been admitted to an eating disorders clinic due to her low body weight.  Her phobias, which centered around a fear of becoming ill had led to her restricting the amount and variety of food which she was happy to consume.  She would not share food with others, would not eat food when unable to wash her hands, would microwave everything she ate even if it was hot already. She would not drink water from a filter jug.  Eating large amounts of food made her feel that she would be sick so over a period of time she restricted her portion sizes.

She received very little therapy whilst in the clinic, and this did not appear to help her overcome any of her phobias.  The treatment in the clinic consisted of making Jessica eat large amounts of food, which caused her distress as it would make her gag and feel sick. Her anxiety levels soared.  I contacted James to try and find a solution to her ongoing misery.

When we met with James when Jessica was on home leave, she was very nervous and wary of therapists due to her ongoing ordeal in the clinic.  He told us that many emetophobia sufferers go undiagnosed for years and are often misdiagnosed with ‘Anorexia nervosa’.

Thankfully Jessica was discharged a few weeks later and was able to start the 6 week Thrive program.  Jessica learnt how her feeling of lack of control over her life had led to her trying to control what she ate and factors in her environment.  She felt empowered by the program to let go of the phobias that had led to her weight loss.  Her self-esteem scores improved dramatically and her social anxiety lessened.  All the phobias I mentioned above have now gone and Jessica has been able to maintain her weight independently in the normal range.  More importantly Jessica is much more content with her life, feeling more in control and confident that she has the skills to deal with the ups and downs of everyday life.

I would definitely recommend the Thrive program to emotophobia sufferers, or for anxiety in general.  I have attended most of Jessica’s therapy sessions and feel that I have gained a more positive outlook on life. I cope with negative thoughts much more effectively and have learnt to focus more on what I want to achieve in life rather than dwelling on reasons why not to attempt something!”

S.B. (Duxford, UK)


“I visited James with my mum several weeks after being admitted to hospital for my low bodyweight. Having suffered from emetophobia since the age of 9, my fear had affected the quantity and types of food I would eat, and this avoidance of food had led me to become physically unwell. I lacked in confidence in social situations, particularly with parties and gatherings with friends. I was very wary of food that others had prepared, because I couldn’t be sure if it was hygienic. The safety seeking behaviours I had developed caused more problems as I was constantly worrying what others thought of me.

James taught me that my unhelpful thinking styles were causing me to have a negative outlook on problems, and that I have the power to change the way I process thoughts for the better. By changing the way I thought in certain situations, I was able to control my anxiety and focus on other aspects of life. In six weeks, I overcame my fear of being sick, and have become a more confident person. It’s amazing to think that before, worries about hygiene and bacteria took up about 90% of my day, and now I rarely worry about being sick.”

J.B. (Duxford, UK)


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