by Ken Goodman, LCSW

Ken-Goodman-websize.jpgKen Goodman, LCSW, practices individual and group therapy in Los Angeles to help anxiety and OCD sufferers free themselves from debilitating fear.  He is the producer of The Anxiety Solution Series: Your Guide to Overcoming Panic, Worry, Compulsions and Fear, a step-by-step self-help audio program. Visit his website. 

If you have a fear of vomiting, just reading the title of this article might make you a bit queasy. The mere mention of the "V word" might send you into a state of anxiety. If you can relate, I encourage you to press on despite your worry, so you can take the first steps to overcoming it.clinicalfellows.jpg

Emetophobia?

No one enjoys vomiting and everyone thinks it’s disgusting, but most people are not afraid of it. But if you suffer with this type of phobia (specifically known as emetophobia), you are not only repulsed by the idea of vomiting, you fear it. Many people say that the anticipation of vomiting is often worse than the act itself.

And because you don’t know when it will happen, you are constantly on guard, rearranging your life to ward off any possibility of puking.

What Causes Nausea?

Stomach discomfort and nausea can be caused by motion sickness, a stomach bug, food poisoning, excessive eating or drinking, food intolerance and…anxiety!

That’s right. Anxiety and worry can cause stomach discomfort and nausea. And if you don't vomit when you’re anxious…you won’t!

Treatment Works

Treating vomit phobia is best accomplished through cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure and response prevention (ERP). Treatment involves correcting faulty beliefs, reducing avoidance, and confronting challenging situations step-by-step. You are given tools, a new perspective, a winning mindset, and a strategy for facing your fears. Your motivation for ending your suffering is important because the therapy does take time, hard work, and courage. You must have self-discipline and determination to win. And if you do…you can beat emetophobia!

Additional Resources:

I think I have this phobia. Not very strong but I known exactly how it feels. I'd rather die than throw up, seriously. I remember being much worse when I was younger. I would freak out whenever I heard the word vomit, I would start to panick whenever I would get a stomach ache, I would try my best to avoid people who are nauseous. I would even get anxious to get on the school bus when we had to go do outdoor activities!

I'm glad it's gotten better. Though I must say it's been a while since I haven't been sick. Let me tell you one thing though.

Last year, while I was on a trip, I was starting to feel sick. I was shaking, I was really freaking out. But then I told myself. Why are you freaking out? What's the worse that could happen? You just, let it out, you'll eventually feel better. I let myself go. I thought I was going to throw up, but I didn't.

I know some people won't be able to read this, but I hope that someway, you could find a way to rationalize this fear. It could make your experience less.. daunting.

Hi, thanks for sharing your story. It's amazing how one fear can affect the entire scope of your life. If you have a fear of elevators you can avoid elevators the vast majority of time, but the fear of vomiting can be much more pervasive. I like the way you respond to the fear by asking yourself, "what's the worst that can happen. If I throw up I'll feel better." Anxiety is very tricky. When you feeling nauseous you believe you will vomit even though you never do. It's similar to the person who feels dizzy and believes they will pass out even though they never do. Or the person who feels his heart race and believes he's having a heart attack but has been told by his doctors multiple times that his heart is strong. Don't be fooled.

Thanks for all of your tips I have this phobia and it stops me eating for a while I usually get so scared and start shaking and looking anxious Ive got it now so im going slow only eating curtain stuff at a time

I have the exact same issue. It's a big problem and consumes my entire life. It's good to know I'm not alone with these symptoms. My advice: distract yourself. Call up a friend or loved one. Call a therapist. And don't starve yourself. When you don't eat, you feel worse. Tell yourself, "I'm not gonna be sick I am not going to be sick." Until you beleive it.

Hi, I'm 16 and have servere vomit phobia. I started to feel sick every day 10 months ago, but have always had the phobia. I always avoid social situations and even sleep with a bucket by my bed in case I am sick through the night. I feel sick everyday, not just an upset stomache but like I may be sick. This phobia has messed my life up as I had to do exams with it and I probably failed because of it, it has made my friendships more complicated and my family don't really understand.
My mum wants me to get a job and I've told her how much I struggle to go from day to day life but she doesn't understand. I wish this phobia would just go away, doctors have done so many tests but nothing has come back as an illness. I do have CBT which helps a bit but not a lot, mum believes I am throwing my life away but it's not me it's my anxiety and my phobia!

I understand EXACTLY how you feel. I Had a very bad stomach bug last year and ever since I have been so scared that it will happen to me again so I'm always on guard, I even avoid social situations that involve people being close together like discos just in case someone has a stomach bug but hasn't started showing symptoms yet.
I fear nighttime so much because that's when I got my bug and whenever I wake up at a similar time I start to shake and sweat and panic like mad. I also sleep with a basin sitting at the end of my bed and no matter where I am, the first thing I always do is check if there's anywhere I could get sick (bucket, plant pot etc.) Just in case I need to.
Its a really bad phobia and I have tried everything to get rid of it or at least ease it but its still there 😞 Its really taking over my life

Omg! This is exactly how I am too! It makes me feel so much better that I'm not the only one! My fear literally started when I was 8 and had the stomach flu in the middle of the night. I'm 35 now!

I'm 18. In my whole life the only time I remember vomiting is last year in 2017. I threw up in the day in January and it wasn't bad and I got bad food poisoning (I think) in june and that was the worst experience of my life. Ever since then (more than a year ago) I haven't been able to sleep without a tv or my computer on a movie or a series to distract myself so I usually only go to sleep in the early hours of the morning. Yesterday I threw up again , my doctor said that I might have gastro. Whenever I think there's something wrong with me , I google symptoms and check how to treat and insist on going to the doctor. No one really understands my fear, when I feel nauseous I shake uncontrollably and can't stop thinking about it. I hate being alone when I've been feeling nauseous, I get very depressed. I avoid places and foods which I don't trust and also all fizzy cooldrinks. I haven't been myself lately and there is not one day that goes by that I don't think about my phobia.

I can relate so much! I got really sick before I went into labor with my son and that experience was so traumatic. I fear mostly the night time because I was up sick and felt so lonely. I think my biggest fear is feeling out of control of my body. I avoid places that might cause me to vomit, and if someone tells me they had a stomach bug I avoid getting close to them, even if it was WEEKS ago, even with my own children. I turn into a total freak, washing EVERYTHING in the house 1000's of times. It's so comforting to know others feel this way. I thought I was crazy

I have this exact problem, I fear going to bed as I am scared I willl get sick in the night. I also get anxious in social situations and check for the near exits so that if I am sick I can get out.. for example I really struggled at a funeral a few weeks go as if I walked out people would of noticed!! Being worried and my stomach turning the caused me to have diarrhoea!! I also like you avoid going places!! I spend most of my time at at home with just my newborn. Glad I'm not alone in this.

I also had a stomach bug (this was around 6 years ago, haven't thrown up sense) it's honestly weird, considering the fact that I have the immune system that my mom has (my mom has thrown up probably 12 times in her life, not including very early years in life where the immune system is weak and not including pregnancy, and 5 or 6 of those 12 times were because of the fact that she was drunk) not only that but my mom worked at a hospital and is now a school nurse, meaning that I grew up around germs she took home from work all the time. I wasn't scared though. But the bug started all of this. I wasn't afraid of throwing up before because of the fact that it would only happen once and then it would be over with, but when I got the stomach bug it all changed. I had a severe case of the bug that lasted over a week or so, meaning I couldn't digest anything without throwing it up, which also means I was nothing but starving the whole day, it truly hurts when you throw up with a basically empty stomach. I had to eat things during that week to keep myself from dying of starvation, but everything I did eat would be thrown back up. It was the worst experience of my life. But im a bit better now. I actually got my first couple of kisses not long ago :) and without worrying about getting sick because of it :D! Anyways, there are a couple things that always make me stop worrying when im about to throw up or am stressing out

1. Imagine a box on a cliff. Now place all your worries in that box. Now, theres a drop of over 50 feet if something were to drop off the cliff, meaning it would be far away from you. Now imagine dropping the box of your worries off the cliff. This is a calming thing that helped me in the past.
2. 5 senses. This is kind of like a game. You use your five senses. This distracts your mind from the fear of throwing up, and once you've finished the game, it kind of tells your body that if you have all 5 senses, then you're perfectly normal person. Anyways, you have to find all the senses in the environment you may be in. I'll give in example. I saw the bright light, that's seeing. I tasted the chocolate I ate earlier, that's taste. I can hear cricket sounds from outside, that's hearing. I can feel the bed sheets on my bed, that's feeling. I can smell the faint smell of taco's downstairs. Exactly like that. And let's say you can't hear or smell something, just imagine it.
3. If you know you're gonna throw up, my best bet is to just get it over with. Watch youtube videos until the time does come where you will throw up. YouTube always distracts me from what's bound to happen. Have a lollipop nearby to get the nasty throw up taste out of your mouth, and lastly, have the bathtub already filled with warm water, so you can deep in after getting sick, suck the lollipop, and cleanse yourself.
4. Live life to the fullest... Even though everyone has a fear that's hard to get over with, theres no point in destroying your life because of that one fear. What I'm trying to say is that everyone throws up in life, it's just a normal human feature, but it's life and we have to move on even though it can be a bit hard sometimes, but you should never let your fears get in the way of things you want to do and achieve in life. Life is a great thing that can only be lived once, and theres no point in worrying about a couple bad things in life, when theres more good things in life

I know it's hard to overcome this fear, but it's possible. But I just wanted to tell you this. You shouldn't miss out on dances out of fear, go to them, and do things. When you come home take a nice warm bubble bath (And be sure to scrub the face and mouth with soap and then rinse it off with water so you won't get sick). Also, I also used to fear about throwing up again on the same day I did a year ago, but I'm over that. Life is unexpected and it's nearly impossible to throw up at the same time or the same night as you did in the past. Even though I'm still overcoming the fear of vomiting, I do know that it heals by itself. Hopefully I helped :)

I know EXACTLY what you feel. My anxiety started at the first day of holiday. You can imagine how sucks it was to have the anxiety eating you when you go out with your friends or family. But I felt relieved it started at my holiday so I don't have to struggling with it in school. But the anxiety only got worse! I have to bring plastic and water everywhere I go. And that's not enough! In every place, I have to find a spot so I can vomit without everyone noticing it. It's hard when I'm in public or crowded place, and I will start to become anxious. I prayed to God everyday so God can get rid of my anxiety. Suddenly I got an idea, which is I have to change my mind to believe I won't vomit. It has been working for me now, but sometimes the panic strikes bigger than I could handle, so I have to tell myself "I won't vomit" until 2-5 minutes. I am working to get this anxiety get out from my body, and I know we can do this together! Don't let this anxiety ruin our life!

I totally understand what you are saying. No one in my family understands it either. They all just think I'm weird but they don't get that it really affects my life

Hello, there! Just wanted to write some words of support because I have and still do sometimes go through the same situation. I am really praying that your family will get undersranding about it, it can be hard for someone else to understand how it feels and how much it affects you! Distracting yourself is a very useful tool! Just do stuff, occupy your mind! Repeat to yourself you are healthy, because you are and your body is just mocking the symptoms. I have had that too! Concentrate on the things in life which give you peace and happiness- really- fill your mind and day with it. You said you have tried therapies? Was it any good? Just thing that this is a thing that appears very rarely in life anyway, even almost never with some people. Just look back and think- okay, I worried for 5 years that it can happen any minute but it never did! I could have had peace for that time If I knew for sure it won't happen. :) I will pray for you, because I know your pain! Those are some instructions, things which have helped me a bit but I know they may not help to you! So I will pray for you to Jesus to bring peace to you, cause fears seem impossible to fight but his power is stronger! Amen, stay blessed, I will be happy to chat more if you need support!

I feel the exact same way! Im 15 and this family trip I went on where I drank some bad milk (I believe) I felt like I was going to explode and I was so scared. After that incident I always feel like gagging and like im going to vomit and I absolutely hate it so much! Im already naturally thin and dont eat alot but this fear makes things way worse. Like sometimes when im hungry and want to eat I still get the feeling of vomiting and its the worst thing. I just want this feeling to go away forever.

As I commented on Islas comment - it effects me and if I feel sick or I am sick, I can't escape. It effects my day to day life. I avoid situations that could involve "V" and I avoid drunk people and partys. I have 2 sweets out of a packet so I'm not sick and I wonder about jobs that wouldn't involve "V". I want to be a photographer - but even that scares me! What if someone is sick on the job? Has someone had a bug and come in? Someone might cancel and come in the next week, but still hasn't got rid of it fully yet? All of this worries me, like you, I feel sick everyday and sometimes I can't go into school because of it. It's terrible and I wish I could be like my friend who isn't scared of it.

I think the worst time was when I saw a man "V" in a car park a few months ago and I had a real, full on panic attack. I still hold my breath when I go past that parking space..

Anyway, I hope we both achieve what we want to achieve, and hopefully, someday get over Emetophobia because it really isn't fair that a fear can ruin and take away someone's life. I can definitely relate. Some people might wonder how it can ruin someone's life - but I don't think you ever really do unless you have the phobia yourself.

I have had this for ages and it never has gotten better it started when I was in grade three and I am now in grade 11 it has stopped me from eating what I like being away from my mum because I'm scared of vomiting there and I used to always every 5 minutes I'd ask my mum 'mum I don't feel right am I going to vomit' and I was just wondering if someone else has my story

Don't worry about it, I have a severe anxiety disorder and one of the things I fear most, although I find being sick releaving, I am VERY scared. Don't worry, it will go away soon, and if you weren't sick it would be even worse, remember, it's your bodies way of getting rid of the bad stuff. Good luck -Mark

I'm exactly the same! I'm in year 11 and I'm still terrified of being sick. I also ask "do you think I'll be sick?" When I get a stomach ache and it really gets in the way of me doing fun stuff :( I can't even go on rollercoasters with my school when we go on trips - I just want to get over the fear so that I can start having more fun again :(

Im entering the tenth grade. When i was in fourth grade we went on this three day trip to camp kern and this girl in my class threw up in fron of all of us. It didnt exactly bother me but i didnt feel right the rest of the night and kept getting up to see if i was sick. From then on i had an intense phobia of puking. It kind of went away towards the end of the year until the next year when i went on the trip again. It was so awful. The summer after fifth grade i told myself it would get better and i would feel better. And i did. It never went away totally i still got freaked out whenever i thought i might get sick or someone around me mighr get sick, but it wasnt exactly a daily thought and fear anymore. These past few weeks this summer though its been coming back a bit. Mostly when im trying to go to bed though and i have nothing to distract my mind. I basically take the smallest gurgling of my stomach and freak myself out thinking ill throw up. It hasnt been too bad but its not going away and im mad bc its back during summer for no reason and i dont want to deal with this again. I honest to god know that throwing up is healthy and not actually that bad, i do. But somehow i cant get it out of my mind when i think i might. And i also know i wont. But i twist it so i feel like i will. It helps talking to my mom or dad abt it bc they can always make me see reason, but i dont want to always be waking them up. I dont want this to bwcome something that interferes with my life again.

You have the same thing as me. I don't eat what I like anymore, and I am really scared when I am away from my mom. Just remember...

You are strong and you can get over this fear!

I really need to get over this fear..it's getting worse over time..and I can't handle it..I get very anxious and I start shaking, I get really scared and nervous and I always leave into the other room...whenever I hear the word or even hear it touch the floor from feet away..I FREAK OUT..someone help me..seriously.

That is the same with me! I have tried several times that I'll be better eventually, but then I start thinking around that. Like, will I ruin my new sheets, will I have to stay up all night because of this? I sometimes even just lay on the couch in the middle of the night just to clear my head. I haven't gotten sick for like 5 or 7 years, and my fear kind of went away, but then I threw up during finals last year, my fear came back and it came back strong! This fear keeps me up at night! I try so hard! How can such a little thing control my life?

I've had the same problem for almost two years now I ask my mom every day multiple times a day am I going to be sick or I feel icky but I'll be ok but I never say I'm fine so everyone's is aware and ready if I get sick this is ruining my life and I want an answer

I had the same problem growing up and even now. My best friend a couple months ago thought he had a really bad stomach bug (it turned out to be food poisoning) and I absolutely panicked. I downed 10 charcoal pills almost every day and avoided eating. Eventually, the anxiety made me sicker than the stomach bug ever could've. When I was little I'd always pester my mom with questions if I was gonna be sick. To this day I'm still very anxious. It sucks!

I have the exact same story as you! When I was younger I used to have severe separation anxiety from my mum and that's when my fear of vomiting started. I'm 18 now and luckily I don't get it as much butility I have to eat really small portions of food otherwise it makes me feel sick, and it's especially bad at night. I'm still scared of being apart from my mum aswell. You're not alone x

This made me feel a bit better of being sick. Im still scared of it, This stops me from doing a lot of things. But what you said about "Why are you freaking out?, What's the worse that can happen?" Made me feel a bit better

I am terrified of throwing up. Originally it was not that bad I would just shake if someone threw up. Now I am terrified. Ever since my brother threw up all over the car I have not only been scared of him I have also been scared of the car. My grandparents were also on the trip and I convinced them to take me home. I am traumatized by what happened that day. We also went skiing right after the incident. I avoided my brother the whole time even though he was feeling better. I also started to feel sick because I was so scared. I stopped skiing early, and just wanted to leave. I thought I was going to throw up but I never did. Whenever I am around my crazy nice brother I am afraid he will barf all over me. I am also afraid of my best friend because she got sick on a field trip. I will say this again she is my best friend. Whenever someone has a stomach ache I avoid them as best I can. Now my family is going on a vacation to Hawaii! I do not want to go! I am scared I will throw up on the plane, or at my hotel, in the car, or on the beach. I can picture myself vomiting to! I have so many images in my mind of myself vomiting that there is nothing I dread more than going to Hawaii! This has ruined my life! I am so sad! Please help! I am only eleven!

Hi; I'm so sorry to hear about how this has taken over your life. A fear of vomiting can be all consuming and even ruin a trip to Hawaii. Most people with a fear of vomiting feel sick to their stomach but never actually throw up. Would this best describe you? If so, that's great news! Anxiety will cause nausea but NOT make you throw up. The nausea just fools you into thinking you will barf but you really won't. You CAN beat emetophobia and it won't ruin your life. You just need to get treatment and be determined to beat it. Avoiding won't help. It will just make the phobia worse. Accept the nausea as a symptom of anxiety and get angry at the anxiety for trying to fool you into thinking you're going to vomit. You won't. Do you get motion sickness? If you don't then the airplane won't be a problem either and neither will any boats you go on in Hawaii. Don't let the anxiety monster fool you with his tricks. Find a therapist who specializes in anxiety to help you overcome this problem.

I know exactly how you feel I avoid eating out with people and some at home if I know I am going to go out after eating to a friends incase I'm sick it is ruining my life I have just started a new relationship and it fills me with fear the silly thing is I haven't been sick in nearly 4 years and even then it was through too much alcohol alone I can really relate to you I have started sertaline and looking into counselling to help

Me too every time I go on vacation I am absolutely terrified that I will throw up on the plane or at the hotel or literally anywhere where I'm not at home. I'm 14 and there's a lot of stuff I love that I can't do anymore.

I'm the same age as you. I'm afraid I'll get sick in public such as on a plane, in a restaurant, or at school. I do my best to breathe slowly but it still sucks. I wish I didn't have this phobia because it stops me from enjoying fun things and makes me worry a lot. I have really bad anxiety and panic attacks too. Hopefully it gets better soon because I really want to enjoy things, I just somehow can't manage too! My family got sick on a trip as well and all I could do was make myself feel naseaus. I also think " if I wore this when I or someone else got sick, does that mean I will again"? If you takes deep breathes and distract yourself it really does help a lot!

hi, I'm 12 years old and I have a HUGE fear of vomiting I felt the same way! we used to go to a small private school and it was flu season EVERYONE GOT THE FLU!!! I couldnt think of them the same after they did and my family is going to the beach tomorrow and I'm afraid someone or me will get sick! I haven't been sick since 2015 I'm better about seeing the word vomit but not the act itself :/ what I do when I feel sick is close my eyes and breath it helps a lot and I hope it will help u too! :)

I have the exact same feeling . Before I eat & after . I'll just look at food & think "what will this feel like coming outta your mouth" The other day I ate some food. It wasnt nasty & it wasnt expired & i was thinking & then I started to PANIC & i eventually threw up . Not going to lie i felt 100% better afterwards but i cant get that feeling out of my throat . that feeling of food coming bacm up . it makes me shutter, shake & sweat . the thought of food makes me queasy . i have frequent panic attacks & its scary to me i often think " what if i throw up & i never stop" WHICH IS IMPOSSIBLE .... Well my stepmother guided me through the whole thing she necer left my side . she held my hand , rubbed my back & had a conversation with me to get my mind off of it . its better to have someone by your side to let you know you're not alone .. Just breathe

I'm not deathly afraid of vomiting it more affects me after I've gotten sick I was sick last week and am now really scared to sleep in my bed because that's we're i was sick it's the first time I've been sick in over 3 years I've just come back from staying away from home and tonight is my first night back sleeping in my bed and I know myself that I will be okay and nothing that bad can happen i been getting anxious all my life and I just hope that my phobia of vomiting will go as I get older I've learned how to cope with it now at the end of the day if you sit there and think about vomiting and becoming ill it will naturally make you feel sick if you forget about it and distract yourself you will feel a lot better

Mine started at age 5. My friend was sick down my back at school I spent the day like that wasn't allowed home. Since then I've the fear of dread being sick ppl being sick near me I get myself in such a state

This helped me sooo much! Im 12 years old and I've had a fear of vomiting ever since I was 10! Every morning after I took a shower I would feel sick! And every time I heard or saw the word vomit, puke, barf, or throw up I would panic!!! And if someone said they felt sick I would steer clear from them but I'd someone was in a car or a bus and said that I'd panic!!! If you have any suggestions plz let me know 😶

I have that exact same thing on the school bus and I 'Thought' I couldn't do anything about it. And what was worse is one kid in front of me threw up when my bus driver was making a school end announcement that he was leaving! And the little kid threw up all over the isle and obviously you don't walk straight threw it so we pretty much had to jump seats but the reasons I didn't want to do that is I would smell the vomit real bad and I would see it and that leads to massive anxiety attack.. Yay! So I just muscled up and jumped over.. And that lead to me feeling the same sickness on the bus when I was outside!! And I don't know if I still do because school and out but I never felt sick on the way home because maybe I didn't need to think about failing math even failing school! But yes I think I have the flu bug right now and I am really scared of throwing up.. Hopefully its just my anxiety causing it and I will take your advice!

I'm quite young and I have a severe case of emetophobia. I cry at the word vomit - as I am now. I know it seems silly, but I can't help it. My mum was sick yesterday, luckily I was asleep at the time, but as soon as she told me - all that was going through my mind was 'I'm going to get ill too.' 'She'll be sick in front of me and I won't be able to do anything.' Once a boy was sick by me on the street and I ran all the way down the street, crossed two roads and hid where there was nobody there who could be sick too.. all that day I was thinking about it. For me, I think it's the fact that if I'm sick, I'm ill and I feel trapped, as though if I'm sick - I have no control over when I'll be sick and if I'm sick then I can't get away from it. But your advice has really helped. If I'm sick, it's not the end of the world and I won't die from throwing up. I know I'll always be scared of sick, and I know that I'm not fully OK with it, but your advice is getting me closer to help. I can't ever thank you enough!!

I've been struggling with this phobia for the last year of my life i would say, I'm now in cbt for it but i must say no matter how much i try to tell my self that it won't be that bad I still get over worked up and anxious about it . I'm on anti sickness tablets from my doctor although my cbt counceler has told me I meed to come off them I dont believe I can there all that gets me through my days normally I habe three children to look after and im a deck when I'm sick :(

Jennifer Shannon

Wed, 2017-03-22 17:01

Thanks Ken for this great article. Of all the phobias out there, this is the most common one I treat! I think that is because it can cause significant disruption in a person's life. You can avoid spiders to some extent, but it is very hard to avoid physical sensations like nausea, or people who might be sick, or germs! Luckily it is a very treatable phobia.

I am afraid to be around my kids. My son is school aged so im always afraid hes going to come home sick. When my kids are sick i get so panicked that i cant be around them. I worry myself to the point i get ulcers. My son is afraid to tell me he doesnt feel well. My daughter has been sick all weekend and my nerves are so shot i feel like i cant breath. I need to get through this.

Anon

Sat, 2017-04-01 09:11

In reply to by Anonymous

There are many ways to get this treated. Now if it's linked to PTSD (Which happens a lot), it may be more complicated, but whatever it is, just find a therapist that specialized in this stuff and talk it out with them, and they'll find a way to help that'll be comfortable for you.