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by Ken Goodman, LCSW
Fear of vomiting emetophobia

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.

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!

Also by Ken Goodman:

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About the Author

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Ken Goodman, LCSW, treats anxiety and OCD in Los Angeles.  He is the author of The Anxiety Solution Series, a step-by-step audio program, and Break Free from Anxiety, a coloring, self-help book for anxiety sufferers. Ken Goodman is an ADAA Clinical Fellow. Visit his website. 

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Now available- Ken Goodman hosts an ADAA webinar on "Overcoming the Fear of Vomiting." Watch the video on ADAA's YouTube channel.

 

    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.

    I have a really bad phobia of being sick.
    Every night when I go to bed the thought of "what if I wake up through the night and need to be sick" goes through my head. I get really anxious if I'm home alone and feel the slightest bit unwell or have a sore stomach, I freak out if everyone's in bed sleeping yet I'm lying wide awake most nights shaking, crying, nauseous.

    It ruins every day life for me, I'll cancel plans, not go to college, get scared to go in the car even just to the shops incase I need to throw up, travelling long distances, eating food, going out drinking because I'm terrified that I may be sick with the hangover.

    May sound dramatic to some people but it is close enough to ruining me being able to live my life how a teenager should. I just wish it would go away.

    I was having a panic attack bc I felt like k was gonna puke. I texted my mom and she helped me but I was shaking like crazy and it was st 2am so no one was up but luckily my mom was. I’m 13 F and I’ve had this phobia for a long time I haven’t puked in 7-8 years and ever since the last time I puked I’ve been scared since and I hate the phobia!

    Hey I’m 15 and have had this phobia since I was about 8. I have super bad anxiety and panic attacks which lead to having the feeling of Vom... I hate that word. I am so terrified that I shake and walk around trying to calm myself. And I’ve notice these only normally happen when I’m laying back in bed ar night trying to fall asleep. I feel the most that helps is talking to someone and getting my mind off of it. Glad I’m not the only person who has this.

    IT happens to me way to often. why does walking around help though ?

    omg im so relieved im not the only one with this fear. i has stopped me from being a normal teen, and it is literal hell. i go to sleep shaking and praying i dont throw up, even tho i dont even get sick like that. i just want it to go away. and im so terrified of stomach flus, viruses, sicknesses like that.

    Hi I’m 15 and I’ve had this phobia extremely bad for my entire life, I don’t know how this would have developed but I’ve always had it. This phobia destroys my life, i obsess over it and it controls me. I don’t wear certain clothes because I might throw up if I wear them, I don’t eat for days at a time because I feel the slightest bit off. I leave my house for days if any of my siblings are sick and still feel extremely sick for days after, I mostly get this at night, a lot of nights I don’t sleep because I’m scared I will throw up. I also struggle with anxiety and depression rooting from this phobia. I’ve tried almost anything and I don’t know what to do anymore, someone please help
    , anything is better than nothing.

    Hi there, I’m 16 and have struggled with Emetophobia for most of my life too. I know exactly what you’re going through. I also don’t eat when I feel off and I have lost a lot of weight as a result. I also struggle with depression, and I know how tough it is to handle. But know this, it can be done! I have a few tips for you to try, give these a go if you haven’t already:
    1. Deep breathing: I find just focusing on my breath going in and out relaxing and it calms me down.
    2. Talking: Just talking to someone helps to relieve the anxiety, and realise that many other people to suffer from Emetophobia, and we all have each other’s backs. We all understand.
    3. Putting worries into perspective: one thing I always do is I remind myself that vomiting is nothing to be scared of. It is only uncomfortable. It’s not deadly or life altering. Just uncomfortable. Reminding yourself of this as much as you can will eventually allow you to have more confidence when you do feel sick, and hopefully not begin to panic.
    4. Distractions: Watch a funny TV show or movie, go outside and walk, talk to a friend or family member, draw, play sport. Do anything that takes your mind off how you’re feeling and makes you feel good. You’ll surprise yourself of how much this helps.
    5. Do your research: There is a program specifically designed to help people with Emetophobia. I am currently doing it, and the program paired with the strategies I’ve mentioned, I have improved massively. The program is called “Cure Your Emetophobia and Thrive”. Look it up! It’s really good. I really hope I’ve helped you! Give these a good try and remember, like any other strategy, it does take time. Try these strategies for about 2 weeks each. You should start to see improvement. I wish you well, mate!

    I have the same problem as you do. I've be struggling with this From the age of 13 (I guess) and this is making my Life a living night mare! I can't hang out with my friends, go on a trip with my family and besides that I have motion sickness too😖 . And now , it's crossing it's limits cuz now I get anxious to got to school
    Leeona Gogoi, India

    I came across this convo randomly,
    I feel your pain, i had emetophobia very seriously from age 4-5 to my late 20s
    i am 38 today, a girl, amd i can say i have gotten so much better with lots of therapy and research and personal situations that changed how i saw this fear. i am not 100% healed/normal but i wld say a good 80%..

    so if anyone seriously wants to get better and could use some tips and coaching, feel free to email me viv81@live.ca

    i prob wont be back on here cause i prob wont find it again lol
    but ya, please if you need help, not a bandaid! but real help just email me :)

    Hey girl. I get it I have the same fear. Its horrible. Im 16 and even right now Im awake because Im nauseous and really scared. If you want you can add me on snapchat and message me anytime you feel sick (its scarlett261). Im offering because I wish someone would have done it for me.

    I know exactly how you feel. I know that your post is a few months old but reading through these it is nice to know that I am not alone. I remember the last time I actually threw up. I am currently 25 and the last time I puked I was in the 5th grade. Before that night I never once thought about it all. Never got anxious about it or anything. Then that night came. I remember what I ate, I remember the time I went to go lay down. I remember the time I woke up when it all happened. This time of the year for me is very difficult because its flu season. For the past couple of weeks it is like everyone I contact with has been getting sick. Feeling nauseous and everything. I find myself practically hugging hand sanitizer every time I touch anything that anyone (even if they are not sick) else touches. Everyone that I have told this to finds it weird or even funny. This has caused me to keep it secret. This has even ruined relationships for me. If they are sick and we had plans I will avoid them for at least a week or so AFTER they feel better. Being I am too scared to tell them they never stay with me long. I have let this irrational fear control me most of my life. I can handle anything else. Cold, strep, any other sickness that does not involve puking. But when it comes to puking, I will not contact anyone and avoid the outside world all together. This is a fear that I wouldn't wish upon my worse enemy.

    When ever I feel like I have too I start crying and shaking. I hate it so much because my friends will puke on morning and go to school the SAME morning. If I throw up then I will be gone for awhile because I’m scared I will puke everywhere. The last time I puked was when I went to see the 2nd Jumanji and I had my sister and my mom there. When we sat down I was like I need to go to the bathroom mom and so I ran as fast as I can and I made it but it kept happening and when I got home it kep happening but after that day I had the phobia and it ruins my life. I used to love roller coaster and spinny rides but now I can’t ride them cuz of this stupid fear!

    I am currently searching Google on ways to deal with my phobia of the "stomach flu" and I came across this thread which is helpful to know that so many people also suffer with this phobia.
    Especially during this time of year, it seems like everyone is sick. Yesterday was Christmas day and I was at my fiance's families house for dinner. After eating all the food his mom said she was feeling nauseous, there was another family there that said they all just got over it and his aunt has been battling "the flu" all week. Now, I don't know if what they had included vomiting and diarrhea but of course that's exactly where my mind went. I just finished eating this meal and mingling with sick people! I actually questioned my fiance's mother on her symptoms and did tell her I have a phobia.
    All night I woke up thinking that I heard her vomiting, I was shaking, heart racing, full blown panicking. In the morning when I heard her get up to go downstairs I immediately asked if she had been throwing up and she said "no", thank God! But my mind still thinks maybe she's sick but it isn't that bad but within the next 3 days my fiance and I will get it.
    I have been dealing with this phobia since November 2012 when my boyfriend (now fiance) got violently ill by catching the flu from his mom. It was the scariest illness I had ever seen. He was sick for days and I thought for sure I'd get it. I didn't but I did go crazy cleaning after that and developed this phobia. Luckily most days I'm totally fine, it doesn't consume me and I'm grateful for that but during this time of year it does. Hearing about how sick everyone is, it makes me not want to be around kids specifically. It really is a horrible fear!
    The weird thing is that I'm not afraid of throwing up, I've had hangovers and threw up or been around friends that were drunk and throwing up and I'm totally fine with it. It's only a fear when it is a sickness, in my mind that's 1000 times worse and I don't want to ever experience it. I love traveling but am constantly worried that I will get food poisoning etc. My fiance thinks I'm being ridiculous and that I need to grow up and face my fears. He really doesn't get it.
    I just really wish I didn't obsess over this ?

    I’ve been struggling with this fear since about 5th grade. It’s been hard recently. Today I literally only ate about 2 things. I’ve been eating less because I fear I will get sick if I eat too much. And doing this has caused me to feel and look terrible. I’ve lost about 5-7 lbs over the past 5 months. I’m already underweight so I’m getting a little scared. I’m only 15 and this has taken up so much of my life. A couple of months ago I threw up for the first time in about 5 years. I think I had a bug bc I also had a fever. Ever since then I have had really bad anxiety over this. I get nauseous pretty much all the time now, unless I’m distracted by something. It’s midnight and the last time I ate was around 4 or 5 today. I’ve decided that I’m going to try and eat more tomorrow. Since I’ve been sick, there are clothes I will NOT wear at all. Bc it I do then I fear I will be sick. Even laying in bed at night makes me feel sick. I only feel good if I’m distracted by something or when I first wake up in the morning. But in my case it’s usually the afternoon lol. I set my alarm tomorrow for 10am and I’m going to try and eat better. Every day tho I do eat avocado toast and potato chips. But not much else after that. I also don’t like to go out and get food and eat bc I fear I will get food poisoning. I also don’t like to eat food we just bought from the grocery store bc then I think it will be recalled and it will make me sick. So that’s why I have other people eat it before I do just so I know it won’t make me sick. I also hate burping because I think it will make me sick. A lot of times I get terrible anxiety and get really nauseous and I start to shake and feel bad. Idk how I am going to be able to go to school. It starts in 10 days. I also have not been drinking enough water so I’m dehydrated. When I really think about this it makes me freak out and I want to cry. But idk why I let this take over my entire life. Fear is just an allusion. “99% of the things you worry about don’t happen”- that’s gotta be my favorite quote. I need tot hunk about this more often because it’s so true. I always think I’m gonna be sick and I’m not. Thank god, but When u do get sick it’s when you least expect it. And eating less takes a toll on ur health and may even make u prone to more sickness. I hope I can overcome my fear. I hate it so much but no one knows about this. Expect me. I don’t tell anyone even though I probably should. Anyways thanks for reading this if you did lol. I need to go to bed. My stomach kind of hurts but I also have not eaten anything for about 7 hours. Anyways good night.

    I get it , I've struggled with this fear in my 3 rd grade year and ha been afraid of it , it didn't start like this , I used to just get it over with and presume my day and now it's bad , every time I eat something I need re assurance and I'm also afraid of getting food poisoning , but by anxiety getting worse it makes me feel more sick . I take every medication and self remedies to prevent myself from throwing up.

    I have had this phobia for only a few years and I couldn't agree more; it destroys my life and just controls the way I love. I can only eat a few things and if I eat too much I feel instantly nauseous. I have found that my mom is the only person that actually helps me when I have it. Her presence sometimes calms me and I just feel a ton better. I am 17 and while mine isn't as bad as some of yours, I hate it with every inch of be and hate that it ruins my life. No one I know seems to understand this struggle I go through every day. I feel sick so often that when I had medication to calm me down I actually cried because suddenly I wasn't afraid. Even if it was only for a moment. I wish there was an easy way to just make it go away. Anything at all.

    The clothes thing is really hard for me, when I am about to go to sleep I never know what pyjamas to wear as I say “oh that tops unlucky” “I felt really sick when I wore them shorts” it annoys me and my family! At Christmas I got 2 new pairs of pyjamas and I won’t wear them now as I felt really sick when I wore them! I’m 12 and all of my friends think I am crazy. I also won’t go for sleepovers! I also have germaphobia so it’s hard!!

    I have had this phobia since i was 8 years old, and i am now 12. i was always afraid of getting sick but over the years it feels like it has gotten worse. i wear certain pyjamas to bed and i have to wear certain underpants in the day time. i have talked to my therapist about my problem and it helped......for a few days. in class if someone gets sick i shake, cry, and my heart races and i cant help it but i run out of the room. whenever i go to bed i always feel anxious because i worry that someone is gonna puke.... whenever i hear someone say 'i dont feel well' i get nervous..... just typing this gives me anxiety. and when i feel anxious i cant go to bed, but some people just dont understand. i wish this would go away so i can have a good nights sleep. and when i feel anxious, my stomach hurts so i get even more worried. but i know there is nothing i can do about this, its just part of me!

    Dude I feel you! What you have to understand tho is that it’s a thought, it doesn’t control you, you control it. I know it’s hard to take your power back but it’s your own brain that you are controlling to think that way!!!!! When you start to be scared or feel the fear come up, tell yourself that you have a happy healthy stomach over and over. You will retrain your brain to think positive! Make sure you don’t use the word vomit or anything like it when trying to calm yourself down and no negative words either because they will make it worse. I take this advice too because I’m just trying to out grow this phobia before high school.

    i feel the exact same way. i completely understand how you feel. sometimes i would even take hour long showers being terrified of it happening. i can barely even say it without getting scared. if any of my siblings get sick, i’m always out of the house in less than a minute. i can’t be around people who are sick and whenever i’m sick i’m panicking every second of the day because of it. for me sometimes drinking tea helps, or watching a youtube video to distract myself. i haven’t been able to get a good nights sleep in weeks because of it, and i’ve had thus fear almost my whole life. i completely get how you feel and i just wish it would go away because i can barely do anything even if i wanted to.

    I also have this fear and are trying to overcome it by eating more and praying and i also avoid by brother and sister if they ever get sick even my dog. I am so glad i finally figured out what i have and why i am parinoid about getting sick

    Same here. Except I normally began to have a panic attack because I am afraid of being sick which makes me nauseous. I keep being told I don't have emetophobia by my mother but if this has been hppening for years, I probably do. I'e tried to do research but nothing works. I just sit there having a panic attack praying that I won't throw up. I hate any word related to being sick and I wash my hands like crazy. I haven't been sick since I was 8 and yet I am still terrified that I will be. Nothing helps. It gets worse when I am in public because the fear is even stronger.

    I've had anxiety and every imaginable feeling that goes with it. Including the horrible feeling of vomiting and never throwing up. As a matter of fact I feel like that right now. Can't explain why. If anyone wants to chat with me ever look me up on Instagram.... timber_ghost79

    I always make my self feel worse when I feel sick because I start to shake and think the worse.
    I am going away for the weekend soon and it’s a 2 hour journey and all week I have been worrying and having short panic attacks. if we’re traveling and I hear some one say the cord I’ll, sick, vomit , or stop the car I star to freak out and get really scared if you know any thing that might help me please message me on Instagram and my name is jolly_joseoh_123

    The mind is so powerful, I can convince myself into a week's worth of debilitating panic surrounding vomiting. Knowing that I am not a crazy person has really helped me through this. I too lay in bed shaking and freaking out over nausea, so crazy. At my school, the stomach flu (known as gastro in Australia) is going around and I've been having the worst anxiety of my life. I really appreciate everyone who also deals with this phobia and is brave enough to talk about it! Also, my method is anything mint or eucalyptus scented or flavoured really calms me down!!

    It's pretty hard for me..I since a child gave always feared food poisoning or something that could make me vomit...ppl look at me funny when I smell something before I eat it.. actually as I'm writing this I had a ham sandwich for lunch and I'm already anxious because I'm tapering off a high dose of clonazepam but I ate it fast then I went to o put the lunch meat into a ziplock bag..and I smelled it...to me it smelled kinds weird so I asked 2 other ppl if it smelled bad..both said it smelled fine..that's how paranoid I get....I'm probably not feeling the best due to the taper and also it was a very hot day which is unusual for my area of the world and I got alot of sun and heat...and been laying beside a fan in bed going over in my head...."Am I gonna be sick... that ham smelled bad...I'm probably gonna throw up" I took a chewable Ginger tablet and it helped so probably heat..lack of enough fluids and the benzo taper....but I'm talking myself into believing I'm gonna be sick and that just makes it worse...and more anxiety...where really I could be hungry...its A horrible way to trap yourself into something so simple as really the act of vomiting doesn't hurt it's the time leading up to it...I just don't get why I've always had this fear...and what caused it to the point of over ,30 years of this....CBT can help but I think DBT is better.....play w a fidget spinner do a wall squat....but when I'm already feeling crummy it's hard to focus on anything else but I had a couple granola bars and some crackers between eating my supposed rotten ham ttill now....and I don't think I'd be able to if I was actually going to vomit....so sipping room temp water and as I said took some ginger and having some relief....just I get these memories of times I ate something bad or whatever and had a gruesome night...point is even after writing this I feel a bit better...I felt like a freak asking ppl over and over does this smell bad to you does it look bad .,..but I have my ginger and I have decaf mint tea...was thinking of tossing one into my water bite as it has stomach soothing properties like Ginger...and there's actually ginger mint tea for stomach issues...so ppl you aren't alone and the figures are staggering that about 75-80% of ppl have this phobia....

    Hey Chelsea, I know exactly how you feel. I am also from Australia and am terrified of vomit. Think about it every day and avoid situation that can cause it and also every time there's gastro going around I get so terribly anxious. I have never actually met someone that's scared of vomit as much as I am so crazy

    I skipped school when the flu was around. If someone puked in the classroom I ran away as fast as I can and then shaking and almost throwing up cause I was so stressed out. I couldn’t sleep for days after this. This was in my middle school. Now that I’m in my 20s I handle things little better but still panicking for no reason cause I’m not going to die right? Haha

    Every time I get any sort of stomach ache I immediately think “oh no I’m gonna throw up!!!” I start crying, shaking, and keep sipping water. I’m just so scared and I don’t know why. I just hate it so much. I wish I could have a fear of like spiders or something. I try so hard to think about something else but I can’t it just automatically comes to my mind.

    I have this problem also. I always have. I am 30 now and its so bad I literally got to the er everytime I have a stomach ache so I finally talked to my dr about it and we are fixing to start therapy for it. I had no idea so many ppl have the same problem. I thought I was the only one. Thats why its took me this long to talk about it...bc I felt ashamed. I just wanna get better and cure this anxiety I have over this problem.

    I literally feel the exact same I don’t like going on holiday because I am terrified that my sisters are going to get travel sick, I hate sisckenss bugs, viruses and flu they make me have so much anxiety to the point where I think I’m ill because I’m anxious. My phobia stops me from doing normal teen things like going in the car for an hour to go to the Beach or not going on school trip. I hate this phobia and I just want it to go

    I too have this feeling.....i often get terrified when i have a feeling of vomiting or when i see anyone vomiting or when i hear the sound of vomiting.....but i won't vomit afterwards.although i fear about this word

    I am 12 and I freak out every day and I even pray and say “please I don’t want to be sick, I don’t want to be sick” at night I feel worse and I normally need my mum to come in and try relax me. Nobody in my houses understand as they don’t mind being sick. I want to get help but I don’t know who to ask!!!

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