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.


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:

Additional Resources:

About the Author


Ken Goodman, LCSW, treats anxiety and OCD in Los Angeles. He is the author of The Anxiety Solution Series: Your Guide to Overcoming Panic, Worry, Compulsions and Fear, A Step-by-Step Self-help Audio Program, Break Free from Anxiety, a coloring, self-help book for anxiety sufferers, and the Emetophobia Manual, for those who suffer with the fear of vomit.  Ken Goodman is an ADAA board member and Clinical Fellow. Visit Ken's website.


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


    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 have this fear and it’s honestly the worst thing ever. It gets in the way of hanging out with family and friends out in public. Every time I start showing symptoms of stomach illness I start self-diagnosing myself more and start panicking. Throwing up doesn’t even hurt so why am I so terrified of something that helps my body??!

    same!! I had the stomach bug at college and had to spend the night on the floor of the communal bathroom. My fear of vomiting has become so severe that I plan what and when I eat throughout the day to avoid throwing up. If I feel even a slight bit nauseous I start to uncontrollably shake. People think I'm being dramatic but they don't realize how crippling it is!! Reading these comments honestly made me feel better tho

    honestly me too so i have been having trouble passing you know bowel movement and it makes my stomach hurt . and idk i am here scared to the point i made myself feel nauseous. and i just get scared because i over think it too much . :( reading the comments make me feel like i’m safe tho .

    I like to just get up and walk around and just burn some sweat , and it just makes me feel better , but it’s still a phobia I wish that nobody had to deal with ...

    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!!!

    I've had emeto.... since i was about 5, after i threw up on my sister's birthday unexpectedly. im still traumatized. lately ive been anxious more than usual (probably because of Covid 19) and tis phobia is impacting me even more. im scared to eat outside, i cnat get near anyone who has been sick in the past week, and i get into thought spirals anytime i get a little nauseous. the WORST part isnt the actual vomitiong, but i think more of the fact that i know i shouldnt even be scared because vomiting makes you feel better and its important. its like this irrational fear about something relatively normal. im a litlle scared to go in a car or on a field trip with my school because i get car sick and someone always vomits. as soon as i get into a thought spiral 9even in class) i start shaking and feeling even more nauseus, so i always get my friend to calm me down. its important to have at least one person that can help you calm down. im starting to get into a thought spiral so anyways im also scared of sleeping because most people vomit at night.... im trying to normalize vomiting and im so happy that there are other people that understand me :)

    I agree 100% with all these comments, I’ve had it since a young age and it dictates my entire life. I go to bed every single night deeply afraid of what will happen if I wake up, the thought haunts me as the day progresses. I used to fear trying any new restaurant if I didn’t know all the reviews and there had never been a case of food poisoning or anything. I wash all my food heaps and wipe down every surface I used like 3 times a day. It’s horrible, as whilst this sounds dramatic I live a very normal life and my closest of friends only found out when I opened up last year as I’m excellent at covering it.... for instance at school I just wiped things during lunch before people came in, I never slept over at a friends until I had dinner at home first, I didnt eat out with them and just said I already ate and the list goes on. It’s reassuring to hear other people feel the same way!

    hi! im 12 as well and i suffer severe anxiety and OCD. have extreme etemephobia and if one of my siblings acts weird i just panic and hide in my room. i shake and cry and i can barely breathe. my tummy bunches up and makes me feel like im going to vomit. i really hate it even though i tell myself ,Its okay, just because they are isck doesnt mean you will be and besides if you are its just your body removing its self from toxins. but the feeling just gets worse and worse. for a few months i would actually end up throwing up from my etemephobia anxiety witch did not help one bit. i started taking medication and seeing a phycologist and counseller for anxiety and etemephobia witch helped so much that i even stopped seeing a phycologist! i still see my counseller and still take medication but it helped so so so much. i still have really bad etemephobia and i dont think ill ever be able to get rid of it. its a big part of my life now and i have lost so many big opportunities because of it. if anyone wants to talk my insta is mileymorrow17 :)

    Jaedan Thomas

    October 10, 2020

    In reply to by Colbie

    I am the exact same way, and it sucks because you can’t do anything about it once it starts. I start having a panic attack

    I RELATE! I've always had a massive fear of vomit.. Whenever someone gags or pukes I end up having a panic attack but my family just think I'm joking around and they say to stop being a baby... I just need someone to talk to that would actually understand

    Hi! Im eleven years old & I constantly Feel sick when I have nothing to be nervous about! I still remember the day I got sick at school! Now, I avoid 12:20, The shirt that I wore, They hair-do i did, the subject in class, & PE! It really sucks. Every night I have anxiety attacks & have trouble swallowing, breathing, & I shake & feel nauseous. This stupid phobia prevents me from doing the things I like, like horse riding, after-school activities... Trust me, you are not alone <3 Don't give up! It might really suck sometimes, & we all will throw up someday! i know you can do it guys ,3 -With love, : Avery >;3

    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!!!

    I have the same issue. I only calm down by walking outside and praying or sitting reclined in my bed and focusing on my breathing and God.

    It helps because your body is in fight or flight mode. Walking makes you feel like you're fleeing the problem, it also helps to distract you and stimulates your mind and body. I have to walk too. The worst is when I start to have a panic attack and in a place I can't get up and move like an airplane or in a car. Even though I've never been motion sick, I still have a fear that I will so these days I'm having trouble riding in cars unless I am driving. I feel so stupid to because I know that I am fine and not going to be sick but then I start to panic and it makes my stomach upset.

    Same! I'm going on a business trip in a few weeks and I've never gotten air sick before in my life but its been on my mind, what if I do this, time for so long now. It's so annoying!

    I’ve never been air sick either. But I was recently on a plane and I had this immense fear of “what if I throw up?” Or “what if I sit next to someone and they get sick?” To solve my issue for a good portion of the flight, I popped headphones into my ear, put a piece of mint gum into my mouth, then tried my best to fall asleep on the plane. Or at least reach a state where I wouldn’t be able to consciously worry about it. If falling asleep seems impossible during the flight try not to sleep as much beforehand or take sleeping medications.

    Because your body gets a shot of adrenaline and your brain tells you that you are getting attacked. Fight or flight. So your body picks flight. Your brain then thinks that you are running away and you are put a ease.

    Trust me i have the same thing and walking helps.

    This is me right now ... 2 Am. been trying to sleep since at least 10. I’ve already taken two of my aniexty attack medications. I lay down and i feel my heart race and nausea but nothing comes up but a beating heart .. I just want to go to sleep and i can’t relax. I’ve been diagnosed with aniexty for the longest since i was like 7... But i only feel like lately it’s only gotten worse. It’s hard for me to live a normal life when i’m constantly freaking out or even just trying to get a good night of sleep :( Can anyone else relate :/

    Hey , I’ve literally got your exact problem, my snapchat is alicenutt19 please add me and we can talk about it , really feel like I need someone to relate to and would love to help if I could

    I know I need to throw up but I can’t. It’s currently 2:49 am and I’ve been sitting next to the toilet for 2 hrs straight just waiting til it comes out unexpectedly. My mom tells me to just gag and it’ll be quick and over. I know I’m overthinking but I’m really scared to throw up. Any advice I know I ate something bad but I refuse to throw it up. PLEASE HELP

    I feel the same I can't sleep straight off feel sick and I too have to walk around my room. Nice to see I'm. Not alone

    Hi I’m Nora ever since I was 7-8 I have had this phobia of puke me puking or someone else puking,so about a week ago my friend was spending the night but of course for some weird reason I thought she was gonna puke so that entire time I was shaking and crying but of course she was fine and u was just making a big deal about nothing I’m glad though that I’m not the only one with this phobia…

    Hey I'm Nataly, I'm F18 and I've had this phobia since the last time I vomited which was like 10+ years ago. I remember telling my mom that I was terrified to throw up and she would always just say that no one likes throwing up, kinda downplaying my fear. For the past few months now though I've been having really bad panic attacks which come with waves a nausea, causing me to panic even more thinking I'm gonna throw up. I'm so exhausted from it. I would "call in sick" in high school so much, cuz anytime I had a stomach ache I would assume I would throw up, and I refused to be confined in a classroom sitting there panicking. Now that I'm in college, it's hard, and I try not to skip class since I'm actually interested in the subject and I'm paying a lot of money to be there, but sometimes I would find myself panicking about throwing up and skipping. Fortunately with this stay-at-home order with COVID-19 I feel better that I am always close to a toilet, but lately I've been having awful panic attacks and digestive issues, probably from the anxiety. I don't know what to do anymore. I wanna go get help but it's really hard with quarantine. If anyone wants to talk please feel free to email me:

    I also shake when some says they don’t feel good or they think they are going to get sick I mostly shake whenever they get sick and it mostly happens in school I get anxiety because I feel like I’m trapped in a room with someone who might get sick and I can’t do anything to stop it. I’ve had this ever since I was a kid I’m not sure why this happens to me but I’ve read so many things and they are about them having a fear of themselves getting sick but nothing of others getting sick.

    I’ve always thought I just had a weak stomach but it’s not just that. I fear the words used to describe it too. I enjoy going on rollercoasters but I worry the entire time someone will get sick. When I was little, this kid got sick at one my favorite restaurants so I would tell my family I wanted to eat somewhere else because it brought back the awful memories. I hated going to elementary school because at least twice a week someone would get sick. I would ignore the person who had gotten sick because it brought back all of the feelings of disgust and anxiety. I start to shake and feel sick to my stomach when someone even talks about it. I’m in my twenties now and really hope someday I’ll get over this phobia. It’s awful.

    where i live it’s just beginning to get into the big season and at school I often hear people say they feel sick. As soon as i hear the word i tense up and start to panick that it’s going to happen. just today on the bus someone threw up and i was full on crying my eyes out in front of everyone. What makes it worse is that everyone was telling me that it wasn’t that bad and that i was being a baby. It’s annoying because if they had a phobia they would think the same thing as me! I’ve had a shower and now i feel a lot more relaxed but i don’t want to get on the bus EVER again, or even look at the boy who was sick . :( However, i already feel more relieved now that i’ve read some of these comments, it’s shown me how so many people are just like me.

    I feel this soo much, everyday of my life my whole brain is consumed with this thought. Like right now i’m sitting on my bathroom floor listening to the shower run trying to calm myself down. I often avoid most meats and things that could give me food poisoning and literally start to tremble,anytime someone says they don’t feel good i automatically ask them what’s wrong and if they feel sick. My therapist and family doesn’t understand at all they just embrace it and say it’s not that bad. I would rather die then do it and that sounds like a lot !

    I honestly relate to this so much. I have had this phobia for many years not but it has slowly gotten worse and worse as I have gotten older (I'm now 22). It consumes my thoughts no matter what I am doing or where I am. I have cut out so many things from my diet as well like meats and other things that I have heard are common for carrying bacteria and that cause people to get food poisoning purely because I am so afraid that I will throw up.
    Recently though it has gotten even worse. I've always had anxiety about throwing up but a few months ago I was driving late at night and I started feeling really sick and was stuck on a road where I could not pull over and I started having an anxiety attack and thought I was going to throw up that I ended up turning off the first chance that I could even though it was way out of my way because I was so scared that I was going to throw up and I didn't know what to do because I was by myself. Even though I didn't throw up, ever since then my anxiety around throwing up has gotten so much worse. I can't drive on that road anymore without feeling like I'm going to throw up and having an extremely bad anxiety attack and I cannot drive any long distances or anywhere by myself because I'm so paranoid about it. To make matters worse whenever I feel the littlest bit sick or even think about it my anxiety kicks in which then only makes me feel even more sick so its a vicious cycle.
    I'm honestly at a loss right now because I'm too scared to go anywhere or do anything because I start to get anxiety and feel sick and I feel so bad because I feel like it's impacting on my family and close friends more than ever even though I try to hide it wherever and whenever I can but sometimes it gets so bad that I have to walk out of somewhere or leave or I start having an anxiety attack and I have to tell someone because weirdly enough as I have gotten older I've found that talking it out with someone I trust actually helps me calm down more than anything else because I am able to rationalise to someone how I am aware I am being irrational and I just need some time to calm down.
    Although, most of my friends and family think that I should just get over it or that it will pass soon enough even though its been around for years.
    Sorry for this long winded post but reading yours and everyone else's posts about their struggle with it just makes me feel a little less alone in all of this, especially when sometimes you can feel like you're the only one struggling with this and for everyone else it isn't a big deal.

    I’ve had this phobia since I was 10, I’m now 30 and have a 4 year old little girl who asks me why I’m feeling the way I am. I can relate to you a whole bunch.... are you on any medication? How do you overcome that impending doom?:( it’s absolutely miserable!!!! People who haven’t experienced it do not understand that it’s a real phobia. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

    This phobia has been around practically my whole life. It got extreme after i had a pretty bad stomach virus when i was 9. Throwing up for 2 whole days. I couldnt eat spaghetti for YEARS after that. Im 26 now and i havent thrown up since then.. 17 years since the last time i got sick. But the thought crosses my mind every single day. It drives me insane! I cant even hear anyone else get sick or i have a full on panic attack, god forbid if i actually see it happen. I dont quite revolve my life around it but i am always scared of it. Like im not afraid to go out and drink. I just dont ever drink too much. But im always scared ill see someone else get sick though.
    I work offshore, so i have to take a plane to get to where my boat is ( terrified of the day i see someone get sick on the plane), then i get on my ship and ofcourse im paranoid in rough weather. Ive never been seasick growing up. But the thought is ALWAYS there. I really just wish there was a way to assure myself id never have to throw up again in my life. But i know eventually itll happen again. And that terrifies me.

    I don’t know if this helps anyone, but my therapist said to imagine if you literally couldn’t throw up when you need to. If you could have a procedure done to guarantee you’d never do it again, would you? Usually we feel much better afterwards. It’s our body’s way of protecting us. We should be glad our body is functioning properly- doing its job. It’s just a bodily function like sneezing and it’s usually over with quickly.

    When I was younger I wasn’t so afraid of actually, you know throwing up, but when I hit the age 8 that’s when I started to freak out. I would get this chill & feel my heart start to race whenever someone around me is sick or just talking about the action itself. I’m 17 & I’ve only vomited 5 times, besides my prenatal years. & when those things happened I was crying like crazy. I hate feeling nauseas, I fear anyone who is nauseas. I don’t drink or eat certain foods scared that it might upset my stomach. I wake up at the middle of the night now with the sense of my gag reflex telling me I need to throw up so I wake up with a jolt with my heart pounding. When that happens it takes me ages to fall back asleep. I’m a young girl who doesn’t want this phobia. I want to be able to not fear of having children because of the morning sickness. I don’t want to be afraid to go to school because I don’t know if anyone is extremely sick that they might actually vomit. I don’t want to be afraid when my friends are drinking & they start to cough to think they’re going to vomit. I just don’t want to be afraid. But I don’t think that’ll be possible, even if I do get over this phobia, there will always be a small part of me still scared shitless.

    Oh man I cannot imagine how it must feel to deal with this all the while having your child around. That sucks so much :( It's always been a dream of mine to be a mother but it also scares me now because I don't know if I would be able to deal with it if they were to ever get sick. You're doing an amazing job and giving me hope that I can do it too one day haha. But yeah people think it is just a case of not enjoying throwing up which I have been told for so many years "is so normal, no one likes throwing up" whenever I try to explain to someone how bad it is for me. I haven't taken any medication for it as I have always been very against ever really acknowledging when something is wrong with me and am always the last person to ever take anything but I'm wondering if you have and if it has helped you at all?

    Tell me about it! I was pregnant with twins last year and on the 3rd month i felt sick EVERYDAY. Only threw up on 2 occasions and after throwing up I laid awake at night, sweating and my heart racing, thinking that it'd happen again and again. I couldn't wait for the 1st trimester to end, i just wanted to be in a coma during that time. Then when the twins were about 8 months old they fell sick. Oh my! It was dreadful; dirrhoea, throwing up, for about 4 days. During that period of their illness I couldn't eat anything. I couldnt even clean up after they got sick, my mom, being aware of my phobia, cleaned it up for me. But eventually I learned that it wouldn't be like this forever, "they'll be fine in a few days" is what i told myself. I held on for those days, just tried being a caring mom to them and soon they were back to their normal selves. I can't really determine a trigger from a younger age that caused me to develop this fear, all i know is that the act, the sound, the anticipation, the word, even writing this got my tummy turning! I hope all of us will heal from this terrible disorder.

    I worry about that all the time burn my mom says that she felt the same way when she was little. She told me that it’s different when they are actually your kids. And it’s not as bad.

    Hi. it’s currently 1:30am and i’m terrified of puking. my boyfriend threw up 30 min ago and texted me. we’ve been hanging out for the past week and i kissed him before he left my house earlier this evening. what can i do to prevent puking or catching the virus? I’m 16 and have been dealing with this for about 5-6 years.

    Hi there I feel you. But I’m a mother of three kids and wouldn’t change it. My daughter got sick tonight and I freaked out and had to take an anti anxiety pill and a anti nausea pill. I broke down knowing i couldn’t help her ( holding her hair) I couldn’t even clean up her mess. But motherhood is the best and she told me “ mom I feel better now, but next time try not to freak out!!!”” I know I’m not the only one with this horrible fear but I wish it wouldn’t consume my mind so much:(

    I have had the same phobia since my school days i ate a salad at school with shredded veg and got sick the whole night.Ever since that day the thought of being sick throws me into major panic ,heartrate sweating i have to do things to take my mind off it.i clean the house or go out walk for miles sometimes.ive had this for 40yrs and wish this on no one.
    Sometimes if i cant deal with nausea i take half tablet called METOCLOPIMIDE its very good if you bite tablet in half and take it works quicker.
    It runs my life unfortunatly i live alone and cant imagen being with someone because if they get sick also i dont interact with people to much for fear of catching bugs viruses etc...
    One wish is for this to go away so i can start living my life again

    At night I will lay down and then get out of bed bc I feel like I am going to puke but I never do but I would love to stop this but how bc everyone asks me how come u always feel like this and I never know what to say so I will start to shake also when someone else puke I hate it and I have had this only for a year I am ten now please some people if u can realaye pls let me know what u do

    I'm a sufferer like the rest on this thread, 22 years old. My phobia lately has presented itself in thinking about my future, how I could never have a dog or a child because I wouldn't be able to handle them getting sick. My parents' dog gets sick probably once a week since she eats any food scraps, and when she does I run out of the room. If I have to babysit the dog I get terrified she'll get sick. Does anyone have experiences with emetophobia and raising kids? My mom claims there's a maternal instinct that kicks in when it's your own kid, but I can't see that happening for me. Kids throw up so often! If anyone wants to share their experience, email me at

    I am have had this fear since I was 5 I Harvey always thought of vomiting and I rearrange my whole week just in case I vomit but I don’t get scared when I am with my parents. But tomorrow my parents are going out and I am staying with family and I get scared that the food that they cook will make me ill. I hate vomiting and have been to seen multiple specialists and not very many of them have succeeded with me.

    Hi Emily
    I'm 48 and have suffered with this phobia since I was young. It was not until I was 40 that I decided to seek help! (I was living a life of worry and avoidance etc). The therapy that I received was CBT. It made life much more bearable by reducing the anxiety. CBT gets you used to addressing the issue in stages, for example, just saying any words associated with it used to freak me out - by getting used to writing/saying/talking about the words you get habitualised so that the words do not carry the same amount of 'venom' (on a scale of 1-10, if the words were a 6, they eventually went down to a 0). From there the CBT moved on to pictures etc, where again you get used to them and their effect on you lessens. I used to imagine that there was this big tiger that was always prowling around me, ready to strike at a moments notice. The therapy turned that tiger into an ocelot - it could still scratch/bite and hurt, but it was not gonna kill me!!. I recently felt a bit freaked out by the phobia and so I refreshed my memory on the therapy that i'd had and it virtual instantly put things back into perspective. The therapy takes a bit of time to sink in but it helps a lot. I do believe that only a fellow emetophobic can fully understand what this phobia feels like, so having been a terrible sufferer myself I can tell you that there is hope. If you do read this and would like to chat more I would be happy to do so.

    Hi Richard,

    Thank you so much for your reply to my comment. I have heard about this therapy but doubted whether it would actually make a considerable difference to my life. Although after reading how much it has helped you I may have to reconsider seeking someone out in regard to this type of therapy. For a long time I was quite determined to overcome it myself as I hate the thought that I cannot just do this on my own but I'm starting to realise that if it helps me (and in turn those around me) and improves my quality of life then why not.
    Thank you so much for reaching out and giving me hope. I truly appreciate it!

    Hello, I have always had this phobia. One time my sister got the stomach bug when I was 8 and I had major panic attacks for the entire week that I had to stay with a family member and away from my sister. She would cry and I think that is when the fear can about. I am now 22 and I can do it when I’m really drunk and not cognitively there, however when I hear someone do it I get panic attacks and tense. Currently, i am sitting on the couch because my boyfriend had food poisoning earlier in the night and I am so scared that he is going to do it again that i can’t sleep and i now feel like I’m going to do it. My heart rate climbed to 140 bpm and I ran to the rest room, nothing came up.....but my stomachs is turning and I’m trebeling. It is effecting my relationship because my boyfriend has a rather weak stomache and when he even says he doesn’t feel well, I lose an entire nights sleep. He told me he has been holding it in because i make him feel self councious of it, even though he doesn’t fully understand the fear.