by Ken Goodman, LCSW

Ken 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. 

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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.

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!

Additional Resources:

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

How to Get Over It: Fear of Vomiting blog post featured on Real World Health Care

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.

I have always been a bit scared of vomit and feeling sick, but it was about five years ago when i did actually vomited and have been terrified ever since. I always would feel sick and was scarred to go anywhere. I am 15 now and have gotten better but am scared to start work or go to school or even just to a friends house. I worried most nights that i will wake up during the night and feel sick because i had do that before. Reading these comments i have all the same problems. I find if hard to talk to any one that doesn't have this phobia because all they tell you is that you just have to get over it and you will be find or something like that , but when you have that phobia it just not that easy.

I just wanted to say please please speak to someone who can help you. I so wish I had when I was your age. I'm 31 now and I struggle so much now that my own children are bringing illness home from school with them. I feel like I have suffered with emetaphobia my whole life, but in reality I think it started when I was in my teens. I won't moan too much because you already know how controlling this awful phobia is, but please, fight it now so you can start to live the rest of your life without its hold over you x

I also have three children and my fear is so bad...sometimes I even think I shouldn't have had 3 children because I know this raises the chances of them bringing home the dreaded bug...the fear controls my life....i have never gotten drunk for fear of a hangover, don't like to travel, and have daily thoughts and worry about nausea and vomiting😟

This phobia is taking over my life. Iv had this ever since I was a kid, I’d always feel sick at school and get sent home, I’d drive my parents mad they thought I was getting bullied but I was I generally felt sick every day. As an adult I now no this is some sort of anxiety disorder. I now have three children and every time they are ill my husband has to deal with them. I felt slightly sick tonight and Iv worked myself up into such a state I’m atill up at 12 at night. I can’t sleep as I’m scared I’m going to be sick, Iv took an anti sickness tablet that hasn’t worked, my chest is pounding I feel so ill and I don’t no if it’s my anxiety or I have a bug. I haven’t been sick but Iv got myself in such a state I could cry. Anyway know any techniques I can try? Iv tried my anxiety music but I’m to far gone for that Tonight help!!

Hey Emma, i'm 17 i know it might sounds odd the listen to someone younger then you are but i can understand the feeling you have. I used to keep my parents up for hours in the middle of the night because i was crying in the bathroom freaking out and breathing so heavily that i would almost pass out. Nothing of the usual stuff that help me out was working in these situation, they always happens in the middle of the night I would usually wake up in panic as if i just had a nightmare and it feels like my stomach is being crushed down. It used to happens really often but now that i started to know what caused then most of the time and how to make them go away it stopped happening. I realized that it usually happen when ate right before going to bed so i stopped and it got better, but it was still happening so I instead figured out what to do when it happen and what worked the best for me is to first cover myself with a blanket and that really help to stop myself from shaking like crazy and it make me fells better. Then what really make the pain go away, I take a wet piece of cloth but rub it on my face gently and that help bringing me back to reality and realize i'm freaking out, then i drink a little bit of water and try to go back to sleep and honestly it work most of the time! :) Hope that can help you out or anyone that have a similar issue :D

Hi, i too suffer from these problems and if this happens again then maybe this will help. Get a little notebook and write and draw anything you like about the phobia/anxiety e.g what helps, who you can speak to, what to do when you feel a panick attack coming, what you have done today that you are proud of etc. I also find not only reading it but writing in it too helps when those hard times come. Also another thing that really helps me is if you google 'mindfulness' it is really helpful to calm me down, i just remember what is happening RIGHT NOW? Nothing!! i am just sat on my bed, nothing bad is happening. I find it really hard to stay in the moment as can anyone who suffers from these things so that can really help. Also see everything in a positive way, this can really change your perspective on things. Try to see the good that they bring in the long term. i really hope this has helped you, i know it is the most horrible mental battle but you are supported and i know that when you feel ill it can feel like the longest time ever but its really not. imagine if you are sick how good you will feel the next day knowing that you got through it and that it is over. x

That’s exactly right, you are not alone, always remember that there are other people out there that struggle. I also have this debilitating fear..but we can all learn to cope..
Here are some tips I use:
Deep Breaths
Finger tapping or just occupying yourself (CBT)
Talking to someone
Drawing
Writing
Hope this helped
Take care <3

I have also suffered this I think most of my life I can remember in vivid detail each time I have been sick (not that many tho) but the fear of it drives me crazy with worry. I am now 46 and things have improved slightly as I have been prescribed for the last 20 years anti nausea pills which I carry with me religiously so it’s like my crutch. My fears were out of control which my kids were young I could not go out to restaurants as I feared getting good poisoning, prawns and any seafood were completely off the menu as was chicken unless I cooked it myself. I was a nervous wreck when the kids were young bringing home the dreaded vomit and diahorrea bug I would be on complete meltdown and turmoil inside but at the same time trying to be a good mum nursing the kids better. I tried cognitive behaviour therapy but I did not work for me 100% although I did take from it deep breathing as you can’t be anxious and calm at the same time and deep breathing does calm you down. Good luck everyone I feel your woes and don’t think I’ll ever be 100% cured of this phobia but I try to focus on wellbeing and I a lot better now than when I was younger 😃

Janine I have just read your comment at 2am while I am wide awake freaking out that I am going to be sick. I am only 22 and have been suffering this since I was 18. I feel like my mind is way to old for my body because of things I avoid (alcohol). Friends find it difficult to understand I can’t drink alcohol - the main reason I don’t is cause I’m scared I’ll vomit from being too drunk or from the hangover. It does however make me very anxious on occasions.
I had a coffee yesterday for the first time in a long time and I ended up having the worst heart palpitations for most of the day then felt sick when they went away.
I have tried CBT many times, hypnotherapy, kinesiology, have been tested for all types of gastro issues cause part of me doesn’t believe or won’t believe it’s my anxiety. I have been on antidepressants for 4 years now and yes they help a bit but I go through stages where I want to be strong enough and well enough to not have to rely on them.
Sorry for the rant I know everyone knows what it’s like. I am just so glad I found a page like this!

I have the similar thing. When I was in pre primary I had a girl who was sick right next to me. I didn’t like the sound or even the smell. So I thought I was going to be sick, so of course they called my parents. When I got out of the class room I was fine.

I’m 15 almost 16 and I’m still scared to be around people who vomit I try and avoid people who are going to be sick because if I’m near them I start to shake I start to panic but I want to help them feel better but I just can’t. I haven’t been able to vomit in years but wanting to because I wanted to feel better. It never really happened that way my body still freaks out and so do I.

I have only really told one friend about this phobia because I’m to embarrassed to tell anyone eles. I think my parents and sister know about but don’t really think much of it they just got use to me freaking out. I have manage to control it a bit better. Trying to focus on That isn’t in the room or day dream. I tend to freak out less

Im reading you comment while in bed having a panic attack over this very thing. Reading this comment started making me feel better and then the very last line about you being a teenager made it all come together for me im only 19 and what you discribed is very close to my life. Thank you for making me not feel alone.

Also currently in the middle of a panic attack about this. Usually doesn't happen this late at night, but now I'm freaking out about potentially getting sick. Being around family/little ones for the holidays doesn't help me feel any better, either. I just want my phobia to go away.

I didn’t know it was a phobia until now. My sister has been throwing up lots and I have been terrified of getting it. Now I am in bed feeling sick and am scared to go to sleep in case I am sick.

It’s almost ten at night and I feel sick so I’m freaking out. I’m 18 and have the same issues. I am so scared to throw up it is honestly controlling my life.

I have never related to something more in my life. I do online college, I hate eating at restaurants or anywhere other than home, I won’t drive or go anywhere alone, and I haven’t had an alcoholic beverage in about 2 years. I HAVE TO GET PAST THIS

Alex

December 27, 2017

In reply to by Bailey Sirmons

I can relate! When I was in grade school, I once threw up at a restaurant. After that, every time I went to one I got nauseous. I knew it was in my head but I still lost my appetite and hated eating out. Someone put me on a placebo and I haven't had the issue since. However, I sometimes get anxiety (it's happening more and more often since I am facing a big transition point in my life) and whenever I'm out of my comfort zone I get nauseous. It also sucks because I get anxiety over feeling nauseous, so it's a vicious cycle. It's awful and it has honestly ruined a lot of stuff for me (Christmas dinners, eating food while traveling, just being happy)

I had a similar experience where I threw up in the movie theater... Ok technically in the bathroom of the theater. Now I avoid everything I ate that day, I feel nauseous just thinking about going there and since then I've developed severe OCD around washing my hands, sanitizing my environment, etc. It really sucks. I hate feeling this way. There was an article in the local paper about the stomach bug going around and it made me anxious to basically leave my house. So now I'm sitting at work, anxious, scrubbing everything with little alcohol pads and using hand sanitizer every few minutes. It is comforting to know that I'm not the only one who feels this way. I desperately wish I could just stop it.

I did not go to school today because of this... I too suffer from this phobia and I got sick from a restaurant on Christmas until New Years I was feeling so bad I went to the hospital and I was dehydrated... if my friend feels nauseous or her stomach hurts I try to get away from her, well from anyone. I was eating breakfast, milk and cookies and minutes after my stomach started hurting and I burp and it’s not pleasant at all... I need help, I want to talk to someone. My mom and dad are currently at work and I’m scared and panicking...

I have an extreme phobia. I believe this started in middle school but didn’t get bad until my late teens. I’m 21 now and don’t drink, rarely eat out, and also have stomach problems that don’t help. I suffer from bad abdominal pain and nausea, but I’d rather be nauseous than throw up. I have developed such a strong mind and a routine to prevent it but I need to get over this fear. Where do I start?

I am exactly you, I'm 21 and feel how you feel every day it helps to know I'm not the only but I'd pay someone 1000 pound to take it away and I'm broke haha, just don't give up hope I believe we will be OK hopefully sooner rather than later

Nicole Hale

December 31, 2017

In reply to by Ho

I honestly am so glad I found this. I have such bad anxiety about this. Every time I feel sick I always get scared. I don’t want to get out of the house unless I’m with my mom because she always makes me feel safe. Sometimes I don’t want to eat out because I’m afraid of getting food poisoning. I don’t like going out with friends because I’m afraid of getting sick. I’m glad that people feel the exact same thing.

Hi Nicole, I deal with the same things I have a horrible fear of getting sick I don’t like to eat out are leave my house I feel so horrible bcuz when my kids are sick I really can’t deal and I really wish there was a natural way I can get rid of the horrible fear it’s taking over my life Fareal

I feel the same I just moved out of my mums into my first house with my partner I’m and scared to death of being sick... I can’t leave the house and if I do I have to take a tub of some sort with me in case I throw up in the car along with a bottle of water and mints... I wake up every day and hope that my partner will put up with it another day it’s really starting to get us both down for the simple fact that we can’t do anything and I sit there and cry every night I need help I just can’t bring myself to go get it

I'm going through this right now. I really wish I could get over this fear. It makes me depressed and never want to leave my room. I've avoided people because they're sick-prone. I wish I could just be normal, and live life. :(

I could nearly say I’m exactly the same as you! If you’ve done anything about it that has helped could you tell me please I’m dying for answers and some kind of nudge in the right direction of getting better

I'm 52 years old now but I remember being terrified for probably two years when I was around 11 to 13 years old of throwing up anywhere ever. My poor parents had a battle every morning with me sobbing because I might throw up at school. We talked to the school counselor, and Mom would be almost ready to cry because she could not help me. If I heard someone at school even mentioning that a random relative was sick, I was done! My hands were cracked for so much washing, I lost weight, and at night I was worried I would get sick and choke, on and on. She kept telling me it's not that bad just live your life and enjoy it. Well that was no good I couldn't believe that would ever happen. Finally one day I don't hardly remember other than I was sick, and I threw up. I literally was crying tears of happiness because it truly was nothing. I had built it up so much, it was nothing!! I even felt much better. Ever since then it's never bothered me again. The only thing that makes irrational fears go away is how incredulous you feel when the fear happens and the world keeps spinning. Mom always said "this too shall pass" and I promise you, on down the road at some point, you will throw up and then you will giggle hysterically, because you'll be free of the fear. I promise. My daughter had exact same fear but not nearly the level of mine. She got sick in middle of night and threw up, and I remember the look on her face and it was joyous relief. She's fine now too.

I totally agree. I’m supposed to be going off to college this year. But I can’t help to think that I’m not going to have my mom there when I start to feel sick. I confined in her to help me. Most of the time she gets really angry Becasue she doesn’t understand it. And I understand that. But sometimes I just need someone who understands.

I deal with this too and completely understand and I also know how great it is to talk to someone who understands so if you or anyone else wants to talk and maybe help each other my snap chat is skyemonique1 ❤️ Good luck

OMG, this is my problem. I have such a fear of getting sick I’ll wash and wash my hands till the dry and sore, When I’m in bed at night I have nightmares of me not feeling well. I even hate the word that starts with a V. I know sounds dramatic and a little crazy. But once I start thinking about having anxiety that’s when everything starts. The only thing that helps me is talking to my boyfriend and always having ginger ale and mints. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has this.

What you just explained is exactly what happens to me and I understand what your going through 100%. Recently I got better because I didn't pay attention to it anymore, I didn't let myself be afraid because there is nothing to be afraid of. I started eating normally again like eating without stopping myself because of being afraid of having a tummy ache at night. I used to starve myself at night because I thought it was better then throwing up, the truth is you won't throw up, it's the nerves and thoughts in your mind that believe you to think these negative thoughts.

Flying long distances was a big problem for me, still is, after reading some positive ways to help with this phobia I realized that facing the problem is easier then ignoring it. So that is what I do now, I do the things that make me feel anxious and realize in that moment that it's always going to be okay and things get better. You just have to believe in yourself and in the people around you.

You are never alone, have faith in yourself and others and you will be okay.

I'm 20 and I wanna say around the time I was about to turn 19 is when I started feeling like this. I've had this fear for a while but it's intensified. I used to be able to drink and have fun but now my anxiety gets in the way and I start to feel sick giving me more anxiety. I just found out this is a phobia and honestly I am crying right now because all this time I thought I was weird for it.

I’ve had this phobia ever since I was about 11..for about half a year I would not eat anything at school or anywhere else-not even in my own home because I was constantly worrying “What if this food makes me sick?”
This ‘eating disorder’ only made me sicker and weak as time went on and I was wasting my childhood away. Although I do eat regularly now, I still have panic episodes and I will sometimes reject food when I go to restaurant. I feel like I’m alone when I have these panic attacks...I feel like no one understands my fears. It usually gets worse at night..I always think to myself “what if I throw up when I’m sleeping..and then it will be a mess..and..” it just gets out of hand..
Thank you for your entry..it’s very nice to know that someone else understands how I feel..

Hello, see I started to cry when I read your comment, I know exactly what that feels like I mean I’m awake at 4 in the morning, scared..praying cause that’s really all I can do to hopefully make me feel better..sometimes I think to myself “how am I gonna keep going like this..I’m just a teenager”
Honestly I wanna be like other people who throw up and just get over it real quick..I wish I could be like them..I’ve gone to therapy when I was younger cause I’ve been dealing with this for years and it’s horrible..it’s torture
I had to pretend I was getting better just so I can stop going to my therapist..when I would go I felt like I was crazy or something
I’m just so tired of living like this..