by Ken Goodman, LCSW

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.

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:

 

    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 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.

    I’m in the same boat as you, I’m 13 as well and this has taken over my entire life, but it’s not just me throwing up, it’s also everyone around me, I recently went to an amusement park and I wouldn’t let my friend eat and then go on a ride. Even if they knew they wouldn’t throw up. My sister is feeling nauseous and I just spent 3 hours in my parents room and I’m considering sleeping in my moms office. It just consumes me.

    I am fine if I throw up because I know I feel better after it. I am almost 13 and when I am in class and someone claims they don’t feel well i begin to panic and shake. I will continually ask questions making sure they are alright and tell them to leave the class if they feel like they are going to puke. I have got permission to leave the class if I feel anxious but that also worries me about what others think. I was sick on the plane last year because I heard someone being sick. The year before the a boy puked everywhere and I felt sick during landing. I get very anxious but my mum thinks it is stupid. I really don’t know what to do and need help to cure my phobia. Anyone that can help me please contact my snapchat weehollie123!!

    My brother had just a simple stomach ache and I totally freaked out and got so scared that I was in my room forever just sitting their crying scared. It’s so hard to explain how I’m scared to my friends. The reason I have this is because my brother barfed on me one night when I was about 3-4 yrs old. Ever since then I’ve had this phobia of people throwing up in front of me. 😢

    Hello, I'm turning thirteen in a few weeks and I'm going through the exact same thing as I type. I was in the store with my sister and mom and I started to get an upset stomach. Ive had a history of my sugar levels dropping and getting the same feeling, but I ate right before we left. The whole time we were there, I was shaking and couldn't sit still because I started getting really nauseous and knew in the back of my mind that I really needed to throw up. We got home and I went to the bathroom and started panicking, crying, trembling and getting an anxiety attack as I sat in front of my toilet. I looked up he phobia, then how to overcome it, and I was brought here. My mom asked if I was okay and I explained to her that I really needed to throw up but it have me too much anxiety to do so. She suggested I just go lay down and take my mind off of it.

    Hello! I have had the EXACT same situation. Anytime I ask my mom she says I’m going to be fine but that someday it will happen. Unfortunately that gives me anxiety and I get Panic attacks too. I’m always looking at expiration dates and it has gotten worse since I don’t trust that whatever I’m eating is ok. I’m 13 and I haven’t thrown up for 5-6 years. Th last time I puked was because I had not eaten at all, then before that because I had the flu (9yrs ago). I don’t know why this happens to me but I have some tips:
    1. After throwing up I remember feeling way better and the best thing is that you hardly remember it.
    2. Usually if you haven’t been sick for a long time that means that you will be fine unless you get really ill. ( Severe stomach bug). Once a family member got sick and they did not throw up Mainly bc of strong immune system. If you want to make it stronger I suggest Orange juice and vitamin C
    3. I naturally have low blood pressure there fore I tend to get nauseous once in awhile but It makes me feel better because I know the cause and a way to fix it. (Nuts or salty foods)

    I hope this helped a bit and know that you will be fine 💕

    Yeah I have the same thing but I remember vividly the last time I threw up. I remember what I ate and now I flip my lid when I eat that food. We had it for dinner tonight and my sister said she doesn’t feel well and it just makes me feel worse. I’m constantly asking are you alright and trying to stay away from the issue.

    I'm In the littoral exact situation, im 13 F, and I haven't puked in 5 years. But ever since I did, I've had an extream fear of puking. About a month ago my stomach hurt in the middle of the night and I started crying. I ended up having a panic attack and it was the worst feeling ever. my mom helped me. I really want this fear to go away, It's starting to affect my day-to-day life.

    I’ve had this fear of throwing up since I was about 5 years old. I threw up a medicine I took and never took that medicine again til this day, and even the word “vomit” traumatizes me. I hadn’t thrown up from the age of 5 up until last year when I had a stomach virus and was throwing up for a whole day straight. Every time I had to vomit I would go into a complete panic, having a full on anxiety attack before I actually threw up. Essentially, I felt better after I threw up, but every time scared me. I haven’t thrown up since but I still can’t seem to break and get over this annoying fear.

    Hi, I am 21 years of age and have been dealing with this phobia, along with some other mental illnesses since I was 8. In my experience, sometimes it gets better and you don't even think about it for months or even a whole year. Then life gets tougher and somehow this phobia sneaks back into your life unexpectedly. I do have a therapist but am too embarrassed to discuss the matter. My advice is if you feel nauseous or scared or uneasy, keep telling yourself its not real. Although it is so so challenging, I have found that a combination of telling myself it's not real, repeating a mantra, and deep breathing not only sets me back to the right state of mind but also makes me realize everything is okay. If you need help coping with the nausea, I suggest crackers, ginger tea, meditation or even mint gum. Not many people understand this phobia, I don't even understand it that well sometimes. Just know that you are safe and everything's going to be okay.

    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😟

    Awake tonight trying to convince myself I stood far enough from the girl at my job who had the stomach bug. I’ve been dealing with this since I was about 11, I am now 27 I have two children and have considered the same thing. Quitting my job, pulling them from school and daycare to lock us all in a bubble. It’s terrible. I’ve had many test done because “I know something is wrong with my stomach” when my reality it’s provably just my fear eating me up inside. I’m scared to sleep with fear that I’ll wake up sick (I sometimes dream of myself or others vomiting then wake up nauseous) and I avoid traveling and eating past certain times out of fear. This has literally taken over my entire life and the older I get the worse it gets.

    Hello, I really feel for you as I'm exactly the same . It controls my life and I hate it , how are you doing now ? Also did you end up catching it or was you ok? I panic all the time about bugs etc. It such a horrible phobia and even harder for people who don't have it to understand. X

    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

    i have terrible anxiety and the thought of throwing up makes me nauseous. my mother has the stomach flu currently and i keep worrying that i will get it. i used to keep my parents up all night because i felt sick. i would shake and cry. when my mom told me to make myself throw up, i couldn’t even imagine it. i am just too scared. i know you usually feel better after but my mother has been vomiting all day and she’s still not feeling better.

    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

    Well , my mom
    says that you can take deep breaths or lay down and put your knees up. What works for me is talking about a good subject or looking forward to something that is going to happen . But if someone around you is feeling nauseous, remove yourself from the situation, and if you can’t talk to someone or listen to music so you can’t listen to what they are talking about (their stomach hurting) and if they do vomit , then try and act like it isn’t happening and that he/she is just burping or coughing terribly bad . This is my opinion , this might not work for all! when this time comes ! Give this a try !😁

    Hi
    My advice is to just tell yourself that your not going to be sick and you need to start to believe in that.I hope this helps because I suffer the same thing.x

    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!

    Hi Lizzy, i'm 22 as well and have had this phobia since I was 19. Your alcohol comments really hit home for me - I'm also terrified of puking from being too drunk or from the hangover. This was very hard bc I was in college for the past four years and the drinking culture was so prevalent, literally people want to go out and drink all the time. I would make up reasons why i couldn't have a drink or would only have one, like say i was on antibiotics or something. I'm terrified of being judged for the real reason.
    Caffeine also gives me anxiety and can make me nauseous, and i've had multiple stomach issues over the years that i'm never quite sure if it's is a real issue or is from anxiety or i'm just making up in my head.
    If you need someone to talk to feel free to snap me, babysyd126 (it would definitely benefit me to talk to someone as well)

    I know exactly how you feel I’ve had emetophoia since 2nd grade. On top of that I’m a 12 year old guy in middle school. You can only imagine how many people have prejudice against me. One day I was feeling sick and I was scared out of my mind but then I had a thought. So what if I vomit I’ll just vomit feel better then get on with my life. I’ve spent years letting this fear consume me. Years of fighting and fighting not to get sick. Then that day I stopped caring. And then I realized something. Emetophobia won’t last forever. And the way it gets cured is by you vomiting. I know it sounds scary but we have to do it and you feel better after you do it. And you should be happy you can do it. Horses can’t vomit and when they get norovirus 90 percent of them DIE FROM IT. So just stop caring and enjoy life for it’s many Luxury’s. I talked to my friends about the subject and they said so what you’re sick then you get better it’s part of life. Hope this helped you

    TY Dean, It is reassuring to hear your viewpoint on this type of anxiety. It is also interesting to hear many of these types of fears and symptoms coming from young people around 13 years of age. Today, my daughter is attending her first day of high school. She has been battling these nausea and wanting to vomit symptoms since January. Funny thing is it all started after a bout with the flu. Her doctor said to get on a schedule of nutritional eating, sleeping and exercising as well as talking to a therapist. Life presents many challenges and these symptoms often make a reappearance when worries arise or a new chapter/experience comes your way. I am middle aged now but still can be bothered by occasional bouts of anxiety. When I first started high school my face was flamingo pink and I had diarrhea for over 2 weeks! Those symptoms plus nausea can still happen. We still have fight-or-flight symptoms even if we are in modern times! Please everyone, look out for all those who need extra support. Be kind.

    I have always had a fear of me throwing up and others but lately every night about 2 hours before I go to bed I would start feeling nauseous and hot and scared beyond belief every night I will text my mom and beg her any way I can to let me stay home if she wouldn't in the morning I will feel like I will get sick like I have the flu and my mom will let me stay home I started school this Tuesday and I have already missed 2 days of school because of it today my mom made me go to school because I didnt get my yearbook photo taken so I went to school feeling ill the first hour at school was so hard but I went in my second hour and it slowly went away and I was fine the rest of the day... Until bow as I'm writing this I dont feel good I feel like crying nd getting sick abd I feel hot and cold and I dont even have school tomorrow if you have any way of helping me get rid of 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.