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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 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 :)

    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 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.

    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.

    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 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

    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.

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