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.

    Yeah, shaking usually does come before vomitting. Not all the time, but it's been reported. You know what I would do? Let it out! ^^! There is nothing more releiving than vomitting and feeling better. Nothing beats it. Honey, you'll eventually get over the fear, because it is actually not common. The most common reason? Over-eating. This doesn't mean go full-on anorexic, either. Just balance those diets. I hope this helps! :3

    Honestly this is so insensitive. As someone with a real fear of being sick reading this I can tell you that this is a very harmful thing to say. There is hardly any correlation between eating and vomiting and making comments like this can lead to eating disorders.

    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.

    You aren’t the only one. I’m afraid of both. If it helps, I’m
    99.9% sure stomach bugs can only be passed through body fluids, so wash those hands a LOT if anyone does end up sick. Distract yourself from the fear (try to) and maybe hum something or listen to music. It’ll all be okay. :)

    Hi I’m currently experiencing this right now and if anyone wants to help me get thru this right now then please please do :( I would appreciate it so much. I need someone who understands me

    Oh my goodness. This has been awful. Every single day of my life I just can't stop. I am constantly having panick attacks and I am almost always nauseas. BUT, I have not thrown up in nearly 9 years. I don't know what the heck is wrong with me, but I just honestly want it to stop. It is so hard to deal with this because you can't enjoy your family time! Something I love to do when I am freaking out is walk outside, or open a window, because the fresh air can just calm you down. Talk to yourself OUT LOUD. This makes sure your mind is occupied. Tell yourself, you obviously have an amazing immune system because you haven't thrown up in a LONG time, so why would get sick now?

    Hey Hailey, I’ve had this phobia for around 2 years now, and even though I don’t really know exactly what to say to help you though it, I just want to let you know that there are supportive people out there that want to help you, I also want to say that for me, talking about it every now and then with people I feel close to helps me. Also some days are much better than others so don’t feel like it’s always terrible, and don’t give up xx

    I know how you feel, I hate getting sick. Most of the time its the anticipation before you get sick, the shaking, nauseau and whatever else you may suffer from. Throwing up will only last a couple of seconds and then its over, you will feel much better. Its like going to the toilet, the feeling of needing to pee is uncomfortable but once you have you feel better. I feel the same way as you so when I feel lile I might get sick I think, itll only last a second then its over.

    I hope this helps :) would love to hear back from you

    Hi I’m faith, I’m 12 years old and this has been getting me for a while now. It is the worst thing that can happen but..... whenever I feel like I’m going to get sick I just breathe in and out very slow and tell my self “you will be ok,” “ there is no reason to even be sick”! And guess what no matter how bad I feel I never get sick. I just wanted to say that whoever is going through this you are going to be ok you can do this! It will be great in the end I promise just think positive!!

    I literally have the exact same thing. Whenever I feel a tad bit off it is the first thing that comes to my mind, and it takes hours to calm down. Every night before I go to bed I have anxiety because I am worried I could throw up during the night. I can logically tell myself it is silly during the day, but once I’m anxious at night it is a completely different story.

    i relate so much to this, it’s really good knowing i’m not the only one going through this. the only time this makes me feel anxious is when i’m going to bed, when i hear the word vom... and when someone around me that i know is sick and it makes me feel really yuck thinking about it. although the last time i was sick was at my year 8 camp because someone else was sick and i worried that much that i was sick and now i’m year 10. but it makes me feel a little better knowing i’m not the only one feeling this way

    I feel the same. I actually feel sick right now and just had a panic attack. I’m 13 and hate throwing up. I went to a therapist to help and got better for about a year until I got the flu. I had a panick attack after I through up and felt I couldn’t breathe. Reading through these comments makes me feel better and I’ve calmed down. Hopefully I don’t get sick and I just pray and text people and read to feel better.

    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. 😢

    Hi I’m Ellie and I’m 12 years old I and my fear has taken over my life and because of it I miss out on a ton of activities it felt great to be looking at all your comments because Ik that you all feel the same but when I’m around nobody is allowed alcohol and my mum always tells me to leave the adults alone but I can’t its like there’s a force pushing me towards them. My problem is not healing at all I take therapy but it isn’t working my sister is hungover right now she has been sick a couple of times and I just can’t control my anger and my anxiety I’m scared but I still want to kill hope some people will understand where I’m coming from 🙏 Thank you for reading

    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 have had this extreme fear of throwing up since I was very little. I keep checking expiration dates and panic about it a lot. I remember the last time I threw up and what I ate. When my siblings say they feel sick or even have a stomach ache I constantly ask if they are ok or if they are better. The more they say no the more panicky I get. I usually just stay as far away from them, go sit in my room, and sometimes cry. This phobia is taking over my whole life. HELP

    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 have had the same problem with not vomiting at all, I haven’t in the last 5-6 years. My parents think I’ve gotton so bad with the phobia my body is too scared to from the anxiety! I really wish this would just go away, yesterday my sister throw-up and I had to go in the car with her and I started crying so much because I didn't want to get in with her, I just wanted to go to my grandparents house away from all the mess.

    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.

    Hey,
    I’m 21 and have this problem, when I was younger I had it but I got better threw therapy, I didn’t have it for next 10 years then January this year a little boy was sick in front of our table in the restaurant. Since then I have just got worse and worse. I want to leave my job I hate going out I have cut out foods I don’t think are “safe” I no longer eat meat in case it makes me sick. it rules my whole life I can’t do anything I used to go out and have fun and now I won’t leave the house and only feel safe when I’m walking or at my own house. I am having therapy again for it but I don’t know if it is helping. I am the worst I have ever been! I just want to feel better... I just feel nauseas and chest pains and stomach ache every day.
    Please someone help me I don’t want to ruin my relationship with boyfriend over this as I know there is only so much he can take.

    My fear started from when I was 11 I am now 19 - I would check food was cooked,check sell by dates, wash my hands, panic when I felt sick, stopped eating but the past three years of my life I’ve been good it comes and goes but I learn how to control it But when I was a kid I would avoid doing things like drinking alcohol or eating the food that made me last sick avoiding sick people and like many of you I haven’t thrown up in years but now I’m 19 and I got triggered and my therapist believes it’s because of my emetaphobia and the fact that when I was a kid no one believed me or took it seriously I suggest that you get the help now hit it on the head don’t just avoid doing things push yourself to do things or your body will think that the things you avoid are a danger and puts you in a vicious cycle of panic and anxiety this is like being scared of spiders and I was so happy to see that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way you have to force yourself to eat force yourself to go out and do things and expose yourself to your fear do not run away from it DO NOT AVOID the one thing my therapist told me I should be gettting CBT therapy soon but get the help now fight it because I’m fighting it too and I don’t want this to get the better of me , you can do it you just gotta find that strength, for me it has got better I did it on my own but I highly suggest you get professional help to help highlight what activities trigger your fear and expose your mind to them so you can change your behaviour towards it

    I once remember I was so scared about seeing someone being sick or hearing it and used to run away from every situation that included someone feeling sick or being sick. I overcame the fear once I started going out in clubs and seeing people being sick and so happy about it ! I saw my brother being sick once at home and 5 min later he was playing video games and was chilling . My ex gave me the stomach flu 3 years ago and was sick for the whole night but we played board games and watched movies ..... not as bad as it seems trust me what it looks is not what you get

    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😟

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