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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    I'm a sufferer like the rest on this thread, 22 years old. My phobia lately has presented itself in thinking about my future, how I could never have a dog or a child because I wouldn't be able to handle them getting sick. My parents' dog gets sick probably once a week since she eats any food scraps, and when she does I run out of the room. If I have to babysit the dog I get terrified she'll get sick. Does anyone have experiences with emetophobia and raising kids? My mom claims there's a maternal instinct that kicks in when it's your own kid, but I can't see that happening for me. Kids throw up so often! If anyone wants to share their experience, email me at cebarry1103@gmail.com

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

    Hi Richard,

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

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

    Hi Danielle,

    It is honestly so horrible isn't it. I totally understand what you're going through. That feeling when you feel nauseous and the anxiety just makes it worse and you build it up so much that you physically cannot stop shaking and making yourself feel worse and there's not much you can do to calm yourself down. I've spent a lot of time shaking uncontrollably unable to sleep because I'm worried I'm going to be sick so I totally understand what you're going through.
    I have no real advice to offer you other than to say that you're not alone and we'll all make it through it eventually.. I hope.. haha.

    Hi for me this all started when I was 7 and I would get the stomach flu every year on my birthday for 4 years or until I was 11 and to this day my birthday is still very difficult for me and I full of anxiety and it is 3:40 in the morning and I can’t shake this god awful fear please someone help me.

    Last year in February I was sick and from then to October it was Really bad I kept on felling like I was going to be sick now I fell better in my everyday life but if I ever have a moment it can be just as bad it is always lurking int the back of my
    head I had cartain things that help me get through it I would highly recommend using white noise when you go to sleep it works really well and listen to a app called clam with lots of amazing mediations

    Thank you for giving me hope that this may not last forever! I have always had a fear of vomiting but it started as a fear of others vomiting. This past summer I went through a tough time and a loss of pregnancy, through that I was nauseous for almost two months. I was barely eating anything and when I did, it was crackers. It’s now six months since and I still feel nauseous at least 5-6 days a week. It has caused me to eat bare minimum, I used to enjoy food and now am terrified I will get food poisoning from everything. I count hours from when I last ate and don’t eat out unless it is the only option. If I do eat out I get something I believe to be “safe” I think that feeling nauseous and the anxiety of being sick is worse then actually vomiting. I still get the shakes and an anxiety attack, even angry when someone around me feels sick or is sick. It something I wish I could stop. It is truly ruining my life. I know I was all over with this but it is nice to vent it out because no one on my life understands, they all just tell me I’m crazy, I need to get over it and just eat and I’m tired of feeling unheard. Thank you for helping me see I’m not alone.

    This sounds like me! I’ve always suffered from minor emetophobia but it took a turn for the worse when my husband caught a virus 3 months ago. It’s all I think about now. I’m afraid that I will catch food poisoning if I eat out and will too count how many hours it’s been since I ate to make sure I’m in the clear. I’ll think “it’s been 5 hours since I last ate. if I had food poisoning, I’d probably be feeling sick by now.” Its crazy how powerful the mind is. Mine is worse at night and I’ll convince myself I don’t feel well, which makes my anxiety even worse. I’m just tired of feeling this dread all of the time. I wish there was a magic pill to make it go away so that all of us who suffer could live without worrying about it.

    Hiya. Id love to chat. I have a massive fear of vomiting and I’m a single mother. It consumes my every day life. I seriously need help with this :(

    I have this phobia and have had it since I was 9 years old(now I'm 25) I can remember every time that I've gotten sick and praying that it would never happen again. I used to fake sick for days so I wouldn't have to go to school if someone in class had just gottem sick. And it's stopped me from getting on rollercoasters or pursuing a career in nursing or teaching ( because a child or patient could get sick). My mom was in the hospital and I felt horrible that I couldn't help her while she got sick. It's miserable! Every time someone says they don't feel well I immediately pray they won't throw up. I'd prefer any other physical pain than throwing up and I can't stand it! I'm even scared to get pregnant because of the morning sickness. I'm so glad I'm not alone but I can't wait to conquer this fear. I've had enough!

    I am 23 and have the same phobia and it’s consumes my every single day and it’s so frustrating and it’s getting to me badly today. Please reach out so we can talk about it I feel like it could help us both! my Instagram is lexi_triscari

    Thank you for this. I sent your message to my boyfriend and his response was “you wrote that didn’t you” I said no but how relatable is this to me. You are certainly not alone.

    I also feel most of the same things you do, Every day at school i sit and worry and have anxiety about everything i touch and if it might have a virus on it or something. there’s also certain things i won’t eat, like i heard lettuce and leafy greens were one of the main things that people get food poisoning from so i avoid lettuce at all costs, and i love lettuce. i rarely go out to eat anymore because i only trust myself cooking my food thouroughly and cleanly. and i will have panic attacks and anxiety every day because of this phobia, i’ve had it since i had i got a bad stomach bug when i was 7 and it’s gotten worse now that ive gotten older (I’m 19). I started Cognitive behavioral therapy but only made it to the first session and slacked off on going back, i get anxiety leaving my house and while driving, hope things get better for you and everyone on this forum cause it really sucks.

    I have a huge fear of throwing up. I would rather die than throw up, which seems like a lot. I also hate it when people say they feel sick. Right now 120 people in the high school are sick. When someone says they feel sick I freeze and full on start trembling.

    I try and ask people, casually, "So, do you feel nauseous or headache or...?" If they that they have a sore stomach, I FREAK OUT! I can't believe more people feel the same way as me!

    I have this same exact phobia!!It's awful. It feels like it's taking up my whole life! I lie awake at night and the same thought......"what if I wake up in the middle of the night and vom.....I can't say it. I feel really anxious at school too.especially after lunch because I worry that I'll throw my lunch up. I NEVER actually throw up. Every time I'm anxious I feel like I'm gonna puke but I NEVER do. I feel really anxious when I'm away from my mom. I know that sounds dumb. But it isn't to me. I love my mom and she comforts me when I'm anxious. I hate this phobia!!!!!

    i feel the exact same way about my mum when i have my attacks.

    Literally if I have acid reflux I will be so scared, I try to convince myself throwing up is no big deal, but when my sis throws up i book it, so I’m glad I have somebody I can agree with

    I couldn’t agree more, I try to make excuses not to get on the bus, I try to attend clubs so I can go home with my mum or I get on a shorter bus rout. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think about it, it ruins my life and I want to get rid of it as soon as possible; I’m just too afraid to get help/counselling because I tried telling my mum and she didn’t believe me, she just laughed it off and forgot about it when I really wanted her to help me. Not sure what I would do without these webpages.

    I get the exact same thing as you! If I heard about someone who feels/is/or has been sick, I freeze up and get super dizzy. Then, if I'm at school I'll try to get my parents to pick me up!! I feel so bad, but no one gets it! I am a teen and I have had that problem for almost my whole life! I am so glad I now know what I have and how to treat it! I am so happy to know others suffer the same as me and I am not alone!

    it’s a stomach bug going around now & a girl in my class had it, she sat in front of me & as soon as she said she didn’t feel good, i freaked out,my hands were sweaty & i was shaking so i texted my mom & asked her to come get me but she just said i’ll be fine & i was just thinking to myself that she doesn’t get it , i was so scared that she was going to get sick in front of me & now i feel sick, i hate this feeling so much

    My daughter feels the same way exactly.
    One time a kid vomitted in the her school bus and she was shaking, crying, became lightheaded and weak. Another time we were on a boat and her aunt felt nauseous and she started crying and became like crazy panicking and saying that she wanted to get out of there because she couldn't see the vomit, but we were on a boat and it looked as she was going to jump. I also remember another occasion in which I fell for a very high chair, while I was standing on a stool chair, and hit my head very hard in the concrete. I thought I was going to die and broke my skull. My daughter came to help me and brought some ice but she keep saying "please don't throw up! please don't throw up! you know I can't handle it.." I know cognitive behavior therapy is the best treatment but it is hard to find places like that around me. If anybody has other ideas of how I can help her let me know!. Thanks!

    Dear Holly
    I am nearly 39 and live in uk..I have exactly same phobia as you although I am now a nurse so am ok with looking after patients that puke. Infact I am almost obsessed with watching sometimes and use this as exposure therapy. But, what I do not want is anyone where I am staying to vom or for me to vom. Its been 20 years this year since I lost vommed. I get diarrhoea far more frequently. But the fear of vomiting makes me shake and go numb and I have to leave holiday destinations or rush home from wherever I am. The panic is awful. But I used to associate music that I heard with the time I saw someone puke and 20/30 yrs later I never forgot.

    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. :)

    It mostly happens at school. I haven't really heard of my case, but it's the sound that triggers me. If someone in my class feels nauseous or has been sick recently, I freak out. I also freak out and try to avoid others who will potentially get me sick. In a way, I'm scared of myself vomiting and someone else doing it.

    I have had this fear since I was In kindergarten, it has been the main point in my life. In fact it surrounds it. I am severely underweight because of this. I am 17 years old and weighing only 85 pounds. It isn’t healthy but no one understands. What makes it even worse is I have a 1 year old daughter. And as I’m writing this, she is sick with a stomach bug and has thrown up 2 times. My mom bless her heart took my daughter to my aunts house for the night. I freaked out and wouldn’t even touch my own daughter I’ve tthis fear, if anyone would like to talk and understands what I’m going through please Snapchat me- sunny0uT

    I can completely relate to all of your comments. I’ve always had a fear of vomiting but it has got so much worse since I’ve had children, and since the whole family had an awful vomiting bug six months ago. If anyone even says they feel sick I get a rush of panic, and have to ask what it is (because I need to know if it’s contagious). As soon as I realise it’s not contagious I’m completely fine. It’s so hard when you have kids because they are sick all the time, and I know I need to just accept that, but I am constantly worried about it. I also stop eating if I hear someone has vomited, because I’m so stressed about it. My husband really doesn’t understand, and it’s so hard for him when he feels unwell because instead of looking after him I go into full-blown panic mode. He just messaged me to say his colleague vomited, so now I’m sitting here freaking out. It is having such a huge, unnecessary effect on my life. And I’m worried I’m giving my children the phobia - when my daughter says she has a sore tummy she then usually follows up with “but don’t worry mummy, I don’t need to vomit”. I just wish this feeling would go away. But I didn’t realise how many other people felt like this, so it helps knowing I’m not the only one.

    hi, i am also 17 years old and i suffer from this same thing so bad. i am also underweight because i never want to eat anything because in the back of my head i always think i'm gonna throw up. i have practically stopped going to school because my fear controls my life. even tho i know i'm only 6 months away from graduating i still cant get over it enough to go to school. i lay awake at night crying and shaking and i sleep with at least one light on at light i'm so scared. i never really sleep anymore because of it . whenever someone in my family is sick i always have to leave and go somewhere else. i would love to be able to reach out and talk to other people about this who suffer.

    Hi I'm also 17 I understand exactly how you feel. I had to quit school because of my phobia. It's currently 2 am and I'm up freaking out. I'm underweight too and I'm constantly worried. My boyfriend doesn't get it and I feel like I annoy him when I panic. This is such a hard thing to deal with I feel like I'll never be able to have a drink or even kids someday. I'm glad that I'm not the only one who goes through this, makes me feel less alone.

    Alexandra

    January 16, 2019

    In reply to by alexis

    I’m absolutely the same. I’m scared to eat or drink too much. I’m scared to go on the bus or even at school because I think I’m going to vomit. The worst thing is I feel nauseous all the time and I’m petrified that I’ll puke in a public place. I even stopped going training ( which I loved doing so much) because I’m scared that I’m going to puke. My parents and friends don’t understand so it will be nice to talk to someone who does

    I am 57 and have suffered with this since I was about 10. I have no problem if I feel or am sick myself but if someone else say's they feel sick............I'm off like a shot no matter what I'm doing or whoever I have to leave behind and I immediately get stomach pains and have the urge to defecate which kind of brings the saying 's..t scared' in to reality. We only have one toilet in our house so I worry about what would happen if my husband was sick and I needed the toilet at the very same time......it doesn't bear thinking about! I have to force myself to travel on public transport and if on my own I would make sure I could listen to music through head phones just in case someone was sick. Socially, I will drive myself to christmas parties etc so that I don't have to travel with people that have had a few too many, again in case they are sick in the mini bus etc. I blame myself for turning my husband in to a man that feels he can't go out and enjoy himself fully otherwise I can't cope when he returns home. I could go on and on but would be hear all night. It is a very debilitating phobia that controls what I do. I have been to counselling over it twice but nothing works so I guess I will have to carry on avoiding certain situations for the rest of my life. I don't know anyone else with this condition so have never been able to talk to anyone who understands what I go through. I'm sorry that there are more of you that suffer with this but at least we can all sympathise with each other.

    I feel the same I don’t care if I feel sick I’m just worried about others just now my sister doesn’t feel well so I’m sitting in my room in darkness and a locked door it’s so fraustrating In school it’s absolutely horrible and I hate having parties because I know someone is going to throw up

    I am the exact same and it really ruins some days. Like at school I just think oh god what if they don’t get out in time and get sick on me and like it makes you rethink everything like wanting to sit in the inside seat so the person beside you can get out easily if they feel sick. I honestly hate it like I get panic attacks and just overthink everything.

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