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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 fear since I can remember & never threw up as a kid or teen because I could control it well. Unfortunately, my parents realised my fear as a child & intensified it by gagging & faking the whole process.. it always sent me into a panic attack.
    But in the last two years, I’ve had a few stomach bugs which have resulted in me being sick. At first I had to cover my ears & eyes to be able & it took a while before I could take my hands off my ears. I’m now pregnant & struggled with morning sickness every day throughout the first trimester & I was able to open my eyes if needed & let it happen. I think it’s also better because I’m silent when sick.
    I still absolutely can not deal with anyone else though, I am trying to be better. My fear now only applies to when others are sick or tell me they feel unwell. Still have panic attacks & it frustrates me.
    So glad to know I’m not the only one struggling to deal with this.
    I’ll overcome this one day.. hopefully :c

    When I first read this I immediately felt better knowing this was a really thing. That I’m not crazy for being afraid of vomit. When I was in kindergarten I got the stomach bug at school and everyone laughed at me when I threw up. I remember always being a little afraid of vomit but as soon as I became an adult around age 21/22 my fear took over my life. All the sudden I was always surrounded by it. On a road trip my mom got sick in the car, on a girls trip my roommate got sea sick, at college all the hungover people, and I stared student teaching in first grade where it seemed someone puked every week. On the outside I look brave when it happens. I’m not a great person to be around when you’re sick because I won’t touch you but I don’t run away screaming or crying. You would think after a year of all that vomit that I would be over my fear but it became even worse. Those experiences scared me even more. They ruled my life. I called in sick most days of student teaching and if I did go to school I was nauseous all day and wouldn’t eat. I even started re considering my career. One where I could work from home. My fear of vomit tuned into a fear of almost everything. Road trips, trips, school, the car, being out, alcohol, teaching, rides, bars, doctors office... and more. I’m proud to say that I’m now a first grade teacher and I don’t let this fear rule my life but I still fill with the fear each day

    So when I was younger I was on a car journey to a holiday and I ate too much and 'suffered the consequences' if that makes sense. Ever since that I have been worried it would happen again and managed to avoid this fear however by not eating anything before a 3 ish hour journey on holiday and it worked until last year when my dog was shaken around a lot in the car and she 'suffered the consequences' and that triggered my very first panic attack whilst I was in the car and I very suddenly felt tense and 'unwell' and since then I have been suffering with anxiety because of this and hate the idea of travelling on holiday at all to the point where I ha e to choose between going on holiday with my family or letting my family take the dog on holiday without me. Does anyone have any tips?

    Anything is welcome please just try and help me. Thank you

    I’m 18 and I’ve had a fear of throwing up since I was pretty young. The last time I have thrown up was when I was in 3rd grade and I just graduated high school. Although I’ve had some pretty bad panic attacks that have led me to being on the brink of vomiting. I’m scared to go pretty much anywhere with crowds or areas where it’s likely someone will vomit. When my boyfriend throws up I’m scared to get close to him for days. He isn’t scared of it like I am so he tries to calm me down when I feel like this. The thing is is that I feel like I only sike myself out and the worst thing about this is probably just being Scared before it happens and I don’t want to put myself through that fear twice if I do end up throwing up. I ate some food last night that I think might be making me sick and I am beyond paranoid and that’s why I’m obsessively looking stuff up right now because I’ve never had food poisoning, I don’t want to, and now I’m scared to eat anything after this That could potentially be contaminated. I need to prevent this better but I would like to get over my fear. I have thought about literally dying or killing myself so that I Dont puke And I know it Isn’t right. I don’t want exposure therapy either though that would be traumatizing.

    I am 14 at the moment and I think I have a huge fear of throwing up. If I see vomit then I will feel sick if I even see the word vomit it will make me feel a little sick. Every time I feel as if I am about to throw up I start to panic and cry and I have to go to my mom (she has always been with me if I throw up). The only time I didn’t cry was when I was on a boat a couple of years ago and I never really get travel sick like ever but that time I just was sick and I got all shaky. Today I have had a bit too much too drink and I have an upset stomach and I’m really scared that I’m going to wake up in the night and throw up. The last time I did was around 3 months ago and I’m really scared. Wish me luck!

    Surprisingly, I'm 15. I started having intense anxiety attacks over fear of throwing up. Strangely, it would only happen in the evening/night. Once the evening would come, I'd either start to worry about being alone and dealing with the anxiety, or dealing with vomiting. Or it would just start up randomly. I still have it and I'm looking into getting over it. Strange enough, though. It doesn't bother me to see my dog vomit, r to read/hear the word. But if a human gets sick, I have to stay far away (Which I think is true for most) But I understand and feel for all of you. We can get through this!

    Anywhere I go if I hear someone cough Till they gag my heart drops N start having a anxiety attack sometimes I can’t breath or can but if I can I’ll start breath fast n I cover my ears N Sing 2days ago my friend came to my house n stayed over n She started chocking on. A noddle she started coughing her face was red she told to get water but I was to scared I ran to my room n locked the door cz didn’t want her to come near me n sat on the floor n cover my eyes I just can’t It’s my biggest fear

    its like if someone says they feel sick i move away from them and if it happens at my house i disinfect my whole house and if i feelthe temtatiom to vomit i freak out and dig skin off my fingers and toes ahhhh someone help!

    I'm 20 and I've had emetophobia for as long as I can remember. I get scared to eat sometimes. Mine usually hits worse at night time. I shake. I get into a cold sweat I get very nauseous but never puke. I try to breathe deep and eventually it'll end but I'm so tired of dealing with this fear. I hate it.

    Every time I start to feel like I’m going to throw up I start getting shaky and my heart starts pounding and I start sweating really bad and once I do throw up I don’t get it out all at once in between throwing up every time I start to hyperventilate and can’t breath and start walking back and forth with something in my hand fanning myself for air I was never like that growing up it all started when I got pregnant with my son and since then I’ve always been that way and I’m currently 6 weeks pregnant right now and honestly it’s the only thing that’s making me not want to be pregnant cause the throwing up I just can’t handle it and I can’t stand to be alone while throwing up but i know no one is going to want to stand next to me while I throw up and most the time I will go outside to throw up so I don’t feel as claustrophobic claustrophobic

    Ever since I can remember I had a fear of being sick. When I was a little girl, I would always wake up through the night feeling sick, shaking and sweating and would scream for my mum and I always needed her if I was sick. This is what started the fear. 2010 was the last I was sick. Then last year in 2019, where I had almost gotten over the fear because I had gone 9 years without being sick, I was always able to convince myself id never be sick. I was on a date with my boyfriend at the time at the cinema, where I started to feel very hot (sick also but convinced myself im never sick), it got to the stage were the sweat was dripping down my face and I had a panic attack, so went outside for fresh air. As I opened the door of the cinema screen I started to gag which does happen to me when I have a panic attack, so I just thought I was panicking go headed out the shopping centre for the doors outside. Just at that I started to projectile vomiting all over the lobby of the cinema, this causing me to panic more so I ran outside.
    I phoned my mum straight after it happened and actually laughed as I was so shocked from what had just happened. The fact I was on a date, was then covered in sick, has brought the fear back worse than ever before.
    I now can’t go out for dinner without having a panic attack, I always sleep with a bucket next to me as I panic, I panic at the thought of sleeping at my boyfriends house. It is well and truly taking over my life. The whole vomiting actually wasn’t as bad as I thought, it is more now the thought and the fact last year I had no warning, I had absolutely no idea I was going to be sick. So now I am terrified I dont make it to the toilet.
    When ever I go out to the shopping, dinner, anything I alway plan what I would do if I was going to be sick. I look for the nearest toilet, I take bags with me just to put my mind at ease. I will do anything to sort it.
    I would appreciate any support or help possible.

    I'm not so sure if I have a phobia or not. But whenever I get the feeling I'm going to throw up I feel scared that I'm going to. Like I don't want to and I'm scared too. Do I have a phobia or I'm just scared of throwing up?

    emetophobia really messes everything up for me. a few months ago, i couldnt sleep at all ‘cause i kept on panicking over fearing that from the nausea i was feeling, i would throw up, for 2 weeks every single night. one night even my mom came in my room to calm me down, i was shaking, trembling and breathing batshit crazy, over just simple nausea.
    it has gotten better, but im still very scared. i used to think, that i throw up my food, so if i dont eat...i wont throw up. yeah, i completely fucked up my body and hormones, dont starve yourself. but physical activity has been a big fear aswell. i think that if i eat less than 3 hours before some sort of exercise, my body will eliminate food through my mouth. im still really scared of gym class, since school is starting, in the first week we dont know the classes order, so i dont know when and what to eat.
    i hate this so much.

    The “V” word or anything about it stresses me to a different level i start to get very anxious. It’s usually when someone else is sick and vomits. The sound effects make my heart feel like it’s about to explode and it gets hard to breath. I wouldn’t say i’m afraid of me vomiting it’s more of others around me having to. I automatically have to get away from them and plug headphones in because if not i start to believe i can’t breath and if i don’t get out of there my heart will burn and i won’t be able to breath. Even if a close friend is sick and needs my help it doesn’t matter because i just CAN NOT help them without having a huge panic.

    What you are describing is exactly how I was. If my kids were sick or told me they were going to be, I would block my living room door with my sofa and I would either turn my tv up or put headphones on, so I couldn’t hear anything. It was terrible

    The fear of getting sick has consumed my life pretty much since I can remember. When I was a kid, every single night I would feel nauseous before I went to bed, and because of this I would always wake up my parents and ask them to fix it. I found out much later in life that my nausea was because of my anxiety, but at the time they put me through treatments and tests that lasted years to make me feel better. After awhile, I would stop complaining about my stomach hurting, because my parents thought I was making it up and bothering them for no reason. I’m now 18 and in my first year of college. I don’t drink for fear of getting sick, if my stomach starts to hurt at all I will stay up in my room’s common area, where the bathroom is, in case I get sick. I’ve also developed an attachment to a heat pack that I usually use for period cramps, which I’m convinced eases my stomach pain. My best advice to those who are struggling with this, especially coupled with general anxiety, is to distract yourself with something you enjoy. I’m a film major, so I’ll usually watch a comforting movie, and maybe do some homework. I personally don’t like talking to anyone else about how I’m feeling while I’m feeling sick, but that might help too. Also, it always helps to find people who are also afraid of getting sick. With most others I feel like I’m being over dramatic.

    I have suffered from Emetaphobia, since I was little. I was diagnosed with it when my child developed a condition called Pyloric Stenosis, and my health visitor picked up on my strange behaviour. Not being able to hold my baby, calling an ambulance because she PV’d her bowel contents and locking myself in the back garden, until she was gone, not being able to be in hospital. It was very, very severe and effected my girls and me in ways only someone else with the same phobia could understand. It ruled my life, and destroyed the early years with my girls.

    My GP referred to this amazing therapist who decided my phobia was so severe, I couldn’t wait for an CBT appointment on the NHS, so the NHS funded new to go private.

    Please note I use the past tense when talking about this.

    So on certain medication to help me, I attended these CBT appointments. My therapist said there is two types of emetaphobia. The fear of vomiting yourself and the fear of seeing someone else vomit. I had both.

    The CBT was amazing. I also learned a technique call EMDR. It is all about eye and finger movement.

    When I first started, I thought I was a lost course. But my god did it work.

    So New Year’s Eve, 2 years ago, I had food poisoning, and it was the first time I had vomited since I was 13 (luckily I didn’t get any sickness during both my pregnancies and deliveries). Now I had a horrendous panic attack before I was sick, but I used my tools I had learned during my CBT, which helped so much whilst I was being sick.

    A similar event happened in the May, when I had a tooth infection which spread to the bone. The pain from that made me vomit. No panic attack before that event.

    So, last March, I started work as a Bouncer, dealing with a lot of intoxicated people. The first time I had to deal with vomit, was when a very intoxicated lady, who collapsed. The lads I was working with, took the piss out of her and refused to help.

    I phoned 999 and the ambulance service told me what to do. The second I put her in the recovery position, she was sick, and I was told I had to put my finger in her mouth to make sure her mouth and airway was clear.

    God knows how I kept my composure and didn’t run, but I did it, and was fine.

    Strangely at work, I can deal with it, but I still panic when my kids are sick. Luckily now, they are at an age where they don’t even tell me when they are sick.

    It is still a work in progress, but I am 100X better than what I was 13 years ago.

    I thought nothing and nobody could help me. I still panic a little in the winter, but it did work. I am all for CBT, EMDR and Regressive Hypnosis. They worked for me

    I used to get nauseous from thinking about being nauseous all the time and it got better for a couple months, but I felt sick in school on Tuesday and ever since I’ve been worrying about it so much and I’m supposed to be in google meets for school right now but I just don’t feel good.. I always pray to Jesus about everything and especially my anxiety about being nauseous but when i feel sick is when my faith is so low. The enemy always seems to do this when I need my faith the most. When I was in a different meet today I almost threw up and it got to the point where I just wanted to throw up to feel better.. I’m only 13, too, and idrc about “living my teen life” because I live for Jesus, I just wish that this would go away. The Lord always helps me with nausea but I still continue to have low faith in Him when I feel sick. O’ Lord help me please, heal me, O’ Lord, our God Almighty. Heal everybody else with this phobia, Lord. Help us grow our faith in You so we have no worries. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

    Also, please help.... every day I want to kill myself because, my phobia. Everyone says I just have stupid anxiety but actually I think it’s emetphobia however you spell it? Any tips on how I can stop feeling sick in public places because my phobia? Even the doctor said it’s just ANXIETY! I guess I have anxiety but because of my anxiety I feel sick to my stomach every day I’m out in public ( espically school) and the worst thing is that I have emetphobia so if I do retch or something I’ll probably have a panick attack or something!! I was off school for 2 weeks because I felt sick and I’ve had this feeling sick whole thing for about 4 weeks now and I always have to ask if I could go to the bathroom or first aid while I’m in class because I always feel like being sick but I never actually vomit. It all started when I was on a walk with my dad and my bff 👯‍♀️ and I really needed a drink of water because I felt like throwing up and then I retched and started panicking. I felt like I was dreaming and it wasn’t real. I started feeling sick when I ate white choclote buttons and we thought it was some food poisoning. I wasn’t sick I only retched and then I got to my dads and I still felt like vomiting so I went through one of the scariest times ever ( I had to try to make myself throw up so I will stop feeling sick so I put my fingers down my throat but nothing came out of my mouth? I was extremely scared as I have extreme emetphobia! My mum told me off when I told her I never wanna eat again because I hated food and every time I’d look at food I’d wanna be sick! I still sometimes have that feeling now. I’ve avoided going out in public ever since and my life is getting WORSE! I want to die! The craziest thing is that I haven’t thrown up in like 5 years now 🤭! It’s crazy, please help me, I’m really struggling with my emetphobia...

    I am only 12. I can't eat, sleep, travel, or do stuff my friends do.I feel like at night it is SO bad. I have to walk outside. I hate running because overrunning can make you vom... i hate the word. If I eat too much I will be sick. If I drink too much I will be sick. If I travel too much I will be sick. If im touching things I will be sick. I have to sanitise my hands.

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