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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.

 

    Same! I haven’t vomited in 9 years then I vomited. I was fine but then one week later I didn’t eat and when I did I would get nervous and I though I would puke. Even though I knew I would.

    Wow I never knew about this phobia intill I red this page I thought I was always the only one that had this phobia i had it since I was 8 I have gone on a plane a few times I would feel dizzy, nausea and sore throat but I have never actually puke. On TV I hate watching people puke and I freak when I hear the word(you know). I also am scared to go on rides at the fair and in cars, to doctors and
    dentists I have fell a bit better that I am not the only one.

    Hi. I’m sorry to hear that. I’m the same way & right now my anxiety is worse than ever. My mom got the stomach bug last night but I’ve been at my dads house & now i’m at my boyfriends for the night. I’ve been constantly praying I don’t get it. It’s 1am & I feel nauseous probably from anxiety.

    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've been dealing with ongoing nausea for over a month now. I'm not sure whats wrong with me. I'm hoping the doctors figure it out, because I have this phobia so strongly and have since I was a child. I can barely eat I can barely function. My stomach is killing me most of the day and it seems like I'm just living off if zofran right now...im so miserable and my fiance doesn't understand this phobia or why I start panicking because of it...its just pure misery and I feel so helpless especially since I'm a mom of 2...i can't handle hearing my fiance puke, it even bothers me when my children do it...i feel like such a horrible mom and fiance 😟

    I am exactly the same. I have two young children and I get cared everyday incase they get sick or even worse..I do. I’m 34 and this has been going on my whole life but is getting worse. I’m actually going to seek help on Tuesday so fingers crossed it helps.

    I have always been a bit scared of vomit and feeling sick, but it was about five years ago when i did actually vomited and have been terrified ever since. I always would feel sick and was scarred to go anywhere. I am 15 now and have gotten better but am scared to start work or go to school or even just to a friends house. I worried most nights that i will wake up during the night and feel sick because i had do that before. Reading these comments i have all the same problems. I find if hard to talk to any one that doesn't have this phobia because all they tell you is that you just have to get over it and you will be find or something like that , but when you have that phobia it just not that easy.

    I just wanted to say please please speak to someone who can help you. I so wish I had when I was your age. I'm 31 now and I struggle so much now that my own children are bringing illness home from school with them. I feel like I have suffered with emetaphobia my whole life, but in reality I think it started when I was in my teens. I won't moan too much because you already know how controlling this awful phobia is, but please, fight it now so you can start to live the rest of your life without its hold over you x

    I also have three children and my fear is so bad...sometimes I even think I shouldn't have had 3 children because I know this raises the chances of them bringing home the dreaded bug...the fear controls my life....i have never gotten drunk for fear of a hangover, don't like to travel, and have daily thoughts and worry about nausea and vomiting😟

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

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

    I also have two kids and have the phobia. I am also a kindergarten teacher which is my passion but I don't know if I can handle it anymore. I just got the stomach bug from my classroom even though I was so careful about hand washing. I know that I should just v and I will be over the sickness sooner but my body won't let me and I just feel awful. And then comes the fear that my kids will get it. I have been seeing a counselor for 6 months and I thought it was helping but now I feel back at ground zero. I am loosing hope. Anyone have advice?

    How do you deal when your kiddos are sick? I have a 4 year old little girl and freak out when she’s coming down with something. I have never gotten drunk for the same reason you haven’t, I don’t won’t to feel sick! It’s such a terrible phobia!!!:(

    This phobia is taking over my life. Iv had this ever since I was a kid, I’d always feel sick at school and get sent home, I’d drive my parents mad they thought I was getting bullied but I was I generally felt sick every day. As an adult I now no this is some sort of anxiety disorder. I now have three children and every time they are ill my husband has to deal with them. I felt slightly sick tonight and Iv worked myself up into such a state I’m atill up at 12 at night. I can’t sleep as I’m scared I’m going to be sick, Iv took an anti sickness tablet that hasn’t worked, my chest is pounding I feel so ill and I don’t no if it’s my anxiety or I have a bug. I haven’t been sick but Iv got myself in such a state I could cry. Anyway know any techniques I can try? Iv tried my anxiety music but I’m to far gone for that Tonight help!!

    Hey Emma, i'm 17 i know it might sounds odd the listen to someone younger then you are but i can understand the feeling you have. I used to keep my parents up for hours in the middle of the night because i was crying in the bathroom freaking out and breathing so heavily that i would almost pass out. Nothing of the usual stuff that help me out was working in these situation, they always happens in the middle of the night I would usually wake up in panic as if i just had a nightmare and it feels like my stomach is being crushed down. It used to happens really often but now that i started to know what caused then most of the time and how to make them go away it stopped happening. I realized that it usually happen when ate right before going to bed so i stopped and it got better, but it was still happening so I instead figured out what to do when it happen and what worked the best for me is to first cover myself with a blanket and that really help to stop myself from shaking like crazy and it make me fells better. Then what really make the pain go away, I take a wet piece of cloth but rub it on my face gently and that help bringing me back to reality and realize i'm freaking out, then i drink a little bit of water and try to go back to sleep and honestly it work most of the time! :) Hope that can help you out or anyone that have a similar issue :D

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

    Hi, i too suffer from these problems and if this happens again then maybe this will help. Get a little notebook and write and draw anything you like about the phobia/anxiety e.g what helps, who you can speak to, what to do when you feel a panick attack coming, what you have done today that you are proud of etc. I also find not only reading it but writing in it too helps when those hard times come. Also another thing that really helps me is if you google 'mindfulness' it is really helpful to calm me down, i just remember what is happening RIGHT NOW? Nothing!! i am just sat on my bed, nothing bad is happening. I find it really hard to stay in the moment as can anyone who suffers from these things so that can really help. Also see everything in a positive way, this can really change your perspective on things. Try to see the good that they bring in the long term. i really hope this has helped you, i know it is the most horrible mental battle but you are supported and i know that when you feel ill it can feel like the longest time ever but its really not. imagine if you are sick how good you will feel the next day knowing that you got through it and that it is over. x

    That’s exactly right, you are not alone, always remember that there are other people out there that struggle. I also have this debilitating fear..but we can all learn to cope..
    Here are some tips I use:
    Deep Breaths
    Finger tapping or just occupying yourself (CBT)
    Talking to someone
    Drawing
    Writing
    Hope this helped
    Take care <3

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

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

    I have also suffered this I think most of my life I can remember in vivid detail each time I have been sick (not that many tho) but the fear of it drives me crazy with worry. I am now 46 and things have improved slightly as I have been prescribed for the last 20 years anti nausea pills which I carry with me religiously so it’s like my crutch. My fears were out of control which my kids were young I could not go out to restaurants as I feared getting good poisoning, prawns and any seafood were completely off the menu as was chicken unless I cooked it myself. I was a nervous wreck when the kids were young bringing home the dreaded vomit and diahorrea bug I would be on complete meltdown and turmoil inside but at the same time trying to be a good mum nursing the kids better. I tried cognitive behaviour therapy but I did not work for me 100% although I did take from it deep breathing as you can’t be anxious and calm at the same time and deep breathing does calm you down. Good luck everyone I feel your woes and don’t think I’ll ever be 100% cured of this phobia but I try to focus on wellbeing and I a lot better now than when I was younger 😃

    Janine I have just read your comment at 2am while I am wide awake freaking out that I am going to be sick. I am only 22 and have been suffering this since I was 18. I feel like my mind is way to old for my body because of things I avoid (alcohol). Friends find it difficult to understand I can’t drink alcohol - the main reason I don’t is cause I’m scared I’ll vomit from being too drunk or from the hangover. It does however make me very anxious on occasions.
    I had a coffee yesterday for the first time in a long time and I ended up having the worst heart palpitations for most of the day then felt sick when they went away.
    I have tried CBT many times, hypnotherapy, kinesiology, have been tested for all types of gastro issues cause part of me doesn’t believe or won’t believe it’s my anxiety. I have been on antidepressants for 4 years now and yes they help a bit but I go through stages where I want to be strong enough and well enough to not have to rely on them.
    Sorry for the rant I know everyone knows what it’s like. I am just so glad I found a page like this!

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

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

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

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

    I’m the same way, it started last year after I got really sick. I’m scared to death about it and I overthink it all the time ands it’s starting to take over my life I feel sick all the time and whenever I start to get the feeling that I’m going to puke I get so scared I will start crying and my whole family doesn’t seem to understand why I’m so scared of it and I’ll start shaking non stop I have to get up and walk around to keep me distracted or talk to someone and I get even more scared if I’m alone and get sick. I always tell myself it isn’t a big deal and if I puke I’ll feel better but it just doesn’t help and it scares me so much and I wish it didn’t.

    I have the similar thing. When I was in pre primary I had a girl who was sick right next to me. I didn’t like the sound or even the smell. So I thought I was going to be sick, so of course they called my parents. When I got out of the class room I was fine.

    I’m 15 almost 16 and I’m still scared to be around people who vomit I try and avoid people who are going to be sick because if I’m near them I start to shake I start to panic but I want to help them feel better but I just can’t. I haven’t been able to vomit in years but wanting to because I wanted to feel better. It never really happened that way my body still freaks out and so do I.

    I have only really told one friend about this phobia because I’m to embarrassed to tell anyone eles. I think my parents and sister know about but don’t really think much of it they just got use to me freaking out. I have manage to control it a bit better. Trying to focus on That isn’t in the room or day dream. I tend to freak out less

    Im reading you comment while in bed having a panic attack over this very thing. Reading this comment started making me feel better and then the very last line about you being a teenager made it all come together for me im only 19 and what you discribed is very close to my life. Thank you for making me not feel alone.

    Also currently in the middle of a panic attack about this. Usually doesn't happen this late at night, but now I'm freaking out about potentially getting sick. Being around family/little ones for the holidays doesn't help me feel any better, either. I just want my phobia to go away.

    I didn’t know it was a phobia until now. My sister has been throwing up lots and I have been terrified of getting it. Now I am in bed feeling sick and am scared to go to sleep in case I am sick.

    It’s almost ten at night and I feel sick so I’m freaking out. I’m 18 and have the same issues. I am so scared to throw up it is honestly controlling my life.

    Hi! I was feeling sick after eating a pizza. I’m 12 years old and have had this phobia for 5 years. It’s horrible and I just want it to go away!

    I have never related to something more in my life. I do online college, I hate eating at restaurants or anywhere other than home, I won’t drive or go anywhere alone, and I haven’t had an alcoholic beverage in about 2 years. I HAVE TO GET PAST THIS

    Alex

    December 27, 2017

    In reply to by Bailey Sirmons

    I can relate! When I was in grade school, I once threw up at a restaurant. After that, every time I went to one I got nauseous. I knew it was in my head but I still lost my appetite and hated eating out. Someone put me on a placebo and I haven't had the issue since. However, I sometimes get anxiety (it's happening more and more often since I am facing a big transition point in my life) and whenever I'm out of my comfort zone I get nauseous. It also sucks because I get anxiety over feeling nauseous, so it's a vicious cycle. It's awful and it has honestly ruined a lot of stuff for me (Christmas dinners, eating food while traveling, just being happy)

    I had a similar experience where I threw up in the movie theater... Ok technically in the bathroom of the theater. Now I avoid everything I ate that day, I feel nauseous just thinking about going there and since then I've developed severe OCD around washing my hands, sanitizing my environment, etc. It really sucks. I hate feeling this way. There was an article in the local paper about the stomach bug going around and it made me anxious to basically leave my house. So now I'm sitting at work, anxious, scrubbing everything with little alcohol pads and using hand sanitizer every few minutes. It is comforting to know that I'm not the only one who feels this way. I desperately wish I could just stop it.

    I did not go to school today because of this... I too suffer from this phobia and I got sick from a restaurant on Christmas until New Years I was feeling so bad I went to the hospital and I was dehydrated... if my friend feels nauseous or her stomach hurts I try to get away from her, well from anyone. I was eating breakfast, milk and cookies and minutes after my stomach started hurting and I burp and it’s not pleasant at all... I need help, I want to talk to someone. My mom and dad are currently at work and I’m scared and panicking...

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