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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 ever since I was little.
    Whenever my stomach feels slightly unsettled I start to worry, even if it's only indigestion or the fact that I feel hungry. I have ear buds in right now as my brother is vomiting in the next room and the sound of it makes me worry that I'm going to be sick myself. Even things such as a dry mouth or needing to cough sometimes can trigger this fear.
    I stop myself from doing a lot of things as a teenager because of it. I steer well away from alcohol because I'm scared it will make me sick.
    I hope that this fear is something that I can overcome.
    Throwing up isn't nice; but it's not worth the panic and anxiety - if it happens, it happens and then it's over. That's what I have to try and remind myself.

    I don’t remember being afraid of it when I was younger. I was never afraid of myself being sick but I remember I’d always have to hold my ears when someone was. Obviously I don’t do that now but if I’m exposed to that I get chills running all up and down my body. Over the past, I’d say 6 years, it’s started to grow into a fear that I feel could start affecting my life soon if I don’t get a hold of it. I get really anxious any time my family or friends tell me they feel nauseous or might be sick, any time I get nauseous it takes me so long to relax because I’m thinking “what if I’m sick, I can’t be sick.” But I liked something I read on here that basically said “people remember the anxiety leading up to being sick more than the actual being sick” and it’s kind of true. No one around me has this fear and any time I try to explain it they say “no one likes it, grow up.” They don’t understand it’s a real fear of mine such as their fears of confined spaces or heights or death. But anyway it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

    I know your pain. I'm the same way. I have no control of it and it's runing my life and my relationships with friends and my boyfriend. I've tried to use several calming techniques and nothing seems to work. I want to feel better but I can't. And the thought of even going to the doctors makes me sick.

    This is exactly how I feel and it really gets me down sometimes because I’m 18 and it stops me from being fun and going out Incase I’m ill. Sometimes I think if I change the bin in my room then I’m tempting fate and it will make me be sick or as soon as I go into a restaurant I look for the toilets immediately just Incase but it never happens. I just want to be a normal teenager and not be so boring because I’m so scared of being sick and not go out or do fun things. I’m about to start uni next month and I don’t want to be held back anymore.

    SAME HERE. I have the exact same fears and precautionary steps as you do. I’m in a constant state of worry because of the fear of being sick. I worked at a daycare and I caught the stomach bug 3 times in 1 year, which sparked my fear of throwing up and stomach bugs. If my stomach even starts to feel like it does when I’m about to throw up, I have a panic attack and stop everything. Most of the time, I’m just making it a lot worse. I also developed a severe fear of getting sickness of any kind, since I also was sick very often when I worked with kids. It consumes my life daily, and I worry constantly. I’m only 20 but i can’t live like a normal 20 year old because of anxiety and constant worry. I avoid people who say they feel nauseous or sick, or I have a panic attack if they stay around me too long. It’s just a mess. I’m working on counseling and positive thoughts for the time being. You’re not alone, my friend.

    Ok I just read your comment and it’s strange how similar we are😂I went out to a party last night, I’m a teenager, and I hardly drank anything in fear of throwing up. But last night when I came home I was shaking and just doing what I usually do. Convincing myself I was about to be sick. So I called my girlfriend and she distracted me even though it was horrible for her to see me like that. I’ve woke up this morning feeling exactly the same but I’m having my hair dyed at the hairdressers in a few hours and I don’t want to go in the car because what if I’m sick? If I was going to be sick surely I would have been sick already?? Right??

    I just want it to go away too i’m so young and i just hate being so scared all the time of being sick. i don’t avoid eating, but i am always nervous whenever i’m dizzy or bloated or nauseous. it tears me apart i just want to be normal!!!!!!!

    Hello I feel the exact same way. I'm constantly worried about being sick. It's starting to control my life. I cant eat, drink, sleep, or even go out in public without being worried now. And it's so bad. I feel so down because of it and it lay awake at night just miserable because I'm so tired of it. Hopefully one day we can both find help to get over this fear.

    I have had this fear my whole life ,now I have two small children my nightmare is this time of year , both my kids have been sick today and I’m struggling to cope with life knowing I’ll probably get it , people find it funny but I would rather die than be sick, it really is ruining my life, I’ve tried everything and nothing helps , wish it didn’t bother me

    I have the same feeling at night as I stay up crying and crying I also have the same thing about going out non stop asking myself what if I’m sick what if I’m sick I didn’t eat for 7 weeks because of this and went to the doctor but they couldn’t help and they said it’s mental not physical. I stress about going out places thinking what if someone is sick there. I always scare myself with everything like this and I ant to get over it but it’s the worst thing in the world I stayed up till 5:00 am this morning with no sleep due to feeling nauseous and scared. I hate this!!!

    When i was really little, I didn’t mid sick very much, but I hadn’t a best friend who hadn’t emetophobia and it rubbernecked off on me a bit but not too badly. Now though, I am 14 and (usually when I don’t be get enough sleep) recently I’ve been feeling sick all the time and I’m conatantly stressing that I will have to run out of the classroom and be sick in the corridor and it’s starting to affect my life...

    I feel the EXACT same way. I'm 21 almost 22 with a 2 year old daughter who just threw up 3 hours ago and ever since I've been extremely nauseous just at the thought of me getting sick.. and before she through up I was just fine. Ever since senior year in high school though which was 3 years ago I've been getting anxiety almost every single night and I get very nauseous. Never throw up. I think I've thrown up from it like 2 or 3 times out of the 3 years of having anxiety but I'm currently trying to distract myself cause I'm currently extremely nauseous

    I have this phobia n it causes me all these symptoms on a daily basis. This phobia was taking over my life so i turned to professional help n ended up in the mental hospital. While i was there i did millions of exposures related to vomit.

    I have this exact issue . always scared to go places, be in a space with people all around me. I always have to find out where the nearest bathroom is and I plan out what i'd do in my head if I had to throw up. it's really annoying and sometimes I just have to force myself out of the comfort zone to where I don't have access to the nearest bathroom ect. cuz rlly like if u throw up u throw up there's nothing u can do about it and everyone's been in the situation.

    It's nice to hear that I am not alone with this. I sometimes won't eat because I am afraid I will get sick. I've lost weight because of it. Sometimes I would go for months not really eating much or refusing to eat at certain times of the day.

    This is literally the exact same as me. Every night for the past two years I have this fear before I go to sleep to the point where I could cry. I know it’s completly irrational but I just fear having a sickness bug to the point where I don’t know what I am going to do for the rest of my life because I can’t go in living with this fear

    i have the same issue. i just wanna live my life as a regular teenager. sometimes if i have a little stomach ache i’ll stay up all night doing everything i can to get it to go away. it’s bad, my phobia is very bad. i’m glad we can relate :). hope everything gets better with you :)

    I’m the same way! I have had this phobia of puke for as long as I can remember.. I’m 22 years old now and if someone coughs around me I’m running away into another room in fear they might throw up.. if someone is puking and they are in the same place I am I’m turned away or in another room plugging my ears making loud noises so I can’t hear them puking...it has gotten a lot better sense I got older but when I was younger I would stay awake every night thinking I might puke and cry to my mom multiple times a night to help me feel better bc my anxiety would be so bad about it that I eventually would make myself feel nausea just thinking about me throwing up.

    I honestly feel the exact same way it’s actually pushing all the important people in my life away... I wanna change I wanna be able to live my life but I can’t go anywhere without feeling like I’m gonna get sick and then I panick... I can’t sleep anywhere unless there’s an empty trash can beside me and I’m knocked up on melatonin... I have been fired from calling in so often and it’s tearing my family apart...

    I have this phobia honestly so bad, I’ll stay awake just because I think I’m gonna puke when most of the time it’s in my head , I just wish I could change this about me I feel like everyone thinks I’m a baby I get to the point I cry and skate uncontrollably and ir sucks ignore I even think about puking I get nauseous I would like someone to talk to about this stuff someone who has this phobia in common

    I don’t know if you’ll ever read this but I hope your better. I have the same issue. And I hate it so much words can’t describe how much I hate it. What helps me is watching funny YouTube videos (particularly daz watches), smelling lavender, and lying down. And if you have a sister or brother venting might help. P.s i really hope your better because I know how horrible it is:)

    This is the comment that I have relayed the most to. This fear I have, has severely become worse since I got a job at a daycare...where the stomach bug is inevitable every winter season. I am writing back to you in an anxious state, because, even though I was not physically at the center when the stomach bug was exposed yesterday, I still live in fear that I have it. This phobia has truly impacted my life deeply. It has hindered how far I can go away from home, and has made me extremely dependent on people who have helped me through a bout of sickness. I fear I will never be able to truly grow up and venture out into the world on my own due to this phobia. I wish there was a simple fix.

    I totally get where you are coming from. I can count on one hand the times I was actually sick and throwing up. I have my weeks that are just awesome and I don’t think about it but then I have days just like what you are talking about. I used to not feel this way and the sad thing is I am now 35 years old and it scares me to death. When I can’t get out of the house like in the winter it really gets to me.
    It’s nice to hear that there are other people who are going through the same thing and have ideas or even ways in copping with this fear that sounds small to a lot of people but to us it impacts us greatly.
    I am no therapist but if anyone would like to chat when they are having this problem please feel free to email me a Patrick.massey7@gmail.com.

    I totally get where you are coming from. I can count on one hand the times I was actually sick and throwing up. I have my weeks that are just awesome and I don’t think about it but then I have days just like what you are talking about. I used to not feel this way and the sad thing is I am now 35 years old and it scares me to death. When I can’t get out of the house like in the winter it really gets to me.
    It’s nice to hear that there are other people who are going through the same thing and have ideas or even ways in copping with this fear that sounds small to a lot of people but to us it impacts us greatly.
    I am no therapist but if anyone would like to chat when they are having this problem please feel free to email me a Patrick.massey7@gmail.com.

    This vomiting fear is taking over my life I’m so scared to eat and when anyone has a bug around me or my family members get one in the house I have to leave I can’t deal with it,I’ve felt like for a long time I was just being silly an thought it weren’t a real phobia til I looked online it’s a really horrible thing to deal with I sit up all night shaking nausea making myself feel like I’m going to vomit.There isn’t a day we’re I don’t feel sick An I know it’s playing on my mind making me,I freak out when I’m up alone An I even get a stomach cramp incase I’m going to throw up and I feel like everyone thinks I’m being so dramatic.

    I'm feeling the same . I can't go to college or out with friends. it's ruining my life .I over think of an upcoming event and feel sick . I feel anxious all the time . I'm so afraid of this emetophobia. It limits my life in my room alone . I can't even eat something . It gets worse in college . I hope we all get well soon.

    I also have this problem majorly. I have to take prescribed medication because it’s so bad and I still have anxiety attacks almost everyday about it. I’m having one rn that’s why I came to read this. It’s 11:30 on a school night and I can’t sleep bc I’m the most nauseous and it’s keeping me awake. I can’t do some everyday things because it literally takes over my life. I think into the future sometimes that I will probably never drink because I’m terrified of drinking too much and throwing up.

    I completely understand where you are coming from. Hearing the word or the sound of vomit to me is like someone holding a gun to my head. The fear is extreme and I’m sure it came from my childhood. I’ve saw many ppl throw up and I think over time I’ve developed an intolerance. This fear preventing me from having kids and being around kids. at 26 I had a kid. During my pregnancy I vomited 2x due to a bug and food poinsening. Now my daughter is 3 and I worry she will throw up soon. It’s like it gets better with time but the anxiety of it happening is daily. I really hope I am able to help her when she gets sick. My normal first instinct is to run. 😖😔

    If someone in class feels sick I get really upset and nervous and I don’t go out much with friends and I don’t eat stuff that could possibly make u ill , I’m only 13 it’s really hard absolutely ruining my life ;(

    this is not dramatic i fear of this every single day.i can do colds fevers ANYTHING as long as im not throwing up,and when i do throw up because ether i have a hangover or usally when i get sick its the stomach flu. i just cry im still young not in college just yet but, whenever im sick my mom will take me to get IV's and they make me feel so much better. this one time i had to make myself throw up because i was so hungover and thought maybe if i just threw up the feeling would go away and thankfully it did but the experience was terrifiying.

    I do feel bad whenever one of my friends get sick .
    But there's nothing I can do about it .Sometimes they ask me to hold up their hair ,but I say "no no no no I can't " with tears rolling down my face.
    The other day at school two of the people sitting right next to me were vomiting and I asked the teacher if i could move to a different seat for today because I was crying at the thought of them vomiting one more time.The teacher just giggled and said "Get over yourself its only a bit of vomit, you don't need to over react!"

    I feel your pain. This phobia has ruined many of my days as well. But to you and all of you reading this, please don’t make yourselves think you’re crazy. You’re not alone. We’re all here talking about the same thing! We’re all going to be alright.

    I most definitely have this phobia and have had it for years starting in high school. It affects me when I go to sleep, making me worried I will get sick at night, when I’m out with friends or family just doing something as simple as going out to eat, it makes me anxious to go on long trips or plane rides. Everywhere I go my first move is to locate a bathroom just Incase I have to get sick, and along with that not eating a lot of food and being hesitant trying somewhere new or being in a new area. Everything I do is affected by my anxiety to throw up, but sometimes reading that other people have this fear helps.

    As i were reading you’re comment all I thought is this is so like me it’s crazy, I’m also a teenager I’ve just turned 15 recently and have benn suffering with this for nearly 4 years now it’s horrible I stopped going school completely for 3 years because this fear led to me having acrophobia and I would not leave the house at all. Now I have home schooling so atleast I’m getting my education but would love to just go school again as it’s such a special thing which I didn’t realise until I couldn’t make myself go anymore I can now leave the house but will only stay around my area where I can see my home it’s not as far as I’d like to go as I want to go out with friends meet new people and go out with family on holidays\days out but it’s a step forward atleast x

    I’m about to start college in August and I’m ready to go except I’m terrified of being sick. I carry around nausea medication like it’s my life vest and I’m not enjoying my life to the fullest due to the fact that I’m scared certain things will make me sick. I went to a therapist for a while but she seemed to think that my fear was due to some previous trauma, so what she was doing didn’t help me. I’d really like to know what some people are doing to get rid of this fear.

    I am exactly like you, it ruins every day of life and at night I'm always shaking too and so anxious. I missed a 3 day camp because of this and I used to love camps but I'm so scared because the last time "it" happened it was on vacation. I try to distract myself but then I remember, and I remember exactly how it felt when "it" happened and I'm really afraid. But what makes me feel better is talking to a loved for support and having fun, you may remember "it" while talking or having fun but just say to yourself: I'm going to be okay, I'm going to be okay. I never knew somebody else had this fear but even worse. I am happy to know someone feels how I feel. Hope this helps to all of you people that have emetophobia: Stay strong! You will be okay!

    Hi, it’s scary how much I feel the same. I get the exact same thoughts as you do. Times when I have had a stomach bug before I fear that will happen again and it is so bad it does get me into some bad states, I’ve over come this before I used to have it when I was younger for years but I went for the therapy but took me 3 years to get over it. I had a time in my life when I did not have the slightest bit of anxiety and I was a different person but then I did get ill and ever since then it’s been my biggest fear again and stops me from eating and everything. I still go out with my friends but when I’m out I will more than likely have a panic attack. But it does take time and I know that if I got over it then I can do it again but god it is killing me. I feel like shit.

    Hey hun i have just read wot u put and I'm 100% the same..I wake every night and think I'm gonna b sick but I'm not... I know u wrote ur story a couple of years ago but would like to know if u have found a cure... I'm on Facebook Laura yates if u could message me... I can't cope any more 😭 xx

    I feel the exact same. When im out in public i always scan the room for the nearest trashcan. Its sad because i have had this fear forever but i just got worse in the past year or so. I dont know how to help myself, im 18 years old about to go to college and i havent even gotten sick since i was 7 years old. I think not remembering anything besides my traumatic memories makes it worse.

    I understand u completely I really do. I just tell myslef that everything’s gonna be ok I breathe and say to myself that if I do get sick it’s ok because it only happens for a day or two then it’s over and I’ll live

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