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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.

 

    Hi, thank you for all of your comments it really makes me feel like I’m not alone. I’m fifteen and I’ve been struggling with anxiety and having a phobia of vomiting at the same time for about seven years now. When I was 12 I just had this vicious cycle every night because I had some trouble at school which made me stress over and when I get stressed I get this funny feeling in my head, throat and stomach which made me believe that I was sick and I was terrified about being sick so I stressed out about the fact that I didn’t feel well so I always asked myself what If questions non stop. My parents had to come in every night reassuring me that i was going to be okay and that everything was alright. After going to a psychologist for five years about the fear of vomiting the cycle had finally stopped when I got to 13 but it just got more bumpy and it still has but ever since my last session with the psychologist I don’t have the cycle at night time anymore and I don’t think about it as much. Unfortunately there are times when my anxiety plays up out of nowhere and I feel sick so I get stressed about it. I still have a problem with vomiting and I feel like it’s not going to go away but my body and mindset is stronger about the situation then I was a couple of years ago but I just can’t figure out why I don’t like it. It’s a thing for the body to do and I shouldn’t worry about this I shouldn’t worry about anything as a matter of fact. I just need some answers ://

    I do feel sick all the time cuz I think that a queasy feeling is sickness and start to worry about throwing up but this didn’t really tell me what to do to help it but it will be harder to go because I also suffer from high anxiety

    Omg that happens to me. I get so scared I will end up having a panic attack just because my stomach is grumbling or if I feel discomfort.

    Hi, i think I have emetophobia , when my little sister was sick in the same room as me I felt like I was going to faint. It's scary because I'm not sure what causes it I have has thus since I was 5 now I'm 12 even reading about this gave me anxeity or if someone says the "v" word I feel a wave of anxeity run through my body thanks for telling me about this
    -molly

    Hi, you know Brent Rivera hes my older brother and he just pucked and i was so afraid i ran to my room and tried to figure out how to stop being scared of puke!
    And i came across this website so for 1 hour ive read it over and over but i cant get over vomit or puke please help (i know you will) LEXI RIVERA😤😥

    I have had this for ages and it never has gotten better it started when I was in grade three and I am now in grade 11 it has stopped me from eating what I like being away from my mum because I'm scared of vomiting there and I used to always every 5 minutes I'd ask my mum 'mum I don't feel right am I going to vomit' and I was just wondering if someone else has my story

    Don't worry about it, I have a severe anxiety disorder and one of the things I fear most, although I find being sick releaving, I am VERY scared. Don't worry, it will go away soon, and if you weren't sick it would be even worse, remember, it's your bodies way of getting rid of the bad stuff. Good luck -Mark

    I'm exactly the same! I'm in year 11 and I'm still terrified of being sick. I also ask "do you think I'll be sick?" When I get a stomach ache and it really gets in the way of me doing fun stuff :( I can't even go on rollercoasters with my school when we go on trips - I just want to get over the fear so that I can start having more fun again :(

    Im entering the tenth grade. When i was in fourth grade we went on this three day trip to camp kern and this girl in my class threw up in fron of all of us. It didnt exactly bother me but i didnt feel right the rest of the night and kept getting up to see if i was sick. From then on i had an intense phobia of puking. It kind of went away towards the end of the year until the next year when i went on the trip again. It was so awful. The summer after fifth grade i told myself it would get better and i would feel better. And i did. It never went away totally i still got freaked out whenever i thought i might get sick or someone around me mighr get sick, but it wasnt exactly a daily thought and fear anymore. These past few weeks this summer though its been coming back a bit. Mostly when im trying to go to bed though and i have nothing to distract my mind. I basically take the smallest gurgling of my stomach and freak myself out thinking ill throw up. It hasnt been too bad but its not going away and im mad bc its back during summer for no reason and i dont want to deal with this again. I honest to god know that throwing up is healthy and not actually that bad, i do. But somehow i cant get it out of my mind when i think i might. And i also know i wont. But i twist it so i feel like i will. It helps talking to my mom or dad abt it bc they can always make me see reason, but i dont want to always be waking them up. I dont want this to bwcome something that interferes with my life again.

    i don't know if you will see this, but i want you to know you're clearly not alone. i've been dealing with this fear for a long time now. it isn't easy, and what is harder is when you feel alone because no one understands what/how you feel because they don't suffer from this fear themselves. i've been taking a prescription called Zoloft that helps my anxiety about throwing up and it has helped me calm down soo incredibly much. i used to sweat through my clothes so much in class and be soo distracted and wondering "what if i throw up what do i do oh no". thankfully i haven't been sick since i was in 8th grade (im in 11th now) but i swear, all of a sudden i felt nauseous one day and i developed this huge fear about throwing up. i would starve myself, would beg my mom to skip school, i could not be alone, i would shake soo much and could not stop, i would faint, it was just a hot mess. i still fear throwing up more than most people, still take my temp if i think i feel hot, still freak out time - time, but overall this medicine has helped me a lot. once i noticed i started feeling weirdness in my stomach or a little queasy i would distract myself. if i was in school and i started feeling that way i would focus hard on my work, talk to a friend, because usually its your mind that is making you sick. your mind is sooo powerful that it tells your body to do certain things. if you start freaking out thinking you'll get sick you could get sick just from freaking out, so it's best to stay calm and know that theres a 0.02% chance of you getting sick all of a sudden ( i researched ). also QUIT LOOKING AT WED MD OR RESEARCHING YOUR SYMPTOMS!!! that is so evil for your mind and you will only freak out more. trust me i would always look up my symptoms and that just made me 63989xs worse! stay calm, relax, you will get past this. the likelyhood of you getting sick is pretty slim unless you have poor hygiene. just wash your hands before you eat/ after you use the restroom remember when you set your phone down on your surfaces, that it's getting germs on your phone too so clean your phone occasionally with a disinfecting wipe. i know you're pain that you're going through, but just start a new show or buy a new coloring book and focus on that. you have to fight your mind, don't let it win! or else it's taking these days away from you. you are superior! you can do this!!

    You have the same thing as me. I don't eat what I like anymore, and I am really scared when I am away from my mom. Just remember...

    You are strong and you can get over this fear!

    I really need to get over this fear..it's getting worse over time..and I can't handle it..I get very anxious and I start shaking, I get really scared and nervous and I always leave into the other room...whenever I hear the word or even hear it touch the floor from feet away..I FREAK OUT..someone help me..seriously.

    That is the same with me! I have tried several times that I'll be better eventually, but then I start thinking around that. Like, will I ruin my new sheets, will I have to stay up all night because of this? I sometimes even just lay on the couch in the middle of the night just to clear my head. I haven't gotten sick for like 5 or 7 years, and my fear kind of went away, but then I threw up during finals last year, my fear came back and it came back strong! This fear keeps me up at night! I try so hard! How can such a little thing control my life?

    I've had the same problem for almost two years now I ask my mom every day multiple times a day am I going to be sick or I feel icky but I'll be ok but I never say I'm fine so everyone's is aware and ready if I get sick this is ruining my life and I want an answer

    I had the same problem growing up and even now. My best friend a couple months ago thought he had a really bad stomach bug (it turned out to be food poisoning) and I absolutely panicked. I downed 10 charcoal pills almost every day and avoided eating. Eventually, the anxiety made me sicker than the stomach bug ever could've. When I was little I'd always pester my mom with questions if I was gonna be sick. To this day I'm still very anxious. It sucks!

    I have the exact same story as you! When I was younger I used to have severe separation anxiety from my mum and that's when my fear of vomiting started. I'm 18 now and luckily I don't get it as much butility I have to eat really small portions of food otherwise it makes me feel sick, and it's especially bad at night. I'm still scared of being apart from my mum aswell. You're not alone x

    This made me feel a bit better of being sick. Im still scared of it, This stops me from doing a lot of things. But what you said about "Why are you freaking out?, What's the worse that can happen?" Made me feel a bit better

    I am terrified of throwing up. Originally it was not that bad I would just shake if someone threw up. Now I am terrified. Ever since my brother threw up all over the car I have not only been scared of him I have also been scared of the car. My grandparents were also on the trip and I convinced them to take me home. I am traumatized by what happened that day. We also went skiing right after the incident. I avoided my brother the whole time even though he was feeling better. I also started to feel sick because I was so scared. I stopped skiing early, and just wanted to leave. I thought I was going to throw up but I never did. Whenever I am around my crazy nice brother I am afraid he will barf all over me. I am also afraid of my best friend because she got sick on a field trip. I will say this again she is my best friend. Whenever someone has a stomach ache I avoid them as best I can. Now my family is going on a vacation to Hawaii! I do not want to go! I am scared I will throw up on the plane, or at my hotel, in the car, or on the beach. I can picture myself vomiting to! I have so many images in my mind of myself vomiting that there is nothing I dread more than going to Hawaii! This has ruined my life! I am so sad! Please help! I am only eleven!

    Hi; I'm so sorry to hear about how this has taken over your life. A fear of vomiting can be all consuming and even ruin a trip to Hawaii. Most people with a fear of vomiting feel sick to their stomach but never actually throw up. Would this best describe you? If so, that's great news! Anxiety will cause nausea but NOT make you throw up. The nausea just fools you into thinking you will barf but you really won't. You CAN beat emetophobia and it won't ruin your life. You just need to get treatment and be determined to beat it. Avoiding won't help. It will just make the phobia worse. Accept the nausea as a symptom of anxiety and get angry at the anxiety for trying to fool you into thinking you're going to vomit. You won't. Do you get motion sickness? If you don't then the airplane won't be a problem either and neither will any boats you go on in Hawaii. Don't let the anxiety monster fool you with his tricks. Find a therapist who specializes in anxiety to help you overcome this problem.

    I know exactly how you feel I avoid eating out with people and some at home if I know I am going to go out after eating to a friends incase I'm sick it is ruining my life I have just started a new relationship and it fills me with fear the silly thing is I haven't been sick in nearly 4 years and even then it was through too much alcohol alone I can really relate to you I have started sertaline and looking into counselling to help

    Me too every time I go on vacation I am absolutely terrified that I will throw up on the plane or at the hotel or literally anywhere where I'm not at home. I'm 14 and there's a lot of stuff I love that I can't do anymore.

    I'm the same age as you. I'm afraid I'll get sick in public such as on a plane, in a restaurant, or at school. I do my best to breathe slowly but it still sucks. I wish I didn't have this phobia because it stops me from enjoying fun things and makes me worry a lot. I have really bad anxiety and panic attacks too. Hopefully it gets better soon because I really want to enjoy things, I just somehow can't manage too! My family got sick on a trip as well and all I could do was make myself feel naseaus. I also think " if I wore this when I or someone else got sick, does that mean I will again"? If you takes deep breathes and distract yourself it really does help a lot!

    I also feel nauseous everyday! plus I have bad anxiety and panic attacks and I think that if I were something when I was throwing up will I throw up again? I think that too!

    hi, I'm 12 years old and I have a HUGE fear of vomiting I felt the same way! we used to go to a small private school and it was flu season EVERYONE GOT THE FLU!!! I couldnt think of them the same after they did and my family is going to the beach tomorrow and I'm afraid someone or me will get sick! I haven't been sick since 2015 I'm better about seeing the word vomit but not the act itself :/ what I do when I feel sick is close my eyes and breath it helps a lot and I hope it will help u too! :)

    I have the exact same feeling . Before I eat & after . I'll just look at food & think "what will this feel like coming outta your mouth" The other day I ate some food. It wasnt nasty & it wasnt expired & i was thinking & then I started to PANIC & i eventually threw up . Not going to lie i felt 100% better afterwards but i cant get that feeling out of my throat . that feeling of food coming bacm up . it makes me shutter, shake & sweat . the thought of food makes me queasy . i have frequent panic attacks & its scary to me i often think " what if i throw up & i never stop" WHICH IS IMPOSSIBLE .... Well my stepmother guided me through the whole thing she necer left my side . she held my hand , rubbed my back & had a conversation with me to get my mind off of it . its better to have someone by your side to let you know you're not alone .. Just breathe

    I'm not deathly afraid of vomiting it more affects me after I've gotten sick I was sick last week and am now really scared to sleep in my bed because that's we're i was sick it's the first time I've been sick in over 3 years I've just come back from staying away from home and tonight is my first night back sleeping in my bed and I know myself that I will be okay and nothing that bad can happen i been getting anxious all my life and I just hope that my phobia of vomiting will go as I get older I've learned how to cope with it now at the end of the day if you sit there and think about vomiting and becoming ill it will naturally make you feel sick if you forget about it and distract yourself you will feel a lot better

    Mine started at age 5. My friend was sick down my back at school I spent the day like that wasn't allowed home. Since then I've the fear of dread being sick ppl being sick near me I get myself in such a state

    This helped me sooo much! Im 12 years old and I've had a fear of vomiting ever since I was 10! Every morning after I took a shower I would feel sick! And every time I heard or saw the word vomit, puke, barf, or throw up I would panic!!! And if someone said they felt sick I would steer clear from them but I'd someone was in a car or a bus and said that I'd panic!!! If you have any suggestions plz let me know ?

    I have that exact same thing on the school bus and I 'Thought' I couldn't do anything about it. And what was worse is one kid in front of me threw up when my bus driver was making a school end announcement that he was leaving! And the little kid threw up all over the isle and obviously you don't walk straight threw it so we pretty much had to jump seats but the reasons I didn't want to do that is I would smell the vomit real bad and I would see it and that leads to massive anxiety attack.. Yay! So I just muscled up and jumped over.. And that lead to me feeling the same sickness on the bus when I was outside!! And I don't know if I still do because school and out but I never felt sick on the way home because maybe I didn't need to think about failing math even failing school! But yes I think I have the flu bug right now and I am really scared of throwing up.. Hopefully its just my anxiety causing it and I will take your advice!

    I'm quite young and I have a severe case of emetophobia. I cry at the word vomit - as I am now. I know it seems silly, but I can't help it. My mum was sick yesterday, luckily I was asleep at the time, but as soon as she told me - all that was going through my mind was 'I'm going to get ill too.' 'She'll be sick in front of me and I won't be able to do anything.' Once a boy was sick by me on the street and I ran all the way down the street, crossed two roads and hid where there was nobody there who could be sick too.. all that day I was thinking about it. For me, I think it's the fact that if I'm sick, I'm ill and I feel trapped, as though if I'm sick - I have no control over when I'll be sick and if I'm sick then I can't get away from it. But your advice has really helped. If I'm sick, it's not the end of the world and I won't die from throwing up. I know I'll always be scared of sick, and I know that I'm not fully OK with it, but your advice is getting me closer to help. I can't ever thank you enough!!

    I've been struggling with this phobia for the last year of my life i would say, I'm now in cbt for it but i must say no matter how much i try to tell my self that it won't be that bad I still get over worked up and anxious about it . I'm on anti sickness tablets from my doctor although my cbt counceler has told me I meed to come off them I dont believe I can there all that gets me through my days normally I habe three children to look after and im a deck when I'm sick :(

    Just to let you know, we posted a webinar on You Tube on the topic of emetophobia. Search Overcoming the Fear of Vomiting ADAA

    One day, I was in class, just after lunch. I had a big bowl of pasta, applesauce, and some sweet treats. But it wasn't me who felt sick. It was only the second week of school, and I heard this: " I think I'm going to puke." I felt myself turn beet red, and I walked out of the room like everything was normal. Except it wasn't. while everyone was calm, And I was too, on the outside, the inside was a huge raging rollercoaster. I ran off down the hall. I wasn't sure where I was going, what to do. My teacher didn't know, my friends didn't. this just comes to show how hard it can truly be to fight back to your vomiting worries. You may think just walking around the block, is scary, and at one point for me, it really was. If you ever feel like this about others, even yourself, please talk to me. I go to eating disorders associates to help fight what I have on the inside, gone, far away, to a place I won't ever see again. Exposure was one of the things I practiced with my doctors. Listening to the sounds of vomiting and The word " I'm going to be sick." It all wasn't pleasant, but after, I felt a big wave of confidence and gratefulness. To those who need the support, don't be afraid to ask for help!
    xoxo
    Avery

    I have had a fear of sickness since having the nurovirus when i was pregnant with my last child, i no how you feel exactly im currently curled up on the sofa trying to look after my three girls whilst shacking and sweeting and panicking my heart is racing like you wouldnt believe. I keep trying to tell my self that the worst that will happen is i am going to be sick then i will feel better but the more sick i feel the more i panic about it and its just a viscous circle, i have anti sickness tablets and they do work but if i should be poorly and i take them i feel bad for about 4 days because it carnt get out my system. I dont no about you but i dont think i am ever going to be able to manige it

    Hi!! I have been afraid of being sick since i was a little kid! I am now 14 and i am still scared! I am so weird about this...if i wear a pear of pajamas and feel sick, i will never wear them again! My one sister has a vomiting syndrome and she gets sick at least once a week! i am afraid of being swabbed because i'm afraid i will gag! i'm afraid of sleepovers and i've never slept somewhere without my parents in my life! At school sometimes i will just loose control of myself and go to the bathroom and cry! I just feel as if i can't do anything! Then my mom introduced me to a medicine called Zofran! it is basically a pill that dissolves on your tongue (I am afraid of swallowing pills too) and this thing will prevent you from being sick or nauseous! And if you take it and you aren't really sick, NOTHING HAPPENDS! I'm just so happy that so many people are here with me with this fear!

    I have a phobia about sick/vomit. whenever someone says 'erm I might throw up in a minute' or 'I feel sick' immediately my mind starts panicking so I I have to have a drink of water and someone has to talk to me over and over again. my fear started when it was the first day of the Easter holidays and my brother wouldn't stop eating, so I went into our family room and I saw his jaws/cheek bone moving side to side and the only thing I could say was are you ok. Then suddenly he threw up it was everywhere I ran out of the room crying cause went all over me. It was horrible, so know I try to stop my brother eating but he still does it he hasn't been sick for a long time though. But once you have this fear its so hard to get rid of, The problem is when someone starts to feel nauseous I start to feel sick and if they are sick I feel like gagging too.

    Look I am really young and I have this fear of vomit I really get scared when anyone has it I would get so scared. I would shake and start to cry from this anxiety. I would debate with my mind to tell it to let it go it's only a one time thing what can happen. I haven't been cured but I will take this device into consideration 100%

    ever since I vomited 3 months ago because of a bug or maybe over eating I've been scared. It was horrible and terrifying. Every day at school I will make my self just thinking about. I cut down eating. When in assembly at school I'd make myself feel sick and I'd have to make a rout to get out just incase. I'm scared of Burritos and whenever we go near a Burrito or Mexican place the smell hits me and i feel awful because thats what i puked up and saw. Nobody understands do they? At sport i just think about it and missed out on playing my fav sport because I'm so scared that i'd puke on the field in front of my peers. At night I can't sleep because of it. Im completely paranoid and nobody understands. Im scared going to the shops because theres just so much people and I alway think I'll vomit there.

    I am/was the same! I hated it. I've just about over come it now, and the way I did it was just tell yourself you're not ill, and stick your head out the window and get some fresh air.
    I found it happened most when I was about to go to bed, when I'm too hot and when I'm bored.
    I think I got it because I used to be sick a hell of a lot. I still don't know why, I think it was just a thing at my school.

    I’m Lauren and I’m 12. I’m not quite sure when I developed this fear but it’s brain washing me. Yes, it’s like I’m brain washing my own self because every day I tell my self: ‘What if I’m sick?’ and ‘The people I spoke to today could have a stomach bug!’. People without the phobia do not understand. I could go on and on but I have some advice that helps me: tell yourself that you will be fine because thinking negatively could actually make you vomit. If it comes to it, that you 100% know you are going to be sick, get a bucket, close your eyes and cover your ears and just calmly let it flow. This is what I do and I hope I helped! :)

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