Emetophobia: The Fear of Vomiting

There are a number of mental health anxieties out there that most people are familiar with: panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder are great examples. In general, many people have at least heard of these conditions and most could somewhat understand them if they came up as a topic of conversation. That being said, however, there are a number of fears or anxieties that you’ve probably never heard of before. And, because you don’t know they exist, you may believe you’re struggling alone through concerns no one else will understand.

If you’re one of these people and you suffer with a fear of vomiting, first know that you are not alone. In fact, the fear of vomiting, officially known as emetophobia, is a phobia that affects millions of people. And, the good news is that help is available.

Understanding Emetophobia

It might be helpful to understand a little of what emetophobia entails. The fear of vomiting can present itself in a number of different ways:

  • Fear that you will throw up.
  • Fear that you will see someone else vomit.
  • Fear of the loss of control that can come with getting sick.
  • Fear that if you begin to vomit you won’t be able to stop.
  • Fear of death from throwing up.

It is interesting that most people who struggle with emetophobia do not actively worry about throwing up. Instead, the phobia rears up when they are put in a position where they feel like vomiting may occur. Here are a few examples of triggers that can exacerbate this fear:

  • Someone else vomiting: seeing this in person, watching it in a movie, or even hearing about it can have a negative effect and trigger their fears.
  • Hearing that a coworker is home with the flu.
  • Thinking of food or seeing or smelling a food item that has made them vomit before.
  • Seeing or hearing things that can be associated with throwing up, like a toilet or the sound of someone gagging.

Life Impact

The truth about vomiting is that none of us are very happy to talk about it or think about it. In fact, most of us will also do whatever it takes to avoid throwing up, just the same as someone who struggles with emetophobia. The difference between these types of people comes in two important areas: the level of worry involved and the impact that worry has on one’s life. When faced with the triggers noted above, the average person might flinch or groan, unhappy to be hearing about them. On the other hand, someone who struggles with emetophobia may have the following reactions:

  • They may do an analysis of themselves and how they’re feeling: Is my stomach hurting? Could that gas lead to something worse.
  • They may begin digging into the details of someone else’s illness to determine their own risk of getting sick.
  • They may search for signs of impending trouble: Did that coworker cough or gag? Did they (or I) eat the same thing as someone else who just got sick?

When a person has convinced themselves that their risk of throwing up is high, there are a number of ways it can impact their life. They may find themselves avoiding:

  • People they know are sick or who look sick.
  • Food they think could lead to vomiting
  • Eating in restaurants.
  • Drinking alcoholic beverages.
  • Friend’s babies or even their own baby, based on a concern that the baby is bound to throw up at some point.

Seeking Help

Though a fear of vomiting would seem to be a part of Health anxiety disorder (hypochondria), emetophobia is not the same thing. Treatment for emetophobia can even be a little more challenging at times, mostly because everyone who struggles with this type of anxiety has thrown up before or has been around their triggers without having their worst fears confirmed. Despite this, their anxieties continue and often strengthen over time.

That being said, there are plenty of ways that a psychotherapist can help sufferers learn to cope with this fear and reduce its impact on their life. As an example, Cognitive Behavior Therapy can help them recognize and understand the false beliefs that are triggering their phobia and anxiety. Exposure Therapy can also be useful to reduce the fears associated with their triggers.

Could you or someone you know benefit from professional assistance with emetophobia? Take action today to overcome your fears! For more information on treatment for emetophobia, Contact Dr. Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or email Dr. Rosen and The Center today.

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4 Comments
  1. Reply
    Lisa Wright

    Living in Pittsburgh but desperately need help with my emetophobia. I am not eating and my health is declining fast. I’ve lost the will to live

  2. Reply
    Christina Wallau

    I am looking for intensive treatment of my 20 year old daughter’s emetophobia. She is currently doing CBT and is starting DBT next week. However her symptoms are becoming more intense and frequent. DBT treatment is a six month program that was recommended to us by the CBT therapist be used to help regulate my daughters mood while she is engaged in the exposure therapy in CBT. My concern is the lapse In time it will take for the treatment. She is too anxious to start exposure and DBT will take weeks to months to give her the skills needed to deal with the exposure therapy. I see my daughter suffer daily. She convulses and scratches until she bleeds. She doesn’t leave the house. I’m looking for a residential intensive therapy where she can be safe and deal with exposure right away. Can you help? I can be contacted at 650-483-7349. Regards,Christina Wallau.

    • Reply
      Patty

      Christina have you had any luck finding residential treatment for your daughter? I am currently in the same position, searching for a place for my daughter. She has done every outpatient program to no avail. She hates herself and her life. I feel like residential is the only option. Let me know if you’ve had any luck. Thanks!

  3. Reply
    Rhonda

    My 17 year old daughter has been seeing a therapist for emetaphobia . They have made some progress. My daughter can now watch a video of someone vomiting without getting upset. However about a month ago she had a severe panic attack at a concert when someone near her threw up. We started back with the therapist after this incident but after two sessions she doesn’t seem to be improving and her therapist has shared with her that she is unsure what treatment is needed at this point. Do you have any recommendations for a therapist in the Atlanta area that specializes in this? Her phobia is unique because she does not worry about herself throwing up, just others. she also does not have any OCD tendencies or signs of any other anxieties. thank you!

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