Emetophobia or the fear or vomiting is known by many different names like Phagophobia, Vomitophobia, fear of sickness phobia, vomit phobia, fear of choking or gagging phobia and globus hystericus etc. This phobia can affect sufferers severely and might interefer with their daily activities. It is often associated with Agoraphobia, fear of germs phobia, obsessive compulsive disorder or OCD and other social anxiety disorders.
More women than men are known to suffer from Emetophobia: it affects nearly 1.7 to 3% men and 6 to 7% women. Often, the individuals fear seeing people getting sick or vomiting rather than only fearing vomiting or embarrassing themselves. Most sufferers fear the loss of self control that occurs during vomiting; as a result, they tend to show avoidance behaviors.
Causes of the fear of vomiting phobia
Psychologists believe that the ‘fear of losing control’ triggers Emetophobia. Vomiting is often completely out of one’s control. Here are common factors that can cause this phobia:
- Typically, during the flu season, children get upset seeing their friends or closed ones vomit uncontrollably. Also, they might have felt embarrassed about throwing up in school, or might have spent a long night being sick and nauseated. A negative experience of this sort is usually a trigger for Emetophobia.
- It usually begins in childhood, when one is low in life experiences or intelligence, as the brain or the subconscious mind attaches negative feelings to vomiting.
- In adults, over indulgence in food or alcohol or mixing two or more types of alcohol can lead to severe vomiting; the brain then learns to trigger the same response over and over, especially in case of nervous or over anxious people. It is a mechanism used by the mind to steer the individual away from such ‘dangerous’ situations.
- High strung people who are already suffering from other anxiety disorders or social phobias are likelier to develop fear of vomiting phobia.
Symptoms and signs of Emetophobia
The way the fear of vomiting phobia manifests is different in different people. Depending on the severity, some people might be anxious all the time.
- Pregnant women often experience vomiting or morning sickness; hence many emetophobic women avoid pregnancy.
- Children might avoid school; their performance can be affected owing to this phobia.
- Attending birthday parties and sleepovers, or dating and eating out might become difficult for such kids and teenagers.
- Others might become anxious seeing other people gagging, choking or getting sick- the feeling associated with vomiting is that it is disgusting, yucky etc. This can trigger an anxiety or panic attack in the form of sweating, trying to flee from the place, shaking etc.
- Many try to avoid places where there is a possibility of getting sick: pubs, hotels, clubs, theme park rides, long distance car or bus journeys or in general places that involve eating in front of anyone or getting sick due to motion sickness.
- Many individuals refuse to leave their homes especially during the flu season when a stomach bug may be rampant. They take all precautions to avoid sickness.
- Mothers become over protective of their children to ensure preventing illness. The mere thought of a child vomiting can set a panic attack in them. Constantly washing hands, preventing kids from trying out new foods or from visiting germy places is a sign of this phobia.
- Often, Emetophobes follow a strict diet to ensure preventing upset stomachs; they tend to avoid medicines that have nausea listed as a side effect. They might overuse antacids or vitamins to ensure staying healthy. Many avoid packaged foods, or might over-wash fruits or over cook food to stay healthy.
- Anorexia or staying away from food completely to avoid getting sick is another sign of fear of vomiting phobia.
Overcoming the fear of vomiting phobia
Adults suffering from this phobia often experience professional and personal setbacks on account of avoidance behaviors. Hence, early intervention and treatment are a must.
Many therapies like Hypnotherapy and cognitive behavior therapy are known to cure Emetophobia once and for all. Both therapies involve correcting the phobic’s’ beliefs about vomiting. This can help one overcome avoidance behavior.
Talk therapy and counseling as well as support groups can also encourage phobics to talk openly about their fears in a friendly environment. Doing so can help one get rid of Emetophobia once and for all.
Meditation and positive visualization can be used as self help therapies to boost self esteem. Both techniques can help one become more confident about situations or places where one might have experienced severe symptoms of Emetophobia before.
In 2020 when all the stuff started happening in May, I threw up when I was at my grandpa’s house, but I thought I was fine and forgot about it. In late June of 2020, I felt a little sick, like I was going to throw up. It would happen from June through August, but it would get worse every time. Eventually, I started having panic attacks, and I would never eat. I was already so skinny to begin with, and I was a very picky eater. I avoided food as much as I could. I’m mostly fine now, but every once in a while, I will kinda panic if I feel sick, but it’s definitely not as bad as it was in 2020.
I think my emetophobia started from childhood, but I’ve only really noticed it within the past two years. The last time I’ve gotten sick to the point of (I can’t type the word without panicking) was about 8 years ago, not counting the time last year when I got anxious from seeing an event. Whenever someone does it once or is even just sick, I avoid them as much as I can and I feel bad about it. Someone talking about being nauseous makes me scared and on edge. I think I know why it started, but I can’t mention the event without panicking and the thought of it makes me uneasy. I used to get nauseous a lot when I was still in public school because of anxiety, and the thought of me getting sick at school made me stay home more than the discomfort of the nausea feeling did. I’m in therapy for other mental illnesses, and I want to bring it up, but I’m scared to talk about it in detail and I worry that it’ll be dismissed. I feel so bad about not being able to comfort people who are sick to the point of the possibility of doing it, even if they don’t gag or complain about nausea. I really don’t know what to do.
Same, I know how it feels.
I’m 14 years old and whenever I see/hear someone getting sick, I completely lose it. I’ve even passed out one time seeing my sister having her bout with the stomach flu and one time I threw up twice in a row. I hate big roller coasters. I always try to stop my family drinking too much. I panic when I get nauseous, and I always try to overcook and make my food clean to avoid salmonella, e. coli, etc. I just really hate and fear the thought of it and I really need help getting over this, I have a huge problem with it and it needs to stop.
I’m 12 and I have this phobia. Idk when it started but I tried to hide it because I thought it was embarrassing. One time my mom was using the bathroom, and it smelled so bad my brother started gagging. I started shaking and sweating and ran into my room covering my ears. Then he started gagging again and I started crying and my mom was just laughing at me thinking it was funny when it’s really hard to live with. I’m scared to get pregnant because of morning sickness, I’m scared to go to college because parties equals drunk equals hungover equals vomiting, I’m scared to have children and a husband because they might get sick and vomit, I’m scared of being nauseous because I think I might vomit and I freak out, I’m even scared of using public bathrooms because someone could be in there vomiting. I really want to have kids, and a family, so please, how do I cure this? I’m also underweight. My little brother weighs more than me. I hate this stupid phobia and I’m sick right now. So I’m really scared I’ll vomit. I hate choking, the smell, vomiting myself, gagging, and I can’t even watch movies or anything with vomiting. I hate it so much. Please someone help me get rid of it! I’m tired of having panic attacks over this fear.
Mia Billingsley says
I’m almost 12, and I literally feel the exact same. Once my brother was sick puking, and I was in the basement crying all night, and I’m not even joking when I say all night. It was torture. That was the worst day of my life.
I’m 13 years old. I’m not sure if I suffer from this phobia or not. I feel nauseous in some way every or every other day. But I never throw up. Even if I’m really nauseous in the bathroom, doubled over a bucket, etc. I can never vomit. It’s really made me nervous about vomiting. I can’t handle hearing others vomit and suffer from sympathetic vomiting (throwing up in response to another person throwing up). Whenever I get nauseous at school (which is often increasing), I panic, and I think it makes me more nauseous. I’m unsure if I’m suffering from emetophobia or just a temporary fear while feeling this way. Can emetophobia be causing my frequent nausea? Somebody help. I don’t know what to do.
I also get scared to talk/open my mouth when I’m nauseous, fearing I might vomit. I also don’t get hungry anymore. What’s up with that? I am never hungry on weekends. I set the alarm to remind me to eat cause I’ll just forget. When I’m nauseous, I get really thirsty. My friends will often ask me if I’m ok because I will chug water and fall quiet. I drop my pencil a lot because sometimes my hand shakes. I lie to them and say I’m fine, but I’m getting tired of this stupid daily nausea thing. I hate this, and if a little phobia causes it, I will hate myself even more.
Alan Korman says
I gag when I experience a horrible smell, have a tight shirt around my neck, when something is put down my throat, snorkel when the mask covers my nose, and when extremely tired.
The last time I went to go hang out with my friend she vomited and I got so sick myself ,and I went down the street so I didn’t have to smell it anymore. I felt like it was following me, but now that I am 11 years old i sometimes can control myself.
I have a severe phobia of vomit. I suffer from anxiety, so the thought of someone being sick, or about to vomit make me nervous, heart races, and my hands sweat. Please can you point me to the proper psychologist who could help me.
OMG me too but my parents think I’m just weird not a disorder. As soon as I think about it I go rigid and slightly sweaty. Once I was on a bus and I had my hand clenched on the emergency door handle ready to open it because someone said they felt sick near me. I go anxious and nervous and people tell me to get over it and myself but I just can’t. Please could someone help me. I would really appreciate it.
I actually think there’s a reason why many people don’t recognize this phobia a lot. I’ve suffered from emetophobia since I was around 8 years old, there were times when I couldn’t sleep because I was afraid of getting sick. When I found out about emetophobia, it finally all made sense and I knew why I was so afraid, but every time I talked to others about it they laughed at me and told me I should keep myself together.
Lately, I’ve even been told that emetophobia doesn’t exist and that I apparently ‘have OCD because emetophobia is just an invention someone made on the internet’, and that really made me think.
If this phobia was mentioned more often, people would maybe stop putting the ones who suffer from it down and start to realize it’s not as uncommon as they may think.
Anonymous teen says
Wow. I didn’t even realize I had this phobia until I read this article. I get extremely anxious, shaky, and sweaty when someone vomits, and I stay as far away from them as possible, stay away from home (if it’s a family member) as long as possible, and wash my hands constantly when I know there’s a stomach bug going around. I even avoid people who tell me they’re over it or been over it for a few days, because I still think they are contagious. I’m absolutely mortified of it.
Anne Sorkin says
OMG, me too! I do and experience just about everything you mention. I am an elementary teacher, and being around little kids during flu season is terrifying. I am constantly washing my hands and cannot really help a student who gets sick. I can remember the exact dates of the last few times that I have been sick. Luckily my husband is very understanding and has helped me through episodes of flu or, one time, food poisoning. I didn’t realize this was a legitimate phobia. I feel so embarrassed when I avoid helping others who are sick.
I feel like I recently developed this phobia due to an incident summer of 2016, along with anxiety. Whenever I hear the word “vomit” I feel anxious, and whenever I hear that there is a stomach flu or some virus going around I feel anxious, sweaty and frightened. School almost feels like a personal hell during winter where I compulsively wash my hands, sit furthest away from the people I know who are sick (and yet still go to school anyways) and am generally on edge until I can go home. I’m most afraid of myself getting sick honestly but other people getting sick seems to trigger me too. This hasn’t happened in a while but a few months ago I spent a couple sleepless nights staying up well past midnight because I was shaking so hard I shook the bed, sweating and had an odd feeling in my stomach. It was just severe anxiety at the time but that moment I felt that I was going to throw up even though I knew it was in my head.
What I’m saying is that I hate this anxiety, I hate this phobia and I want it to go away. Does anyone know anything that I can do to stop this?
When you feel something weird in your stomach and start panicking because you think you’ll vomit, you can do something to get better. Try to calm yourself and tell yourself why you should stay calm. Panicking makes you feel worse and maybe actually get you to vomit. Give arguments to why you should be calm. It helped me.
When you said that if you panic that thing can happen, that made me panic MORE.
Jannah Vincent says
Okay, phew, im not alone :)
This phobia really should be much higher on the list. Some earlier estimates were that as high as 15% of the population secretly has this fear. It’s a massive burden because it’s not a fear of an external situation that can be easily avoided. It’s essentially a fear against one’s own self.
Unlike most people, I’m more afraid of myself getting sick than watching others get sick (although it still bothers me greatly). I’ve had this phobia for more than seven years, and it’s slowly gotten better with time. A couple years ago, even hearing the word “vomit” would trigger me. I’ve come a long way and I wish anyone with emetophobia luck on their journey!
I have suffered from this phobia all my life. It’s mostly centered around other people vomiting, not myself. Every winter I get very nervous and when I hear that there is a stomach virus going around my blood runs cold. The sound of it especially is what really triggers me. I have misophonia as well, so they may be linked. I’ve tried some exposure therapy on my own (I watch a lot of House, M.D., where people throw up all the time) and it’s slowly lessening. At least I can watch movies in which people vomit. I also work in a health clinic so I’m sure I’ll have to deal with it there eventually.
I cant even watch movies with it!