Emetophobia: When Vomiting Feels Like a Nightmare

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Emetophobia: When Vomiting Feels Like a Nightmare

People suffering with Emetophobia sees vomiting as a horrifying experience / Photo by Getty Images


 Vomiting is often not considered a pleasant experience. People often feel grossed out when they see someone vomit. For those who suffer from Emetophobia, they do not merely loathe the idea of vomiting, they are horrified by it. Verywell Mind states that this phobia may also be connected to the fear of food, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and eating disorders.

People who are affected by this phobia tend to stay away from places and circumstances where they may witness the act of vomiting or which might cause them to vomit, Psycom says. To illustrate, they may go out of their way to prevent themselves from being sick and they may refrain from riding planes or eating in restaurants with friends. For some people who suffer from Emetophobia, just reading the word “vomit” or synonyms of it can cause them to panic. To clarify, Emetophobia is simply defined as the fear of vomiting.

According to a study conducted by Dutch researchers, it is more prevalent in women than men. Their study shows that Emetophobia affects 7% of females and only affects 1.8% of males.


If a person has had a negative experience related to vomiting, this may lead them to acquire Emetophobia. Individuals who recall themselves vomiting in front of many people or have a memory of them enduring a long night of being unable to control their vomit have a higher probability of developing this phobia.

This may also be linked to their fear of losing control. Even though they may attempt to take control of their environment and themselves, they may struggle in trying to control their vomiting. Since vomiting can occur at times that are not convenient and there are chances that they may be publicly be shamed for vomiting in some places, this becomes more stressful for them.


Ken Goodman, a licensed clinical worker and founder of Quiet Solutions states, “Emetophobes will do whatever it takes to protect themselves from the possibility of vomiting or witnessing someone else vomiting.” He continues that they avoid bars because people who are drunk have the tendency to vomit. He also mentions that phobics are also inclined to stay away from restaurants because this put them at risk of suffering from food poisoning. They may also try to steer clear from vehicles that may induce motion sickness such as planes, cars, and boats. An emetophobe interviewed by health.com said that experiencing Emetophobia was like having a panic attack.

Signs that someone has Emetophobia may include: trying to avoid watching shows and movies that contain vomiting scenes, consuming too many antacids in case they vomit, staying away from people who have fallen ill or avoiding hospitals, trying not to eat food when they are far from home, avoiding objects that smell repulsive and being to preoccupied with the locations of bathrooms. Phobics may also experience stomach problems. Their anxiety may also cause them to feel nauseous. Their intense fear of vomiting may trap them in a cycle that makes them feel all the more like vomiting.

Serious cases of Emetophobia can cause a person to excessively worry about the way their food is kept or cooked well enough. Phobics may also limit the food they eat or may avoid eating until they are full. The complications of this phobia could progress further into agoraphobia or social anxiety. When this happens, the phobic may decide to reduce the time they spend with others or going outside to lessen the chances of vomiting in public.


The Anxiety and Depression Association of America recommends the therapies Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Exposure Response Prevention to individuals affected by Emetophobia.

Under CBT, the patient may learn to use better-coping skills. For example, they may learn how to recognize and deal with their negative thoughts.

In Exposure therapy, the therapist may present with images related to vomiting, videos of others doing it, making them spin while seated on a chair to make them feel vomiting sensations, letting them watch videos about vomiting, being placed at the backseat of a car and exposing them to vomit-inducing smells, anxietycoach.com says. Another way in which Exposure therapy can be done is through virtual reality, an approach that clinical psychologist Brenda Wiederhold uses in treating her patients. Wiederhold is the president of the Virtual Reality Medical Center which is located in California. She says that it has aided her in treating people who suffer from the phobia slowly and systematically.

The therapist they are consulting may also use hypnosis or help them learn about relaxation techniques to manage the anxiety which is prompted by their extreme fear of vomiting. Phobics may also be prescribed some anti-anxiety medicines.

Emetophobia patients may also try other strategies such as exercising, mindfulness, meditation, yoga as well as breathing and relaxation exercises to help them recover from their fear.


Meditating is one way for Emetophobia patients to recover from their fear / Photo by Getty Images




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