Emetophobia Fear of Vomiting- Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

 Fear of Vomiting- Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


Nausea and vomiting can be extremely be disturbing, and make you feel trapped. While the temporary distress is quite normal, there are many people who actually are scared of vomiting. Such type of intense fear of vomiting is known as emetophobia. The person having emetophobia may not actually be sick, but just fearful of throwing up.

It has been derived from Greek word “emein” which mean the act of vomiting. This phobia is not much popular among professionals, and often misdiagnosed as other mental disorders. However, the fear of vomiting does exist and can disrupt one’s life completely. The phobia is signified by an irrational and excessive fear of vomiting, or of seeing other people vomit. The person can go to the extent of forming ritualistic cleanliness and eating habits to avoid vomiting completely. The phobia is often misunderstood for other conditions such as:

Anorexia Nervosa

This is an eating disorder where the person avoids complete eating to stay thin. However, emetophobics may resemble anorexic, but they avoid eating to avoid vomiting only. Thus, they actually don’t suffer from the eating disorder itself.

Find out more on: Anorexia Nervosa

Social Phobia

Social Phobia is a specific fear of social conditions, gathering and interactions. Emetophobics may avoid social situations and people to avoid being embarrassed from vomiting. The people may not actually be suffering from social phobia.

Find out more on: Social Phobia

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Emetophobic people tend to develop obsession with cleanliness, washing and ritualistic eating habits. However, this is entirely a spin off created by the fear of vomiting, and not specifically OCD.

Find out more on: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

What Causes Emetophobia?

Emetophobia can be caused by:

Distressful Event

Emetophobia can be hugely be resulting from a distressful event where the person went through terrifying vomiting experience or saw someone else go through it. It is very much common in people who have gone through health issues that caused persistent vomiting. Such type of distress brought by health can make the brain get conscious of getting sick and vomiting intensely.

Other phobias and mental disorders

Many other phobias and disorders like panic disorder, social phobia, agoraphobia and other anxiety conditions can cause the person to feel nauseatic. Regular exposure to such nausea and panic can trigger this phobia as well.

The Symptoms of Emetophobia

The major symptoms that can occur with anyone (both children and adults) having emetophobia are:

  • Persistent and irrational fear that one would throw up
  • Worrying about getting embarrassed in front of people by vomiting
  • Avoiding any parties, celebrations or gathering to avoid eating and getting sick
  • Avoiding amusement parks, long distance travels, hotels and pubs that might trigger vomiting in people
  • Not leaving home at all during flu season or any such circumstance where he/she might find people vomiting
  • Extremely conscious and alert of health and hygiene
  • Constantly checking on the food one’s eating
  • Compulsive behavior of cleaning and washing
  • Panic attacks accompanied by physical signs such as shivering, dizziness or fainting, increased heart beat, sweating, muscle tension, trouble in breathing and numbness in the body

When to Visit a doctor?

Emetophobia can be creating a spinoff of other disorders like OCD (Obsessive compulsive Disorder) and Anorexia nervosa. Moreover, the person may develop unhealthy eating diet, and even avoid food completely. This can be a serious issue in the physical health of the person. Thus, if the symptoms have been affecting a person’s life for more than six months time, the person needs to visit a doctor.

How is Emetophobia Treated?

Emetophobia can be treated using a healthy combination of psychotherapies and medicines. Majorly used treatment procedure includes:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT can be helpful with treating emetophobia as it helps to modify the thoughts which might actually be causing the phobia. The therapist can use talk therapies, counseling and even hypnosis to understand the negative images associated with phobia in a person. Through CBT sessions, the therapist also teaches and helps the person recognize the phobia. Eventually, the person can feel getting lighter and relieving all the distress. CBT’s main aim is to bring out these negative thoughts, and modify them into more appropriate ones.


Commonly used medicines in treating emetophobia are anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medicines. These help to adjust brain chemicals such as Serotonin (a compound present in blood platelets and serum that constricts the blood vessels and acts as a neurotransmitter) which helps to maintain good mood and temperament of a person.