Emetophobia: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments

The Emetophobia Is the irrational fear associated with vomiting. It includes extreme terror to vomit oneself, to see another person vomiting, fear To feel nauseous or irrational fear to see the vomit.

People with emetophobia vomit very rarely in their lives. There are older adults, young adults, adolescents and even children with emetophobia. They often Being very anxious people, that when they see that a person feels bad, coughing or choking, they wonder permanently if they will vomit or not.


The anxiety that causes them this situation causes them to flee the place, and if they can not do so, they may suffer panic attack .

Causes of emetophobia

While there seems to be no specific cause for this disorder, some people with emetophobia say they have had a traumatic experience Related to vomiting, for example, a stomach flu , Food poisoning, or involuntarily witnessing someone else's vomiting.

From this episode, which usually occurs in childhood, they begin to associate Very negative emotions With the fact of vomiting and is when the Emetophobia begins to appear.

On the other hand, some people with emetophobia fail to distinguish any traumatic event that might be the cause of their fear.

Complications of emetophobia

Many people with emetophobia also have other disorders, such as Social anxiety , agoraphobia Y fear to fly , Because their greatest terror is to expose themselves to Situations in which they could vomit, in private or in public.

Then, these people will surely avoid going to a restaurant, drinking alcohol and even attending all kinds of social events. Probably also They are afraid to get on a bus, especially if there are children who could vomit.

In this way, traveling on public transport or by plane is something really frightening for a severe emetophobic.

Some women avoid getting pregnant, for fear of nausea and vomiting that may appear in the first trimester.

Many people with emetophobia also take extreme care in preparing the foods they are going to eat. They are not able to eat any Thing, anywhere, which can also be a complication for everyday life.

Imagine that you were not able to spend a little time with a baby for fear of vomiting, or that you can not travel by bus or plane or eat in a restaurant. Anxiety and fear of vomiting can actually paralyze your life.

The cycle of emetophobia

Like all other phobias, the fear of everything related to vomiting fulfills a cycle that could be summarized as: thought-reaction-action or avoidance.

For example, if you have emetophobia, the first thing that happens before the symptoms start (anxiety, sweating, tachycardia, feeling of fear, Desire to flee), is that something reminds you of vomiting. Someone mentions it directly or indirectly, you see it on TV or someone simply comments that it is Pregnant or receiving chemotherapy sessions.

Then, a thought about vomiting passes quickly through your mind. This can be a conscious or unconscious phenomenon. Then you are probably looking for In yourself symptoms of vomiting, you notice how your stomach feels, or clear your throat to see that you do not feel nauseous. Or maybe You're looking at other people for signs that they might vomit.

And then, fear appears. And with it, the symptoms, which can be mild, moderate or severe. You feel terror, your hands are sweating, your heart is racing, You feel like running away To escape your fear of vomiting you may miss a meal, or leave earlier from work.

Other avoidance behaviors caused by emetophobia can be: avoid going to the bathroom (you fear that simply seeing the toilet makes you vomit), avoid Eating in restaurants, you have extreme (and unnecessary) care with the food you eat, because you are terrified of the idea that an infection in your device Digestive can make you vomit.

And this is how these behaviors of chronic avoidance are established, provoked by a fearful anticipation. When a thought related to the Vomit crosses again in your mind, the cycle begins again.

Despite the systematic avoidance of everyday situations due to the fear of vomiting, some people with emetophobia have managed to live with this Fear for many years, until there comes a time when fear becomes less manageable. That's when some people decide Consult a specialist for effective treatment.

Related Disorders

Of course, if a person has an irrational fear of vomiting, it makes sense that he is afraid of eating food that could cause them to vomit. Because Some emetophobic people eat very little and may also suffer anorexy .

They prepare their food with extreme caution, as they fear becoming infected with a virus or bacteria. Also afraid to overeat and then vomit as well Which only eat very small portions. Over time these fears can lead to anorexia nervosa.


If you suffer some degree of emetophobia, you do not have to deal with this problem for the rest of your life. Symptoms can be greatly relieved by treatment suitable.

The page of the most important association of emetophobic of the United States indicates that the standard treatment for this fear is the therapy Cognitive behavioral , Which is not surprising, since this therapy is often useful for the treatment of most phobias.

The therapist must work on the irrational fears of the patient with great patience and caution, without ever minimizing the suffering that crosses the Emetophobic, due to their intense fear.

The therapy will help the patient control their anxiety when they present stimuli, and change the irrational negative thoughts they have in that Moment by others, more rational and positive.

Gradual exposure therapy may also be helpful. Write down the vomit first, then slowly expose yourself to pictures of people vomiting or Acting like vomiting, or unpleasant odors can be an example. It is not a good idea to force the patient to vomit to eliminate their fear, in general No good results are obtained.

All Relaxation techniques That may be helpful in controlling anxiety, such as yoga, breathing exercises, Progressive muscle relaxation , Even the meditation , May have a good effect on people with emetophobia (or any other phobia).

In the most extreme cases, anxiolytic medication can help, and a lot. If the patient suffers from any condition other than the vomiting phobia, such as agoraphobia, Obsessive compulsive disorder Or others, the psychiatrist is likely to prescribe medications that may also help control emetophobia.

Keep in mind that a person with extreme emetophobia will be very afraid that the medication will cause vomiting, so it is a good idea that The doctor will point out that the medication will not make you vomit, and will prescribe an antiemetic during the first two weeks of treatment.

It is also good to keep in mind that a person with severe emetophobia will not be cured with a few sessions of psychotherapy. Treatment can be Fairly long, but if you commit to follow it, you will probably get good results in the medium or long term.

As you can see, emetophobia can be reversed. If you have an irrational fear of vomiting and terror prevents you from leading a normal life, then seek help Psychological or psychiatric, you can overcome that fear, take it for granted, but you must have professional support, especially if your symptoms are severe.

Real Stories

Emetophobia is a disorder more frequent than you think, is something that can happen to anyone. See for example what this guy has in mind Emetophobic age of 21 years:

" Emetophobia has come to make me feel as if I have a serious illness. Phobias can ruin your life. The worst thing about emetophobia is that it does not You only fear returning your breakfast, but you have the constant fear that someone else can do it near you.

All this started when I was about seven years old. I jumped with my sister on the couch, when suddenly I felt a strong desire to vomit. I went to the Cooking and I threw everything. I wanted to do it in the trash can, but I did not get there.

My mother took me to the bathroom, and vomited three more times. The next day, when I ate breakfast I felt nauseous, but I managed to avoid vomiting. From there Emetophobia began to invade me. I was terrified of anything to do with the vomit, much more than it would have been normal.

What scares me the most is the lack of control we have over the act of vomiting. When the stomach chooses to do so, it is almost inevitable, too. Often unexpected and provokes the disgust of those around you, even your friends or family.

Many times I avoided trips or school trips, for fear of vomiting. "

Here is another story, this time is a girl with emetophobia, you may identify with your case.

When Wendy was three years old or so, her mother was pregnant with her younger sister. One night tomorrow he heard his mother scream and cry in the bathroom. He went to see what was happening, and saw his mother vomiting without stopping, while his father tried to help him without being able to do anything.

Her mother moaned at how bad she felt, inconsolable, and said"I want to die." When her dad noticed Wendy's presence at the bathroom door, Took her back to her room, where the girl stayed a while longer listening to her mother's laments and nausea.

From there began his fear of vomiting. Unwittingly, he associated the fear of death (of his mother) with nausea and vomiting, this fear accompanied her by Many years and was getting worse over time.

So much so, that he was not even able to pronounce the word"vomit". When someone was coughing or choking on food near her, Running prey to a panic attack. When he stopped, sometimes he could not remember the reason why he had suddenly run out.

When these behaviors began to prevent Wendy from leading a normal life, she consulted a psychotherapist, who helped her control and avoid Anxiety, decreasing the symptoms of emetophobia.

The case of an 8-year-old girl with emetophobia

The girl in this story was 8 years old when she suffered very severe abdominal pain, high fever and vomited two or three times, before the doctor gave her Diagnose appendicitis and emergency surgery.

Approximately 10 days after the operation, he began to be afraid of vomiting and that the episode would be repeated. He complained of nausea all day, Although from the physical point of view, the doctors did not find alterations.

The symptoms began to worsen. The girl was constantly thinking about vomiting and her fear, she began to eat less and to avoid eating outside. Even left Of playing with friends, for fear of vomiting in front of them, and also refused to go to school, for fear of vomiting in the classroom.

Little by little the fear spread to her relatives, the girl feared that her mother or father would vomit, and asked them not to travel by bus or use the elevator.

When her parents took her to the psychiatrist, he was diagnosed with emetophobia. It is important to note that both parents had anxiety disorders and They were taking medication.

The girl did psychotherapy and received medication to To control anxiety . He also did gradual exposure therapy. In a few weeks, the symptoms Of emetophobia disappeared completely, although the patient continued with the medication, mainly due to her family history.


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