An Overview of Emetophobia (Fear of Vomiting)

Author Tracy Smith
Updated on July 23, 2023

Emetophobia is a specific phobia characterized by an intense fear of vomiting or being in situations that could lead to vomiting. As with other specific phobias, being diagnosed with emetophobia requires the fear experienced by individuals to be irrational and in response to situations that pose little or no real danger. Emetophobia can be triggered by traumatic experiences, such as severe stomach flu, being vomited on, or witnessing others vomit.

Fear of Vomiting

Symptoms of Emetophobia

Like most phobias, emetophobia can induce a panic-like response in individuals. Physical symptoms may include:

  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Irritability
  • Dizziness

Moreover, those suffering from emetophobia may also experience intense feelings of dread when thinking about vomiting or being around others who might vomit. These emotions can lead to various responses such as crying, freezing, panicking, and taking extreme and seemingly ridiculous measures to avoid triggering the phobia, such as leaving a room when someone mentions nausea. Obsessive thoughts about vomiting and avoidance of situations where it might occur can significantly hinder a person’s daily functioning.

Causes of Emetophobia

Emetophobia often stems from a traumatic event that involves vomiting which leaves a lasting impact on an individual’s mind. The fear persists, and encountering anything remotely resembling vomit can activate their flight or fight response, leading to symptoms of extreme fear or panic attacks.

Genetic factors may also play a role in emetophobia. While there is currently no known “emetophobia gene,” some people may have a family history of developing specific phobias. Inherited genes can increase the likelihood of developing a phobia, but the specific trigger will depend on the traumatic event that sets it off.

Emetophobia Treatment

Managing emetophobia involves approaches similar to those used for other specific phobias. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective in challenging and modifying negative thought patterns associated with the phobia.

Exposure therapy is another popular method, where individuals are gradually exposed to situations related to vomiting, helping to reduce the panic response triggered by the phobia.

Additionally, mindfulness, meditation, and stress-reducing techniques can be beneficial in lowering anxiety and preventing intense fear when the phobia is triggered.

In some cases, emetophobia might be connected to past traumatic experiences related to vomiting. Addressing the trauma should be undertaken with the guidance of a trained professional to avoid potential re-traumatization.

Medication can also be considered to help manage the panic and anxiety that stems from the fear of vomiting, often used in combination with talk therapy.

Final Thoughts

If you or someone you know is struggling with emetophobia, seeking help from a mental health professional is recommended. A proper evaluation can determine the severity of the phobia, and appropriate treatment options such as therapy, lifestyle changes, or medication can be suggested. Remember, effective treatments are available to help individuals cope with emetophobia and lead a freer, less restricted life.


Author Tracy Smith

Tracy is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is a clinical supervisor for a Community YMCA. Tracy has over 12 years of experience working in many settings including partial care hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, community agencies, group practice, and school-based programs. Tracy works with clients of all ages, but especially enjoys working with the adolescents.

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