Home » Online Therapy » Phobias and fears » Emetophobia (vomiting phobia)

Do you or someone you know have a strong fear of vomiting? We are all afraid of something, but we can usually deal with it. A phobia, on the other hand, is an extreme fear that we may need help to overcome.

What is emetophobia?

Emetophobia is a specific phobia where there is an intense fear or anxiety about vomiting. This fear can relate to vomiting yourself, seeing others vomit, hearing sounds of someone vomiting, or even thinking about vomiting. We don’t know how many people in Ireland experience this phobia, but US research indicates that more than 20 million Americans may have this phobia.

Emetophobia is more than just a mild discomfort at the thought of vomiting; it is a strong and sometimes disabling fear that can affect a person’s daily life and decision-making. People may be afraid to eat certain foods or restrict their lives in various ways.

If you are a parent, it can also be difficult if your child gets a stomach bug. It is a phobia with effective treatment, so it can be overcome.

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Why do people get emetophobia?

The causes of emetophobia are not fully understood, but as with other phobias, it can be a combination of genetic factors, personal experiences (such as a difficult event related to vomiting), and environmental influences. It is thus a combination of several factors.

How common are phobias?

According to research in the field, approximately 8-12% of the population suffer from one or more phobias in their lifetime. These can range from common phobias such as fear of heights and social phobia to lesser known ones such as ‘hole phobia’ (trypophobia).

Symptoms of emetophobia

Emetophobia is a specific phobia, which means having a strong fear of a particular thing. It can lead to other problems with limitations in your life, where you avoid things that you would really like to do and that could improve your quality of life. For example, you might avoid going on vacation for fear of getting a stomach bug or avoid certain foods. It can also be difficult if you are a parent and have children who have a stomach illness. Symptoms of emetophobia are:

  1. Avoidance behavior: actively avoiding situations where there is a risk of seeing, hearing or experiencing vomiting, such as avoiding hospitals, schools, eating out, or attending social events.
  2. Anxiety and panic attacks: Severe anxiety or panic attacks at the thought of vomiting or when faced with situations that arouse the fear.
  3. Excessive attention to gut feelings: Constant worry about signs of illness or nausea, which may include excessive checking of food to avoid food poisoning.
  4. Diet and food restrictions: A tendency to limit food intake or avoid certain types of food in fear of becoming nauseous.
  5. Social isolation: limiting social interactions and activities to reduce the risk of encountering situations that could lead to vomiting.

If you have symptoms of emetophobia, you shouldn’t have to suffer, there are effective treatments for the condition.

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Treatment for emetophobia

Emetophobia can be treated and if you have symptoms, you should not be afraid to seek help. Treatment is tailored to each person and the severity of the problem. There are certain parts that the treatment usually contains and these are among others:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This is one of the most effective treatment methods for phobia. CBT focuses on identifying and challenging negative thought patterns, managing emotions associated with triggering situations, and changing behaviors that contribute to anxiety. The therapy helps individuals to gradually expose themselves to these in a controlled and systematic process, reducing anxiety over time.

Medication: Some people with emetophobia may be helped by medication, such as antidepressants (especially SSRIs) or anti-anxiety medication for more severe problems.

It is important to remember that treatment is individualized. It is also important to seek help from a qualified health professional to get effective treatment for your phobia.

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How therapy can improve your life

Seeking professional help can significantly improve your quality of life. As it gives you effective tools to manage phobias and can change the pattern you have developed that causes anxiety. Seeking help for psychological problems can be embarrassing, but talking to a psychologist can be extremely liberating and helpful if you are living with a phobia that is hindering your daily life.

Take the first step to booking a therapy session

Life is too short to let phobias limit you. Therefore, therapy is a step in the right direction to help you live a full and rich life. If you or someone you know is living with phobias, professional therapy can make a real difference. Our therapists and psychologists offer a confidential and safe environment to explore and treat your phobias.

12 common questions and answers about emetophobia

What is a phobia?

A phobia is an irrational and intense fear or anxiety about a particular object, situation or activity. This fear is usually long-lasting and can be very limiting in daily life.

How are phobias different from ordinary fears?

Ordinary fear is a natural reaction to an actual danger, while a phobia is an exaggerated fear that has no rational explanation. Phobias can be triggered even when there is no actual risk.

Are phobias common?

Yes, phobias are one of the most common forms of mental health problems. It is estimated that a significant proportion of the population suffers from at least one form of phobia.

What is emetophobia?

Emetophobia is a specific phobia where there is an intense fear or anxiety about vomiting. This fear can relate to vomiting itself, seeing others vomit, hearing sounds of someone vomiting, or even thinking about vomiting.

What causes emetophobia?

The causes of emetophobia are not fully understood, but as with other phobias, it may be a combination of genetic factors, personal experiences (such as a difficult event related to vomiting), and environmental influences.

Is it possible to get rid of a phobia?

Yes, with the right treatment and support, phobic symptoms can be treated. However, it usually requires the help of a licensed psychologist or therapist.

How is emetophobia treated?

Claustrophobia is treated with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and, if necessary, medication.

Can phobias lead to other mental health problems?

Yes, untreated phobias can lead to other problems such as depression or other anxiety disorders because people may also start to avoid things and worry more.

What is cognitive behavioral therapy?

CBT is an active evidence-based treatment method that works with thoughts, feelings and behaviors in different situations to improve quality of life and overcome certain symptoms.

What is exposure in treatment?

Exposure is a tool in CBT where you gradually approach what you are afraid of in a systematic and safe way.

I have started to avoid things because I am afraid of vomiting, what can I do?

If you have a fear of vomiting that is affecting or limiting your life, you can seek treatment. There is help available.

Where can I seek help for my phobia?

If you suffer from a phobia, we recommend that you contact a licensed psychologist or therapist. You can book a first appointment with one of our therapists here at Lavendla. We make the hard things easier.

Treating emetophobia with cognitive behavioral therapy

This is what treatment for emetophobia can look like and it can be overwhelming, but remember that you are not alone in overcoming your fear. There is help available and here is an idea of what treatment might look like:

Understanding and assessment

The first step is to understand that you have a phobia and that it is okay to seek help for it. A licensed psychologist can help you assess your situation and understand what is causing your fear. You may also be asked to complete assessment forms.

Psychoeducation and objectives

You will learn about your phobia and how it affects you both physically and mentally. It is important to understand what happens in your body, thoughts and feelings when the fear occurs. Goals are also set for treatment.

Tools to change behaviors and patterns

This works on identifying and changing patterns of thinking that are linked to the fear. This will help you develop a more nuanced picture and increase your ability to manage the phobia. Exposure therapy can be scary, but it is an effective way to gradually face your fears. Together with your therapist, you will explore situations that trigger your phobia and learn how to deal with them. You will also be given homework to practice between sessions.

Medication (if needed)

In some cases, doctors may suggest medication to help with anxiety symptoms. This is something you and your doctor can discuss if appropriate.

Follow up and evaluate progress

You will have support from your psychologist throughout the process. At the end of the treatment, you will also receive a plan to continue practicing and maintain your progress over time.

Feel free to book a first session with one of our licensed psychologists or therapists to see how we can help you.

Lavendla – Making the difficult easier

Written by Ellen Lindgren

Licensed psychologist

Ellen is a licensed psychologist and has experience mainly in clinical psychology where she has worked with various conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, crises and trauma in primary care and psychiatry. She has also worked with research while studying in the US and with affective disorders and insomnia at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.