Emetophobia – Information, Triggers, Symptoms, Treatment

A person standing next to a sink

Emetophobia is a fear of vomiting, which can lead to a need for control over one’s surroundings. Emetophobics may carry supplies such as wet wipes or hand sanitizer in order to avoid contact with vomit, and some refuse to eat foods they believe might make them sick. Emetophobics also tend to be highly sensitive about any kind of smell that resembles vomit, including perfume and certain food smells. It often begins in childhood due to the experience of seeing someone else vomit or hearing about it happening on TV. Usually, it is treated in groups with other emetophobics, which helps sufferers understand that their fears are not irrational and that others also experience fear.

Because Emetophobia is a very specific phobia, sufferers have reported feeling an additional sense of isolation as they do not fit into the normal categories of those suffering from other types of phobias that are generally common. It has been linked to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which many Emetophobes tend to seek help for first before being treated for Emetophobia.  This can be problematic because Emotive OCD and Emetophobia may require separate treatment programs.  Emetophobics also commonly suffer from social anxiety disorder, panic disorders, and depression at higher rates than the general population.


A bag sitting on top of a wooden table

Emetophobic triggers include things like seeing or hearing about someone else vomiting, seeing a person who looks sick, or thinking about vomiting. Emetophobics also report experiencing intense anxiety when reminded of their phobia, such as by reading this article or learning about Emetophobia in school. They often avoid situations that cause fear and may limit their diet to foods they believe to be safe from causing vomiting. Emetophobia is a frequently reported topic on several online forums for people with various phobias including Emetophobia.


A hand holding a cell phone

Emetophobics can experience both physical and mental symptoms upon being triggered. Most Emetophobics report feeling hot and sweaty, feeling nausea themselves, having upset stomachs, elevated heart rates, being easily startled or frightened, shaking or hands uncontrollably, panicking, and being unable to think clearly. Emetophobia can also lead Emetophobics to experience increased sensitivity to their surroundings, such as by the smell of certain foods or smelling vomit when someone enters the room. Emetophobic sufferers also report triggering themselves by describing it online, which may have led some Emetophobes to avoid reading about Emetophobia.


Emetophobics most commonly seek treatment through groups with other Emetophobics that provide support, encourage self-help strategies including breathing techniques, and educate participants on ways they can manage their fears without avoiding them entirely. Some Emetophobics have reported positive results from hypnosis sessions with a clinical hypnotist who specializes in treating phobias.

Emetophobia is a specific phobia that can be very isolating to Emetophobics due to the general lack of understanding Emetophobics face when explaining their triggers and symptoms. Emetophobia is frequently accompanied by additional mental illnesses, including social anxiety disorder, panic disorders, depression at higher rates than the general population. It can even occur in conjunction with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which many Emetophobes tend to seek help for first before being treated for Emetophobia.

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