Emetophobia is an extreme and irrational fear of vomiting. People with this disorder are afraid of having to throw up, especially in situations where they cannot leave. Often they are also afraid to see others vomit. People with emetophobia often think that they are the only ones and don’t dare to tell their environment. Doctors often don’t recognize this phobia.


Ever in the lives of people with emetophobia, vomiting has become linked to fear. That is the result of a traumatic incident that has happened in their childhood. They have avoided the risk of vomiting, because of a slight anxiety. The fear has from then only increased, causing an extreme fear (a phobia). Although their lives have been dominated by nausea and the fear of vomiting, these people ironically often have not vomited for years.


As in case of a phobia, people do everything to avoid what they are anxious about. That means for people suffering from emetophobia that they avoid any situation in which they can vomit or possibly see others do it. Because of this, they may have the following behavior:


Although emetophobia is a common condition, it’s seldom recognized as such. This has several causes. First, the phobia is relatively unknown to general practitioners and psychologists. Because of the unfamiliarity and multitude of problems, with which patients go to the general practitioner or psychologist, another diagnosis is often made, such as agoraphobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (because of the compulsions), hypochondria or anorexia nervosa (if the patient doesn’t eat to prevent nausea).


Emetophobia can be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy, sometimes in combination with medicines, such as antidepressants or sedatives. First must be clear by conversations where the fear of vomiting comes from, from what the phobia has originated and how it’s maintained.
Another therapy used is the so-called exposure. Here, a person is gradually, in a safe environment, exposed to that which evokes the fear, so that it can be made manageable step by step. In this case, it may include photos and videos of people vomiting, with the shown getting worse and worse.
There are other options, such as hypnotherapy or relaxation therapy. A combination will often be employed in practice. In any case, it is necessary to confront the fear in order to get rid of it.


When emetophobia occurs, there is usually a vicious circle. Because the patient fears his or her own body, the disorder often has extensive consequences. Emetophobia leads to a strongly reduced quality of life and causes limitations in social and professional functioning. Untreated emetophobia often has a chronic course and often leads to loneliness and depression.