Comprehensive Guide to Emetophobia

Under a Emetophobia a panic fear of vomiting is understood. It is one of the phobic diseases.

What is emetophobia?

According to SPORTINGOLOGY.COM, almost everyone is afraid of vomiting. So it is with nausea and vomiting are very unpleasant sensations. However, some people feel a veritable panic fear of it just thinking about it. The fear of vomiting is there even when there is no need to do so.

Doctors speak of emetophobia in such cases. Emetophobia is counted among the mental illnesses and clearly exceeds normal disgust for vomiting. It is considered an anxiety disorder because the people affected feel irrational fear of vomiting.

They are also afraid of this when they watch other people vomit. Even films, photos or vomiting as a topic of conversation trigger fears in them. Women seem to be more likely to experience emetophobia than men. Studies showed that they had significantly higher numbers of cases.


It has not yet been possible to precisely determine what causes emetophobia. However, many of those affected suffered from traumatic experiences in their childhood in which vomiting was the main focus. This could be a penalty, for example, because the child vomited in the car.

This made the child believe that the vomiting made them less loved. However, numerous other patients did not have such a traumatic experience. However, they find it difficult to cope with external pressure. For them, emetophobia is only a symptom of other psychological problems.

It is not uncommon for those affected to be caught in a vicious circle of social anxiety and panic attacks. Many patients also have a pronounced eating disorder. Because they are afraid of vomiting after meals, they eat only small portions or only irregularly. Certain foods are avoided altogether.

To prevent vomiting, around 75 percent of all sick people only eat certain foods and put their shelf life through their paces, as they are afraid that the food might be spoiled.

Symptoms, ailments & signs

Emetophobia manifests itself through both physical and psychological symptoms. The physical discomfort is similar to panic attacks. The patients often suffer from palpitations, nausea, sweating, stomach pains, tremors, weaknesses and chills.

In addition, they are accompanied by the constant fear of vomiting. Adult and adolescent patients are often aware that their fear of vomiting is exaggerated, but are unable to do anything about it. Instead, they are increasingly restricting their professional and social life.

Some emetophobes strictly bypass any situation that could induce vomiting. For example, they avoid celebrations such as family celebrations, company celebrations or parties. Especially at parties where alcohol is consumed, they are afraid of possibly having to see a drunk throw up. School trips or excursions are avoided for affected children.

Traveling or using public transport are also too risky for emetophobics because they are afraid of travel sickness or possible illnesses in foreign countries. Eating in places other than your own four walls is avoided. If illnesses such as gastrointestinal flu occur in the professional environment, emetophobes can take precautionary sick leave for safety reasons.

Pregnancy is unthinkable for affected women. Even contact with pregnant women is avoided because they may throw up. Emetophobes’ greatest fear is being locked in a room where people might vomit. Therefore, they always keep an eye out for escape routes.

They do not go to doctors’ offices or hospitals because they are afraid of the germs that are rampant there and cause nausea and vomiting. People often take anti-emetics as a preventive measure. It is not uncommon for them to become dependent on these drugs. On the other hand, they avoid drugs that have possible side effects such as vomiting.


Diagnosing emetophobia is considered difficult. So far, little is known about this mental illness. In addition, few suitable diagnostic tools are available. Dutch doctors have developed a special questionnaire that is used in research.

It contains a total of 115 questions that deal with the fear of vomiting and physical sensations. The patient has to answer the questions on a scale between 1 and 5. The symptoms of emetophobia such as avoidance behavior also play an important role.

If the patient manages to get through to a doctor’s visit and therapy, the chances of successful treatment of emetophobia are good. However, the patient must also have a firm will for therapy.

When should you go to the doctor?

The fear of vomiting should definitely be clarified by a doctor. Only a medical examination can determine whether it is actually an emetophobia. If there is an underlying physical condition, this must be clarified and, if necessary, treated. A psychological cause does not necessarily require therapy. However, if the illness leads to restrictions in everyday life or if it is associated with further fears for the person concerned, a visit to a psychologist is advisable.

Parents who notice signs of emetophobia in their child are best to speak to the pediatrician. If the phobia is treated therapeutically at an early stage, secondary disorders and other effects on the psyche can usually be avoided.

At the latest when professional or private problems arise due to the fear – for example because the person concerned withdraws from social life or often takes sick leave – the family doctor should be consulted. Other contacts are the psychologist or a specialist in phobias and anxiety disorders.

Treatment & Therapy

Behavioral therapy represents a treatment option for emetophobia. This involves a behavioral stimulus concentration in which the patient is exposed to precisely those situations that he is afraid of. This means that the person concerned has to watch videos, for example, in which people vomit.

They also go to parties or go to restaurants in order to finally overcome their fears. With the help of special breathing exercises and relaxation techniques, patients learn to relax better.

Outlook & forecast

Basically, anxiety disorders and phobias are among the curable diseases. Since emetophobia is little known, making a diagnosis is a major challenge for doctors. In addition, those affected go to a doctor late when the symptoms are already very pronounced. The later the disease is recognized and the treatment can begin, the longer the path of suffering and healing will normally be.

The vulnerability to the occurrence of further mental disorders is high among those affected and must be taken into account when making a prognosis. In the case of emetophobia, spontaneous healing is possible at any time with or without medical care. Cognitive processes or events in accustomed living conditions can lead to sudden changes.

Without therapy, most patients’ well-being deteriorates over time. A steady increase in symptoms can be expected until the quality of life is significantly impaired. Medical or therapeutic care focuses on the causes at hand and takes into account the individual circumstances of the patient. The healing path takes several months or years.

For a good prognosis, the cooperation of the patient and a good relationship of trust with the therapist are essential. Emetophobia can recur at any time despite a cure. A long illness and frequent relapses increase the risk of a chronic course of the disease.


There are no known preventive measures against emetophobia. The exact triggers of the mental disorder have not yet been determined.


In the case of emetophobia, the patient’s options for follow-up care are only available to a very limited extent. The focus of this disease is therefore on the direct and rapid treatment of emetophobia so that further complications or complaints no longer occur. First and foremost, early detection with rapid treatment has a positive effect on the further course of the disease.

Most patients rely on behavior therapy for emetophobia. This is carried out by a psychologist and should be carried out until the symptoms subside. In many cases, some of the exercises from this therapy can also be performed in your own home, which may accelerate healing.

Furthermore, exercises and techniques for correct breathing and relaxation can be practiced in your own home to alleviate the symptoms of emetophobia. Patients also depend on the support of their own family and friends in everyday life. Loving and intensive care of those affected has a positive effect on the course of emetophobia. As a rule, the life expectancy of the patient is not reduced by the disease.

You can do that yourself

In order to cope with everyday life, regular visits to a self-help group have proven to be effective for emetophobes. It helps many to be able to talk about their fears with other affected persons and to exchange experiences and coping strategies.

The self-help group offers the chance to eat in public again in a protected setting, for example by going to a restaurant together. The aim of the self-help group is to promote self-acceptance and acceptance and to enable an impartial approach to the subject of food again.

For some sufferers, prophylactic use of gastric protection medication seems to be an important option. It should be noted that preparations from the drug group of proton pump inhibitors can have risks and side effects. They should therefore not be taken over a long period of time without a doctor’s prescription. With herbal or homeopathic remedies, whose mode of action is mainly based on the placebo effect, symptoms can be alleviated in some cases.

Another possibility for self-help are professional techniques for coping with anxiety, which can be learned within the framework of behavioral therapy. The fear of vomiting can be gradually reduced by most of those affected with consistent, regular use of these techniques. Impending stressful situations such as family celebrations, business dinners, etc. can thus be better managed.

The tactic of remembering positive public situations, tried and tested in the therapy of anxiety disorders, does not seem to work so well with emetophobics: Recalling that the expected event has never occurred has unfortunately only proven helpful for a few people affected .


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