Skip to content

What Is Emetophobia: Its Symptoms, Impact And Management

What Is Emetophobia: Its Symptoms, Impact And Management

Encountering bouts of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea is an experience familiar to most of us, bringing with it discomfort and distress. While these issues can often be addressed through appropriate approaches like behavioral therapies and home remedies, it’s worth noting that recurrent instances of diarrhea can sometimes trigger the emergence of emetophobia.

But what exactly is emetophobia?

It’s the development of an intense fear of vomiting, and it’s a condition that can be deeply unsettling. This fear tends to strike individuals who’ve undergone severe episodes of diarrhea in the past or those who are profoundly affected by witnessing someone ill.

As a consequence, it can contribute to heightened anxiety and significantly impact one’s overall quality of life.

Here, we’ll talk about everything related to Emetophobia – how it makes your body feel, who might have a higher chance of getting it, how it can impact your health, and suggestions to handle these worries. Keep reading!

What Is Emetophobia?

What Is Emetophobia

Emetophobia constitutes a mental health disorder characterized by an overwhelming dread of vomiting. This condition exercises influence not only over one’s physical state but also exerts a substantial impact on one’s mental well-being.

The fear of vomiting may not be constant but can surge dramatically, particularly when individuals are in public settings, where the prospect of vomiting carries heightened negative implications.

Additionally, individuals might find themselves grappling with heightened fear after enduring a night of uncontrollable vomiting. Healthcare professionals often draw connections between emetophobia and concerns related to loss of control, panic attacks, and heightened anxiety.

Emetophobia’s Impact on Individuals

For those afflicted by emetophobia, the thought of enduring recurrent vomiting episodes can be repugnant, leading to a fear that can be even more distressing than the actual act of vomiting itself.

While it can affect anyone, it’s noted that women are more prone to experiencing this mental health challenge than men. Beyond the fear of vomiting, those grappling with emetophobia might also encounter:

  • Apprehension over not locating restrooms in public spaces.
  • Concerns of choking on vomit.
  • Fear of the embarrassment associated with vomiting in public.
  • Anxiety about needing to visit a hospital.

Similar to many other mental disorders, it often starts at a mild level and intensifies over time. As its impact deepens, it can elicit stress and anxiety, and might even trigger unwarranted vomiting.

Common Symptoms Of Emetophobia

As emetophobia takes root, individuals frequently overhaul their lifestyles in a bid to prevent illnesses and infections. They might experience heightened anxiety while venturing outside, commuting to work, or attending school.

Furthermore, they might invest an excessive amount of time in devising strategies to avert vomiting in public. A few prominent behavioral changes and signs associated with emetophobia include:

  • Changes In Dietary Habits: It might lead individuals to make cautious adjustments to their dietary choices. They might refrain from trying new foods or beverages due to the fear of vomiting. Foods that triggered vomiting in the past, such as alcohol, might be excluded from their diet. Individuals might even scrutinize food items for signs of spoilage, mold, or other indicators of potential adverse effects.
  • Behavioral Shifts: Fearing recurrent illness, individuals might avoid physical contact like handshakes or touching surfaces, apprehensive about germ transmission. They could curtail their presence in crowded areas to mitigate the risk of contracting infections that might induce diarrhea. Consequently, their social and occupational engagements could be restricted to minimize illness risks.
  • Excessive Preparedness: Anticipating vomiting at any moment, individuals might take elaborate measures to manage potential episodes. This could involve pre-arranging antacids or gathering supplies like towels, foreseeing the aftermath of vomiting. Frequent body temperature checks might become a ritual, all in an effort to stave off sickness. Living with this disorder can indeed be distressing.

Impact of Emetophobia On Health

Emetophobia takes a toll on both physical and mental well-being. Several negative impacts on health emerge from this condition:

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: The overlap between emetophobia and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is notable due to shared symptoms. Avoiding handshakes or item sharing to prevent sickness might exacerbate the fear of falling ill. Frequent handwashing or sanitizing can disrupt skin pH, contributing to skin problems.
  • Anxiety: It can induce heightened stress levels and manifest as anxiety symptoms, potentially affecting heart rate. In anticipation of vomiting, affected individuals might vigilantly avoid triggers or stimuli they associate with vomiting, inadvertently missing out on activities they once enjoyed.
  • Physical Exhaustion: The combination of anxiety and avoidance behaviors can leave individuals not only mentally drained but also physically fatigued and unwell. This can curtail physical activity and potentially lead to various health complications, including those affecting the heart and digestion.

Treatments For Emetophobia

To address emetophobia, treatment plans encompass therapy, medication, or a blend of both. Let’s delve into these strategies known for effectively managing emetophobia symptoms:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic approach focuses on modifying thought patterns and behaviors in specific situations. By engaging in CBT, individuals can confront their fears under the guidance of a therapist, acquiring new strategies for overcoming their anxieties. While research on emetophobia treatments is limited, initial studies indicate the high efficacy of CBT in managing its symptoms.
  • Exposure And Response Prevention (ERP): Effective in managing emetophobia, ERP targets symptoms similar to those seen in obsessive-compulsive disorder. ERP entails gradual exposure to triggering factors, building resistance through therapeutic techniques. It’s an intense therapy, necessitating individuals to feel sufficiently prepared to initiate the process.
  • Medication: Certain medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin neo-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), formulated for treating depression and anxiety, may be prescribed based on symptom severity.


Emetophobia encapsulates an intense dread of vomiting or witnessing others experience it. Classified as an anxiety disorder, its impact can escalate when it coincides with generalized anxiety disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Individuals grappling with emetophobia often sacrifice opportunities for daily enjoyment, avoiding social interactions and public spaces, even their workplaces.

Although research into emetophobia treatments remains limited, therapeutic approaches like cognitive behavior therapy, exposure and response prevention, and medication, hold promise in symptom management. Armed with insights into emetophobia and strategies to navigate its challenges, seeking professional assistance becomes crucial for those affected by this condition.


  1. Emetophobia: A fear of vomiting, Author(s): Abhijeet D. Faye and Sushil Gawande; PMCID: PMC3890925, PMID: 24459314.
  2. I think I’m Going to be Sick: An Eight-Year-Old Boy with Emetophobia and Secondary Food Restriction; Author(s): Sarabpreet Dosanjh and William Fleisher; PMCID: PMC5510939, PMID: 28747933.
  3. Anxiety Disorders and General Medical Conditions: Current Research and Future Directions; Author(s): Joshua P. Aquin and Renée El-Gabalawy; PMCID: PMC6526963, PMID: 31975849.
  4. Cognitive behaviour therapy for specific phobia of vomiting (Emetophobia): A pilot randomized controlled trial; Author(s): Lori Riddle-Walker and David Veale; Journal of Anxiety Disorders; Volume 43, October 2016, Pages 14-22.
  5. Emetophobia: A case of nausea leading to dehydration in an adolescent female; Author(s): Anju Kannappan and Amy B Middleman; PMCID: PMC7436837, PMID: 32874587.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *