Fear of Vomiting (Emetophobia): Origin, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

The fear of vomiting is a disease suffered by many people and although it seems very simple, the scientific name is emetophobia refers to the fear of vomiting or nausea, either a genuine or irrational fear.


There has almost always been, among emetophobics, an event that triggers disgust, which can be, apparently, minor (a bad memory of gastroenteritis in childhood), or major, and associated with trauma (sexual abuse, rape …) .

We can find links with forced oral sex, more often oral sex, “says the psychologist. But they can be much less traumatic events. I remember, for example, an emetophobic patient whose cause of the disorder coincided with the birth of her younger brother: her mother had suffered terrible nausea and vomiting during her pregnancy . What had marked him deeply. ”

Most of the time, it is not so much the fact of vomiting or nausea that is a problem, but the idea or fear of feeling the emotions associated with it (disgust, fear…).

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  • ‘Emetophobia is the fear of vomiting, and often even seeing someone vomit, whether in real life or in the movies.
  • It is also the fear of nausea and, in extreme cases, the fear of stomach aches, explains Cécile Kapfer, clinical psychologist and author of Overcoming Fears (Ellébore, 2011).
  • In my practice, I have never met a patient who only consulted for emetophobia.
  • Because it usually occurs in addition to other symptoms.
  • But also and above all because it is a disorder misunderstood by others, of which we do not speak, and of which the sick are ashamed.


  • Emetophobia falls into the category of specific phobias , that is, phobias whose object or phobogenic situation is clearly identified.
  • In this phobia, anxiety is generated by the fear of vomiting, seeing someone vomit or having nausea.
  • In the most extreme cases, even stomachaches cause anxiety.
  • Like all phobic people, the emetophobic will develop phobic behaviors in order not to face their fear.
  • Eventually, your daily life, your social relationships and your professional career can be significantly disrupted.

What are the symptoms of emetophobia?

  • In their daily life, the emetophobic person will be prone to anxiety attacks, even panic attacks, thinking that they are in a situation that can cause nausea or vomiting.
  • Depending on the individual, this can range from fear of taking public transportation to fear of seeing someone vomit in a movie or refusing to get pregnant for a woman.
  • Generally, emetophobia pay particular attention to preparing meals, washing vegetables, and timing of food consumption, as emetophobia is often associated with an excessive fear of bacterial contamination.
  • Some people even refuse to eat outside their homes.

What Causes Emetophobia?

  • It is not always easy for a phobic individual to determine the source of his fear of vomiting.
  • Generally, it is born during an event experienced as trauma.
  • It could be, for example, a gastroenteritis that has left a very poor memory , or the vision of a mother who suffered severe nausea during one of her pregnancies.
  • More serious causes like sexual abuse or rape can also trigger this kind of disgust.

What are the treatments?

  • This specific phobia must be treated psychotherapeutically as soon as it has an impact on social and professional life.
  • In phobia, cognitive behavioral therapy offers good results as it allows the phobic person to gradually face their fear of vomiting by developing tools to control it.
  • The psychoanalysis is also a possible alternative in cases of emetophobia.
  • This approach, certainly less dynamic, allows the patient to work on the real causes of his disorder, looking for elements of understanding in his past.

Georgia Tarrant
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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.