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Emetophobia ruining my life

Community Member

Hi guys, I am new here. I am from New Zealand but I have family over here and visit often. We sadly do not have a “beyond blue” in NZ. I am in Aus right now, wishing I could enjoy my holiday instead of being anxious.

Wanting to know if anyone here suffers from specific phobia anxiety, in particular, emetophobia? This is a fear of vomiting.

I’ve been trapped with this phobia since the day I can remember. I have been in proper help for 6 years, I’m on very good medication, but it still disables me very much.

A lot of people I open up to about this say “nobody likes vomiting”. But it’s not that simple. I am terrified of food, of eating, drinking, touching surfaces, taking medication where nausea is a side effect, travelling- I have very avoidant behaviours. I can not touch other people. I do all I can to avoid the possibility of catching an illness or getting poisoned. I think my own Mum is trying to poison me. I am always on the brink of a panic attack and just waiting for the trigger.

This phobia gets better and worse over time, but right now it is very much “worse”. I am severely underweight and although I am an adult I look like a 12 year old.

I am constantly obsessing over food and hygiene. I spend hours reading food labels. I can’t eat at restaurants/takeaways. I cannot travel with other people. I take unnecessary anti-nausea medication and go through a lot of hand sanitiser.

This phobia is absolutely crippling, moreso because it’s unavoidable. You cannot avoid eating, or your own body. I am wanting to know if anyone else out there understands what it is like? or anyone with a phobia, anxiety or OCD in general.

Thank you for reading, I’m sorry it’s so long. Hope to hear from people soon, I am still figuring out how this website works.

Thank you-


12 Replies 12

Community Member

Hi newtonb18,

Firstly, welcome to the forums. It is fine you are using this even though you are from New Zealand, we try to help any and everyone.

I cannot comment on your particular phobia, I can't imagine how tough it would be living with a phobia like that, I wanted to comment to offer my support firstly but in terms of anxiety I can say I have dealt with anxiety for around 10 years and OCD for about as long, I am undiagnosed OCD but I have many traits of OCD to this day that just follow me around, it is so hard and triggers my anxiety big time.

Now regarding your fear, have you ever spoken to a GP about how you are feeling and possibly spoken to a psychologist? Fear's are something that do need to be worked on with trained professionals, especially if you are underweight and it affects your daily life. It may also be worth searching the forums with the key word Emetophobia and seeing if others have posted about that specific phobia.

I am sorry I am not much help but I wanted to reply and offer my support.

Please, post back as much as you like, I am always happy to talk.

My best for you,


Community Member

Hi newtonb18,

I am new here too and still learning how it works so I hope this is ok. I have had Emetophobia my whole life, the earliest memory I have of it is crying in my classroom in grade 3 after a student had been sick outside. The teacher just ignored that I was upset and it felt strange that I was the only one in the class who was upset about it.

I really feel for you with what you deal with everyday. I am very fussy with food and hygiene, I clean and sanitize my hands hundreds of times everyday but I am still able to eat enough and eat out.

My main issue is others being sick so I avoid a lot of situations and I am very uncomfortable around kids. I spend most of my time at home and have been really struggling with depression lately because my husband wants me to be more social.

That's my story, I don't have any advice but just wanted to let you know that you're not alone and I understand what you're going through and it's not easy.

Community Member

I have this same phobia and OCD, and... yeah, it's difficult, especially when everything becomes a trigger and no one can understand why eating food I haven't seen be prepared or I haven't checked a few times is enough to cause a panic attack, or being near a child. I feel like I hate my body for being so uncontrollable, but sometimes there isn't a way to avoid illness or the behaviour of others which is very distressing to me.

If you have support behind you, I would investigate CBT and ERP with them and consider if it may be helpful for you. Also, I would recommend speaking to a doctor about your physical health and nutrition as well. I know that my weight fluctuates sometimes quite significantly (and I'm only small) when I'm especially anxious, and I'll go long periods without eating. This (at least personally) can exacerbate symptoms. Also, you need to prove to your own brain that you can eat and not get sick, and this can only be done by changing behaviors and establishing new thought patterns.

Community Member
Hi im a ninth grader and i am suffering from emetophobia. It only started this year when driving to school i would feel a bit nervous but i was still able to cope and was managable where i could continue normally at school however after 2 weeks of holiday and on the first day of school which was around october when i arrived at school, still sitting in the car i suddenly bursted into tears and couldnt breathe properly for about 30 seconds so my father took me to the doctors and i was told that i had anxiety. During the school holidays whenever i had to go somewhere i would get really nervous where my hands would start to sweat my heart would be beating rapidly and i would feel nauseous. After researching i figured out that i may have this phobia and it has gotton so much worse where i would miss out a lot of my lessons where i would go to the sick room in case i would vomit in front of the class and be humiliated. Whenever i start to feel nausesous i would start to panick and would rapidly progress further. So my parents made me go and see a counsellour at my school and i was able to tell her about my fear of vommiting in front of others. Before i told my friends about my phobia they would think that i was being dramatic becayse i would constantly feel sick which made me feel upset but now they are supportive and are trying ro understand me better. My parents are also supportive however when i try to tell them that i belive i have a fear of vommiting they would think its weird and wouldnt really listen to me as well as my sister where i cried infront of my dad and sister both annoyingly asked why i was crying. I feel really stupid whenevr i panic as it has impacted on my friendship. Eventhough im still friends with this girl last year i was really close to her where she was always worried about and wanted to see me in the sick room and we were the closest out of the enitre group. However as my phobia progressed during school where i was less social and just stayed quiet during breaks we slowly drifted apart where she payed more attention to my other friend and would talk to her more. It just seems that she has more fun when she is with my other friend. Tommorow i am having a birthday party and im starting to worry that i might vomit infront of the restuarant and my friends because i have a cold....

Community Member

Hey all,

I know this is a year late and everything but here goes.

I have been emetophobic since I was about 8 y.o. I just finished my 3rd year living in dorms at my university and as you can imagine, it was a massive constant trigger for my phobia - there were alot of people living in close quarters and alot of alcohol so. Anyway, my first two years were ROUGH to say the least and I got sick a few times due to alcohol and random bugs and that resulted in me having panic attacks and heightened anxiety, however helped me overall. I got to know the feeling and I got less afraid of being sick myself. I could not deal with nausea or other people being sick around me - often ran off from friends who needed help because I couldn't be near them.

3rd year I was an RA (residential assistant) and was responsible for managing a floor of 23 people and on nights where everyone went to the campus club, i was responsible for all of my dorm - including dealing with sick drunk people. I was exposed so much that it pretty much numbed me and I could be very close to people sick with drunkness.

Exposure therapy works at least for that!!! Amazing.

However, towards the end of the year in final exams, I was under alot of stress from my degree etc. and my emetophobia returned and I was often panicking as I would feel nauseous due to stress or poor nutrition and panic.

Im about to graduate from my degree and feel that I am weak now due to my emetophobia returning and me not dealing with it with therapy like I originally tried before exposure.

Germs control my life, I am dead afraid of using public chairs and restrooms or touching handrails etc. I just want to live alone in a cave without bugs.

😞 I guess my post is just saying that it can get better - and I thought I was on top of the world but I have sunk once again. I hope it gets back to being good as I feel nauseous right now and am near a panic - my legs are starting to shake.

Good luck to you all.

Community Member

I’m proud to say I overcame my emetephobia! I still feel a little uneasy sometimes around people who are a unwell, but it’s at a healthy level now.

I’m 27 now, but my emetophobia was triggered at the age of 10. I remember the day very clearly; I woke up feeling very unwell, very upset tummy, reflux, diarrhoea everything. I told my mum I couldn’t go to school, I felt too sick. Perhaps she had something on that day, but she was mad, she wanted me to go to school, she hit me, pulled my hair and tried to force me into my uniform, while I screamed. From that day on, I always felt sick. (Before you get too mad at my mum, she actually had undiagnosed schizophrenia, which perhaps contributed to her behaviour that day)

My strange habits started as eating an entire packet of cough lollies everyday, I found them too be soothing temporarily. I started having OCD behaviour, like I couldn’t step on a crack or I’d get sick, I rewashed plates incase they weren’t clean enough, if someone said they felt sick I hated them in that moment, I had an uncle get sick while he was staying with my family and I refused to go near him for a week, I also would wait to go to the toilet at school for like a week after because he was sick in the toilet at home and I just couldn’t bring myself to use it. Then when I finally did use it again, I put toilet paper all over the seat every time I used it until we moved out of that house a couple of years later.

As I got older it became harder to do things, like go out with friends, because I always felt sick. My school attendance was awful, I’d usually have a day off every week. I was 5ft 8” and only 40 kgs. I remember the day I decided I needed help was when I was 16, all dressed for school and I went to turn the doorknob and a panic attack hit me, I just couldn’t go, I fell to the floor crying. So I asked mum to take me to counselling. The psychologist gave me tools to help manage my anxiety, breathing, rational thinking etc, I think the year following high school was really helpful because I was exposed to a lot of vomiting due to friends drinking and getting sick, eventually, my reaction went from wanting to die instead of vomiting, to eww this is gross, but I hope they’re okay after this. I still can’t hold my friends hair if they’re sick and I always have a pack of chewing gum with me (my new soother), but I got through it! I never thought I ever would, so I want you to know and anyone reading this that it doesn’t have to last forever! 💜

Hi there,

Emetophobia is a tricky one. I have a handful of phobias but emet has always been the most debilitating. As you have experienced, my emet has fluctuated in severity, from being a bit cumbersome as a child, to completely and utterly disabling as a young teenager and once again a bit cumbersome in my late teens.

On my bad days I try to remind myself that I have regained control of my life and I will do it again- try and remind yourself of that, you have done it before and you can do it again. Xxx

Thanks so much for your post. I’m in my 40’s and had treatment on and off since it ruled my life in my teens but it was never successful. I survived by finally having medication on me for plane flights but maintained horrible vigilance. I’m now doing exposure therapy, it’s horrible and only part way through but it’s great to hear you got on top of it and I’m willingly watching videos on a controlled exposure scale. There’s some good resources online for exposure as well, and my psychologist isn’t an expert but knows how to run someone through it. In a way I wish there was an exposure group for support. Im hopeful but still can’t envisage I’ll get over it but logically know I probably will having read case studies of others 🙂

Community Member

Hi there.

I definitely have emetophobia, but it isn’t as bad as you guys. If I see someone throw up, I will definitely feel very sick afterwards, but I won’t have a panic attack. I will avoid them tho. The one thing I don’t do is say/use the word vomit idk why it makes me feel sick

Anyway, even when I’m in a perfectly clean environment, and am not scared of being sick, I feel sick anyway (I feel sick writing this)

I have had this multiple times in my life, and have overcame them (they started as bad bugs) but the one I have right now isn’t going away, I feel sick at ALL times. Literately no time when I don’t feel sick. This one was triggered when I was sick all night and threw up about 20 times. Pls help I have felt like this for 2 years now, I’m 12, this is ruining my life.

oh also I don’t think I really have OCD, I wash and sanitize my hands a reasonable amount a day.