Do you have a fear of being sick and a fear of others vomiting? ‘Vomit Phobia’

Jo Daughters, Thrive Consultant ATPC

Help for Emetophobia fear of being sick and a fear of others vomiting thrive book image
Help for Emetophobia fear of being sick and a fear of others vomiting thrive book image

The fear of being sick or fear of throwing up is also known as ‘Emetophobia’

If you are looking for help with your intense fear of being sick or if you have a fear of others vomiting, please read on.

Emetophobia, is ‘the fear of being sick’. Otherwise known as vomit phobia, sickness phobia or specific phobia of vomiting (SPOV). It involves intense anxiety and panic around either yourself or others vomiting.

Emetophobia sufferers can also experience other obsessional disorders.  OCD, panic disorder, health anxiety, social anxiety, fear of pregnancy, fear of choking, gagging and swallowing known as phagophobia are often common.

The International Emetophobia Society claims that Emetopobia is the 5th most common phobia in the world. This little known phobia is suffered by up to 8% of the population at any one time. It certainly is one of the most common phobias I see in my practice.


Although Emetophobia is a common phobia, there has been very little published research, until now that is.

Please follow the link below to the most up to date published research – ‘Exploring The Efficacy of The ‘Thrive Programme’ with Emetophobic Clients: Results of a Survey‘.

Living with the fear of throwing up

Eating, drinking, socialising, travelling, having babies, taking the kids to school, going to the doctors etc. is all part of normal life. But for the emetophobe these normal everyday activities can be the source of intense fear and anxiety.

Every day is an exhausting mix of anxiety, panic, avoidance behaviours and obsessional thinking around health, cleanliness, food prep, being well, being ill etc. Sadly some women even go to the extent of choosing not to have children to avoid pregnancy and morning sickness.

The fear of being sick is mainly, but not exclusively suffered by women. Often they are women who tend to be underweight, intelligent, articulate and who set very high standards for themselves.

Emetophobes typically likely to be very organised, tidy and in control of many areas of their lives. It is a persistent source of disappointment for them not being able to control their phobia, which has a huge effect on their self-esteem. Interestingly, many emetophobes have not been sick for years, mainly due to their avoidance techniques and behaviours. If this is you, you know that avoiding sickness is a full time job and it probably preoccupies many of your waking hours.

Emetophobia has got to be one of the most debilitating phobias. A person with a flying phobia just avoids flying, but the emetophobe can never truly avoid sickness!

Often this is a secret phobia, with family and friends unaware of your problem.

Behaviours of an Emetophobe

  • Preoccupation around being well.
  • Intense panic and anxiety around anyone who is ill or being sick.
  • Worrying if someone in your child’s class/school is absent with sickness.
  • Hyper vigilance around stomach/gastrointestinal problems in others and self.
  • Obsessional thinking around food, sell-by dates, preparation and thorough cooking.
  • Tends not to drink alcohol or will strictly limit to one drink.
  • Avoids eating out in restaurants, but if unavoidable will choose safe food.
  • Dislikes any kind of social events where food and drink is being served.
  • Avoids public transport.
  • Doesn’t like to fly.
  • Avoidance of places where other people could be ill, hospitals, surgeries etc.
  • Always aware of the location of the nearest toilet.
  • Sitting close to the exit at theatres, movies, concerts or conferences.
  • Hones in on media reporting of Norovirus or similar illness outbreaks.
  • Tends to carry water and mints and maybe a hairband to tie up hair.

Thrive Programme for Emetophobia

If you identify with any of the descriptions above and want help with your emetophobia, The Thrive Programme has been shown to be the most successful, researched treatment available.

In the largest recent research survey (see above link) on the efficacy of treatment for Emetophobia, of those 62 participants that responded, 55 participants stated their symptoms reduced from ‘significant’ to having little or no impact on their life and 7 from ‘significant’ to ‘modest’.

Help for Emetophobia, fear of being sick using The Thrive Programme

The Thrive Programme for Emetophobia is an approximately 6-8 week unique psychological training programme. It has been developed by Rob Kelly who over 25 years has successfully treated and supervised 1000’s of clients with emetophobia. During that time he recognised certain commonalities, personality styles, unhelpful thinking styles that were present in these clients. So much so that

It is:

  • Easy to understand
  • Empowering
  • Evidenced based

The programme is thoroughly researched and  backed up by clinical experience and research. It helps you to understand how your cognitive processes have contributed to the development and maintenance of your phobia.

We explore your personality traits, self- limiting belief systems and unhelpful thinking styles that predispose you to lose perspective on situations and see them as threatening and anxiety provoking. We look at how  language has a huge impact on your emotions and beliefs. You learn how to quickly improve your self- esteem and lower your social anxiety.

You learn the impact of having an ‘external locus of control’ on your phobia, i.e. feeling powerless over your phobia, and how to change that to a belief that you have the inner resources and skills to easily overcome your symptoms and have a sense of control in your life.

Thrive - fear of being sick and fear of throwing up anxiety
Thrive – fear of being sick and fear of throwing up anxiety

What is the difference between Thrive and CBT?

You may think that there are similarities between the two, but the difference and efficacy of the Thrive Programme is in the thorough understanding of how you have allowed your phobia to develop and be maintained.

Only then, when you have this insight and you fully understand the link between your thoughts, emotions and feelings can you effectively use the simple techniques I’ll show you to overcome your Emetophobia.

However, as with all Thrive trainees you will find that the Thrive Programme will have a significant rippling effect on all other areas of your life too, finding yourself more confident, outgoing, more positive, building resilience, skills and resources to get through whatever life throws you!

Please see The Thrive Programme for more details.

If you would like to learn more about Thrive for Emetophobia and overcome your phobia please give me a call to make an appointment for a free, complementary consultation. In a relaxed, caring, comfortable, confidential environment we can have a chat asbout how Emetophobia affects your life and how we can move forward to resolve your phobia.

There is no obligation or pressure to proceed at this informal meeting. I look forward to hearing from you!