The fear of vomiting is a very common phobia, particularly in children and adolescents. This phobia, known as emetophobia, is defined as an excessive fear of vomiting and/or witnessing someone else vomiting. Sufferers are often severely disgusted and repulsed by even the thought of vomiting.
Vomit phobia can be a disabling condition which limits the lives of those who struggle with it. Sufferers often avoid situations in which they feel they may be more likely to vomit or witness someone else vomiting. Individuals may avoid eating certain foods, eating in restaurants, and being around others who are not feeling well. Sufferers are also often hypervigilant to the slightest feeling of stomach discomfort because they fear this could be a precursor to vomiting. Unfortunately, stomach aches can become more frequent, as this is a common symptom of anxiety, which ramps up the fear.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the gold standard treatment for addressing vomit phobia. Treatment involves identifying and modifying catastrophic thinking about vomiting, reducing avoidance, and confronting the feared situations. A major component of therapy is exposure in which sufferers are guided in a systematic manner to confront their fears. Individuals practice with situations, objects, and activities which they fear might lead to vomiting. The specific exposure exercises are tailored for each person and are done at the individual’s pace. Overall, the goal of therapy is for sufferers to reduce or eliminate their fear of vomiting and increase their confidence to live their lives without restriction.