Living With Emetophobia

February 5, 2018 in #MomLife,anxiety,health,life,mental health,wellness

For as long as I can remember, I have had emetophobia. Emetophobia is classified as ‘a phobia that causes overwhelming, intense anxiety pertaining to vomiting. This specific phobia can also include subcategories of what causes the anxiety, including a fear of vomiting in public, a fear of seeing vomit, a fear of watching the action of vomiting or fear of being nauseated.’

And, for as long as I can remember, people have said things like “yeah, I don’t like vomit either.” Except, that isn’t it. That isn’t it at all.

Recently ScaryMommy shared a blog post regarding parenting with emetophobia. I immediately tagged everyone I knew in the comments as if to say “here. read this.”

It’s brought up a lot of dialogue in many circles. I’ve had to explain to people all of the ways this affects me — every. single. day. And I think it’s truly difficult for people to understand, so I figured I’d write about what it’s like living with emetophobia — the little things and all.

Here are some things that go through my head on a daily basis:

  • I have to sit at the window seat of an airplane, but not because I want to see out of the window. I just want to be furthest from the aisle — in case someone gets sick.

  • If I’m going to the movies, I’m always thinking about the potential for the people around me to throw up.
  • I cannot hear the word ‘puke.’ It is awful. I will always refer to it as vomit; and if I hear someone say puke several times I will politely ask them not to.
  • If someone (my kids, other peoples kids, anyone really) even looks like they are not feeling well, I will ask them over and over and over again if they have a belly ache.

  • Every place I go — whether it be the grocery store, preschool drop-off, using a public restroom, going out to dinner — the fear of someone getting sick or being sick is on my mind. Always.
  • In fact, if I’m somewhere and I hear that someone elses family member is sick/has been sick recently (even if they are not present), it will induce a serious anxiety — often resulting in me wondering if I’m starting to feel sick.

  • I carry Clorox wipes with me and use them far too frequently. I specifically keep them for shopping carts, but I do not trust hand sanitizer because it does not fight the germs that cause the stomach bug. You know what does? Bleach. Bleach will kill it. So I carry these bleach wipes with me just in case.

There is not a day that goes by where I do not think about my emetophobia. During the depths of ‘sick season,’ I can often be found with severe anxiety for days. It’s absolutely unhealthy.

ScaryMommy really summed it up with this:

Unlike many fears, emetophobia can easily affect a person’s everyday life and eventually become totally debilitating. Emetophobes are essentially afraid of their own body, and there’s no getting away from the possibility of getting sick. Anyone, at any time, could be carrying around a contagious stomach virus and not know it. Any food could be contaminated with food-borne illness. Most of us live our lives understanding those lingering possibilities, but don’t give them a second thought. And even if we do, we’re able to brush it off quickly.

My anxiety medicine certainly helps curb some of this; but the fear itself is deep-rooted in who I am. I will never be free of itI just have good days and bad days. But please, please, keep in mind that people like me do exist — and there are far more of us than you likely know.

And their simple request for you to refrain from saying a word or talking about vomit does not go unwarranted — remember it may truly be causing them trauma unbeknownst to you.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Marta Rivera February 5, 2018 at 9:03 am

This is so interesting. I’m sure I’m like many others who have never heard of this phobia. But, what exactly happens to you if someone IS sick around you?


Whitney February 5, 2018 at 9:24 am

Thank you for sharing, this is really interesting. I think I may have a lesser form of this, as I do not have constant anxiety about others throwing up, but the idea of me vomiting does send me into a panic attack. If I feel like I am going to get sick, or even just severely nauseous, I start crying and shaking. I’m glad to know I’m not alone.


Alissa February 5, 2018 at 10:03 am

This is my husband. He is TERRIFIED of puking. Like I literally have to hold him if he thinks he’s going to vomit. He can’t even comfort me if I’m sick (I had a stomach bug NYE, New Years Day) because he couldn’t even be around it. A few times people vomitted at his work, and he could just not handle it. It’s a serious fear…I totally get where you’re coming from!


This Messy Season February 5, 2018 at 11:02 am

Ugh! I’ve actually heard about this because my friend texted me that article you mentioned and said read this! This is me! Thanks for sharing girl


Stephanie February 5, 2018 at 12:04 pm

As an anxiety sufferer, I totally understand that other people sometimes don’t understand it. Even if I don’t ‘get it’ I know how debilitating anxiety can be. Hugs!


Kelly February 5, 2018 at 1:13 pm

Wow! I cannot even imagine what being a parent suffering from this would be like. Thank you for sharing your story!


jehava February 5, 2018 at 4:49 pm

I didn’t know much about this at all! Thanks for sharing! Wow


jaclyn February 5, 2018 at 4:50 pm

Wow I never knew there was a category of phobias for this. I can’t say mine is as serious as yours but I do have anxiety about throwing up. Good thing I haven’t thrown up since I was 12….I think I convince myself not to get sick even if I feel like I might. sorry you’ve had to go through this!


Nicole Banuelos February 5, 2018 at 8:14 pm

This is such an interesting read. I have pretty bad anxiety but what you describe here sounds even scarier. I’m so sorry that you have to deal with this on a daily basis!


Fort Birthday February 5, 2018 at 8:35 pm

One of my twins has a problem with gagging and one of the things we work on is behavioral things to try and lessen this kind of anxiety. I have an offshoot of emetophobia related specifically to gagging. I can’t even look at someone touch their throat. The thought of something touching my neck is enough to… I have a ton of sympathy for you. It is awful when anxiety is pervasive. Be well.


Rachel February 6, 2018 at 9:57 pm

Oh gosh! I had no idea that that’s a thing! See, we all have these little quirks! :O


Suzanne Hines February 5, 2018 at 8:48 pm

I actually have this as well, and I didn’t know there was a word for it until just recently. I have always hated throwing up and could not deal with it, but I truly believe that it became a phobia when I become a mother. It’s so hard. Here are few more things that you didn’t add:
– being terrified of family reunions because there are so few people:bathroom ratio. I can only assume the worst will happen and we will all need the bathroom.
– Having a legit panic attack after my daughter vomited all over the floor
– Being fearful of putting my child in the church nursery in case they catch something.
– Feeling incredibly sick after seeing someone post about being sick on their Facebook feed (as if we can catch it through the inter webs lol)
– I, too, constantly question my children whenever they say that they are not feeling well. If they say their stomach hurts, I spend most of the day concerned about them and offering them food just to see if they will take it or refuse it.

It is a very real fear, but one that I fight against every day! Instead of dwelling on it day and day out I have to choose to let it control me and live free. Thanks for sharing!


K.C. February 6, 2018 at 8:37 am

I had never heard of this phobia. Unless one deals with a phobia personally, they can never understand the anxiety and fear. Thank you for your honestly and helping us understand this fear.


Alexandra February 6, 2018 at 9:05 am

I’ve actually never heard of this phobia before and would have had no idea to be sensitive to those who might be affected. It truly sounds exhausting! May God give you relief and peace.


Marilyn February 6, 2018 at 9:55 am

Hey, thank you for sharing and for rising a much-needed conversation. I´ve learned a lot from your post and will have this conversation with the people of my circle.


Lindsey February 6, 2018 at 12:28 pm

This was such an interesting read… I had never heard of this before. What a great way to start some dialogue and awareness!


Jennifer Maune | Maune Legacy February 6, 2018 at 5:57 pm

Oh wow. I am so glad you are able to shed some light onto this topic for those who may not understand. We should always be respectful of others’ phobias!


Jolene February 7, 2018 at 12:12 am

Thank you for sharing. I never knew about such a phobia and you have also educated me on how to be respectful to other people’s phobias.


Lynette February 7, 2018 at 9:12 am

I too have emetophobia. It is very hard for other people to understand. The hardest part I have found is with having kids. I have this fear that they are always going to get sick. Thank you for sharing your story and explaining that this is real!


Rachel February 7, 2018 at 10:40 pm

YES! I’m so sorry you share this with me 🙁 But I feel the same way. Sometimes I find myself OBSESSING over my kids tummies. Like, I’m always like “are you SURE your belly doesn’t hurt!?” JUST to be sure. 🙁 Ugh. It’s awful


Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine February 7, 2018 at 10:12 am

You are not alone! Way to get out there and open up about it!


Cathy February 7, 2018 at 2:04 pm

Thank you for sharing this! I had no idea of this phobia, and it only makes me now want to be extra cautious about this for others I know who may be struggling with the same thing.


Sandy February 7, 2018 at 9:46 pm

Oh my gosh, I feel for you. I had no idea what this meant or that there was this type of fear. I can’t begin to know what it’s like except that it can sound quite debilating. Thank you for sharing and I hope the awareness gets out there for people to be more sensitive to people with this type of condition.


Jessica February 8, 2018 at 11:18 pm

Great post and thanks for sharing! It brings more attention to these conditions so we all can have open-minds when meeting one another.


Britney February 19, 2018 at 10:25 pm

Thank you so much for this blog post! Perfect depiction of what it’s like to live with Emetophobia. I’ve been struggling with this phobia ever since I can remember and I just recently started opening up about it and telling the people in my life. I struggle constantly with feeling alone but this post reminded me that I am not the only one that struggles with this. I’m currently in therapy for it and am hopeful that it helps.


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