fear of being sick - emetophobia - fear of vomiting or fear of someone vomiting - fear of throwing up

fear of being sick - emetophobia
 Emetophobia / fear of being sick / fear of others being sick / fear of vomit
'just wanted to tell you that last year I cried at the reports on Norovirus, this year I'm neutral. Don't want it, of course, but I'm not freaking out'...Anna

The fear of being sick receives little attention compared with other irrational fears, yet it is the fifth most common phobia, according to the International Emetophobia Society. Type 'fear of being sick' into search engine Google, and you get nearly 29 million websites.  It is an extremely debilitating and disabling condition. Victim's lives are dominated by irrational thoughts and actions. Sadly, some women even deny themselves motherhood for fear of morning sickness and some sufferers become housebound. Emetophobia is rarely spoken of partly because of the nature of the subject - it is unpleasant and 'dirty' and victims are acutely embarrassed. Also, fear of being sick is often 'cloaked' by another phobias. Many people come to me for help with fear of flying, but during therapy, it emerges that their fear is not of flying, but of being sick and embarrassed. Courses to conquer fear of flying often concentrate on the safety of planes. But reassurances about physics and the mechanics of planes don't help an emetophobe

Claustrophobia and social phobias are other examples of fears that 'cloak' emetophobia. I ask: "Why don't you like crowded rooms?" and patients sometimes reply: "If I feel sick, I can't get out in time and I'll throw up in front of everybody!"

I have been treating emetophobes for nearly four years at my hypnotherapy clinic in Harley Street, London. Most sufferers are female who have had symptoms since their youth. They have wasted years avoiding situations where either they or someone around them could become ill. Because of the extreme lengths they go to avoid sickness most of my clients have not been sick since childhood. Indeed most boast how long it is since the last time they were sick. Those with a mild phobia have anxious thoughts while eating. Some suffer so severely they refuse to leave their home. Some sufferers experience discomfort almost all the time, others just in response to direct stimuli. Sometimes the phobia hides for years until something triggers it to show itself.

A typical emetophobe displays some or all of the following tendencies:

  • Eats out in restaurants very rarely and when doing so is very choosy - avoiding chicken, spicy or unusual cuisines.
  • Does not drink or restricts themselves to a single glass of wine.
  • Does not like pubs or clubs
  • Dislikes dinner parties, weddings, social events and crowded rooms which can lead to anxiety / panic attacks.
  • Eat little in public and sit near a door.
  • Frequently checks sell-by dates on food packaging
  • Avoids flying and travelling by boat.
  • Avoids public transport, preferring to travel by car and drive
  • If they can visit a cinema / theatre, they would insist on sitting at the end of a row.
  • Avoids pregnancy fearing morning sickness and also fear of having a child and not being able to care for them if they were to become sick.
  • Avoids anyone with a real or imagined sickness bug - either within their own environment or in public places.
  • Very aware of pavements and checks weather forecasts to see when rain is due.

Click here to see what causes emetophobia


Click for more info on the norovirus and rotavirus stomach bugs

The recent outbreak of the norovirus and rotavirus stomach bugs is a problem for those suffering with emetophobia - the fear of being sick

Headlines will proclaim that the norovirus and rotavirus stomach bugs will cause millions of working days to be lost due to people catching the virus...but what about the emetophobia sufferers who are terrified to venture out for fear of catching either the rotavirus or the norovirus stomach bug?

This outbreak of the norovirus and rotavirus is the ultimate nightmare for an emetophobe and if there is a sufferer within your family or friends, please show them utmost caring and understanding during this very difficult period for them.


emetophobia: a persistent, abnormal, and unwarranted fear of vomiting or throwing up, despite the understanding by the phobic individual and reassurance by others that there is no danger.  


Due to the high volume of requests for information on the fear of sickness / emetophobia, David Samson will be running a series of lectures in Central London over the next few months.

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