This is quite a common phobia and seems to occur more often in girls and women. Generally the person is afraid of vomiting themselves, but they’re also afraid of seeing other people vomiting because they fear the other person has a “bug” which they might catch.
You might think this phobia would not be such a big problem as we don’t often see people vomiting in daily life unless we have young children or are taking care of sick people. But in fact emetophobia can cast a shadow over a person’s whole life.
They may avoid public transport, or any place which they can’t immediately leave if someone started vomiting. People with emetophobia know that some other people have motion sickness in planes and boats, and of course there is nowhere to escape if someone does start being sick.
Since this problem normally begins in early childhood, the person with emetophobia may be very worried as they go through the normal stage of socialising and drinking with teenage friends. Most British teenagers have been sick on occasion due to not yet knowing how much drink they can handle. This is never a pleasant experience but for the person with emetophobia it is so horrifying that they may avoid socialising altogether, just in case they see someone else throwing up.
People with emetophobia may also be very reluctant to try any unfamiliar food in case it makes them feel sick. They may be excessively cautious of food which someone else has handled.
In extreme cases some women even choose not to have children simply because they don’t think they could cope with their child being sick.
You can read HERE how phobias in general usually begin.
Emetophobia can begin with a traumatic experience of vomiting excessively or seeing someone else vomiting, where the child and the adults around them are already stressed by something else. All the stress and fear is bundled together and attached to the thought of vomiting. Even a normal experience of vomiting could be very distressing to a child if they’re not used to it, and if they don’t understand what is happening. Some children who have not been “sicky” as babies are very frightened the first time they are sick, because they think there is something badly wrong with them. Vomiting is a very powerful experience because it involves all our senses. We see it, hear it, feel it, smell it, and taste it. And it’s frightening because we cannot stop it. It is happening in our body but it’s out of our control.
Therapy for emetophobia involves the usual range of hypnotic techniques as described HERE. It is also important to reduce the client’s excessive attention to the physical sensations in their stomach, because people with emetophobia tend to assume that any sensation in their stomach means they’re going to be sick.