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How Common Is Emetophobia?

Person wearing striped t-shirt holding their hand to their stomach
Image source: Pxhere

All too often, phobias are seen as something we can’t discuss with those around us. This leads us to believe we’re the only ones to have a certain fear, which results in us suffering in silence. For too long, this has been the case for people with emetophobia: a fear of vomiting.

The reality, however, is that emetophobia is a lot more common than people might think. We’ll show you the statistics relating to the condition, as well as providing more detail on which groups are most likely to be affected.

Prevalence of emetophobia: the stats

Estimating the number of people with a particular fear is never easy. In part, this is because most phobias are never formally diagnosed. The difficulty is further compounded by the reluctance of many people to talk openly about their condition. Nonetheless, several studies have been conducted with the aim of demonstrating how common emetophobia is.

In 1996-97, the Dresden Mental Health Study indicated that around 0.1% of a community had a specific phobia of vomiting at the time of interview, with 0.2% having experienced it at some point in their life. However, this study focused on only a very narrow demographic group, being restricted to 18–24-year-old women.

In contrast, later studies by van Hout and Bouman in the Netherlands found that 8.8% of a community sample had a fear of vomiting. They further estimated the prevalence of this fear at around 7% of women and 1.8% of men. Some researchers, however, question whether a ‘fear of vomiting’ should be distinguished more clearly from emetophobia.

Another useful way to gauge how common a fear of vomiting is is to take a look at whether people are searching for it. Google estimates that there are between 10,000 and 100,000 searches for ‘emetophobia’ every month in the UK alone, with up to 1,000 searches for related terms such as ‘fear of throwing up’ and ‘fear of vomiting’.

While it may, therefore, be tricky to ascertain the exact percentage of the population that has emetophobia, it seems clear that the condition affects a significant number of people. If you’re affected by this phobia, know that you are not alone.

Who is most likely to develop a fear of vomiting?

Though anyone can have a specific phobia, some people may be more likely to develop these conditions than others. This is certainly true when it comes to a fear of vomiting. Below, we’ll explore some groups with a higher prevalence of emetophobia and see why the condition may be more common amongst them.


As mentioned above, studies have found that prevalence rates of emetophobia are far higher amongst women than men. Van Hout and Bouman estimated that the ratio of sufferers was 4:1.

Other studies appear to confirm that women are significantly more likely to report as having a fear of vomiting. 89% of respondents to a survey carried out by Lipsitz et al amongst an emetophobia support group were women, as were 97% of self-reported ‘vomit phobic’ participants in a study by Veale and Lambrou.

One of the researchers behind the latter study, Prof. David Veale, believes that women may be more likely to develop emetophobia than men due to being more prone to feelings of disgust, as well as being generally more hygienic.

Veale also posited the idea that men often “view vomiting as a joke and even desire to vomit after heavy drinking”. It’s also possible that men who do have this fear are simply ashamed to admit it, and thus their phobia is kept hidden.

Woman staring out of window which shows her reflection
Image source: Alexei Maridashvili (via Unsplash)

People with anxiety disorders

It has been suggested that there could be a link between emetophobia and anxiety disorders, a category which encompasses OCD and generalised anxiety. In the Dresden Mental Health Survey referenced above, it was found that individuals with physical specific phobias, including a fear of vomiting, often also had other anxiety disorders.

In analysing how a specific phobia of vomiting is diagnosed, Veale found that there are several anxiety disorders which are often comorbid with emetophobia, including:

  • Health anxiety, also known as hypochondriacal disorder, with a shared emphasis on fearing infection or illness
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder, which similarly involves adhering strictly to certain behaviours—in this case, so as to prevent vomiting
  • Panic disorder, with sufferers feeling nauseous or anxious and experiencing panic attacks
  • Other specific phobias that may have links to vomiting, such as a fear of choking

A study by Veale and Lambrou found that there was indeed an “overlap in the cognitive processes and behaviours” experienced by both individuals with emetophobia and those with panic disorder. A fear of losing control over oneself appears to be a major factor, with emetophobic individuals viewing this both as a likely outcome if they were to vomit and one that would be particularly awful.

It was also found that there was a significant overlap between emetophobia and OCD, as well as health anxiety. Individuals with these conditions tended to place a very high degree of responsibility on themselves to prevent vomiting, including actions such as obsessively checking sell-by dates or washing their hands.

How do I know if I have emetophobia?

Because emetophobia shares many characteristics with conditions such as OCD and eating disorders, sufferers can sometimes go years without realising that they have it, and can even be misdiagnosed by medical professionals.

Emetophobia involves extreme fear or anxiety related to:

  • Vomiting oneself
  • Someone else vomiting
  • Seeing vomit
  • Feeling nauseous, either at home or in public
  • Activities with an increased risk of vomiting (such as drinking alcohol)
  • Visiting locations where people may be vomiting (e.g., a hospital)

The symptoms related to emetophobia can be wide-ranging, and can manifest in both physical and emotional ways. If you have this phobia, it’s likely that you’ll also practise a range of avoidant behaviours in an attempt to avoid being sick. Left untreated, this can end up being severely debilitating and life-limiting.

Breaking free

If you’ve decided to call time on emetophobia, then you’ve come to the perfect place. EmetoGo’s team of specialist consultants are on hand to help you tame your phobia using a variety of therapeutic techniques.

To take the first step towards conquering your fear, get in touch with us today. We can help you to break free from emetophobia and start enjoying life again.