My story: Living with emetophobia (Fear of Vomiting)

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LIVING with any kind of phobia must be, at best, inconvenient, and no doubt can become a living hell.

It depends what you’re phobic about: if it’s something that’s easy to avoid, like heights, it’s not likely to cause too much difficulty.

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On the other hand, if the object of your phobia is something that is an inescapable part of everyday existence, it must make life difficult to bear.

One well-known example is agoraphobia, a fear of being in places where there is a chance of having a panic attack.

Less well-known, but apparently very common, is emetophobia, which is narrowly defined as a fear of vomiting, but usually includes the additional fear of seeing other people vomiting, and also extends to a general fear of feeling nauseous.


Generally, the effect on the life of an emetophobe is that he or she lives a life dictated by a constant programme of trying to avoid becoming nauseous or being exposed to people who are.

For me, and probably for countless other women sufferers, the most profoundly traumatic effect was the impact my phobia had on me during motherhood, which in its early stages is a period which is almost defined by nausea and vomiting.

And that was only the beginning.


Then comes the fear that my children might get bugs that would cause them to vomit. And of course, they did, leading to crises of anxiety and compulsive preventative and curative behaviour. This has made me to feel that I didn’t adequately perform my duties as a mother, despite being so evidently devoted to that role.

Aside from my children, there were many other strands of life that this phobia affected.

For instance, I am still troubled by guilt that I didn’t adequately support friends who were ill (including two who ultimately died from cancer) because of a fear of them vomiting in my presence.

More trivially, there was fear of travel sickness which was so bad I avoided travelling by aeroplane for 30 years.

I am now a Grandmother to three beautiful children; I live in Southern Spain and my dearest wish is to be able to have them come and visit me for holidays.

I want to be able to love them properly and not at arm’s length as I did with my own children.

My story is a compelling account of life with a near-debilitating fear and how I managed to keep it a secret for 46 years but through my own shame and not without the understanding and love of my 3rd husband have almost managed to overcome it.

I am fully aware now that I am not alone and through a lot of research via the Internet I am astounded at how many Emetophobes there are throughout the world, and wonder just how many there are in Spain.

By Caroline Dowdall, Mojacar

Readers can email me at [email protected] or visit my facebook page dowdallcaroline 

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