Emetophobia (Wait, a fear of WHAT???) UPDATED

I’m not really a phobic person.

Heights? I’m fine. Spiders? I’ll pick them up and carry them outside to preserve their fragile little lives because I have a tender heart for all living creatures (minus mosquitos and ticks because anything willing to steal my bodily fluids in front of my face deserves to die in retaliation. But if they left me alone, they too would be cared for and coddled by my girly gentle soul.)

There is one thing that I really have a true, real phobia of however. And that thing is vomit. Most especially me vomiting.

I can’t really explain it in a way that makes sense to you unless I describe the lengths to which I will go to avoid this thing.

1. I am the least anxiety-ridden person on earth. I’m as laid back as Garfield. I am chill like an ice-tray. In a nuclear invasion, you might find me curled up in a corner playing online Scrabble. Yet many who know me would swear I have OCD because of the number of times a day I wash or sanitize my hands. Do I care about germs? Not particularly. Is the issue cleanliness? No. It is all directly a defense against any type of infection that might cause me to do the thing that I don’t even want to write again because it terrifies me that much and I’m a little worried that this much talk about it will jinx me into doing it. (Not joking.)

2. If my food even approaches an expiration date: DONE. If it looks like there might be something on it resembling mold. DONE. If I think a bug has touched it, or concentrate on the fact that most people ingest 7 spiders a year, or most plants including fruits and veggies have had bugs walk on them, or I’m probably eating something really repulsive in this hot dog like ground chicken testicles which if I think too hard about might get me nauseous… DONE. If I hear the word “vomit”. DONE. If someone says the letter V in my presence. DONE. If I merely start.. DONE. If…DONE. DONEDONEDONEDONEDONESTOPIT!

If you try to get me to eat after looking at this, you will get punched in the face.
Evidently, a rotten tomato = the nastiest thing in the world. 
(There is a distinct possibility that I will develop an entire food-repulsion diet franchise based solely on this photo. And that it will make me very wealthy.)

3. Don’t even get me started on actually seeing or hearing vomit. Well, yes, actually. Do get me started.

Remember how in my last post I mentioned that somebody had a grand mal seizure? And that that someone (who was totally healthy in class on Saturday and worked really hard, incidentally) had vomited everywhere because of it?

Well, you can guess how this went.

Guy falls on the floor, and I’m like “okay, he’s having a seizure.” Guy convulses dramatically. I’m cool as a spring morning. “Don’t put your hand near his mouth,” I say, trying to protect fingers from being bitten off. “Don’t restrain him.”  I’m there, by his side, helping him not hit walls. I am not phased. In fact, I start to think I’m a bit of a hero. And then? The guy makes a noise that sounds like it might lead to vomit.  I’m out of there in no time flat. Gone. Left the room. No consideration of what was happening, no checking with the other people there to see if they “got this.” I just disappear.

THEN he actually starts heaving. Needless to say, I’m toast. (DON’T TALK ABOUT TOAST AND VOMIT IN THE SAME SENTENCE BECAUSE IT MAKES ME WANT TO YOU KNOW WHAT.) I go back into the classroom and someone else is like “Are you okay? You look like you’re going into shock…”

Yes. I’m going into shock. Not because a guy is convulsing violently on the floor during a class I’m leading. Not because someone’s health is on the line and the paramedics are coming because the seizure has lasted longer than his girlfriend has ever seen one of his seizure’s last. It’s because he was throwing up and I could hear it. That’s why I look like I’ve seen a ghost to the point that people are asking if I’m okay.

So, yeah, I’m a regular hero. I will save the freaking day until you vomit near me, at which point I curl into the fetal position and start rocking back and forth and sucking my thumb and humming lullabies to myself to self-soothe.

I think it’s obvious that vomit is my kryptonite. Hear that robbers and gangsters? You now know the secret to my demise. Samson had his hair, Achilles had his heel, and I have partially digested food mixed with stomach acid that’s expelled through the mouth (and sometimes nose (squiiiiiiiiiiick!!!)).

This wouldn’t be as much of a problem as it is for me if I didn’t have kids.

Some kids are like vomit factories. My cousins used to throw up as a matter of course–it was almost like it was part of their bedtime routine. Brush teeth, say prayers, go puke everywhere, go to bed.

(Aside that is nearly irrelevant but I’m sharing anyway because I’m thinking about it: I will never forget the day one of my seventh graders threw up in class when I was a teacher and I was so taken off guard that I made him clean it up. Um, Mr. Weed, did you not know that there are these people schools hire that are paid to clean up such things? They’re called janitors.)

My girls, thank heavens for huge favors, aren’t big vomiters. However, anytime the words “my tummy hurts” are mentioned (which, tragically, because kids have difficulty localizing pain and discomfort at a young age happens A LOT) I go into a full-fledged, 100%, complete psychological melt-down. I am terror stricken. I can’t sleep. All I can think over and over is “Please don’t let her throw up, please don’t let her throw up, please don’t let her throw up…” which sounds all altruistic and noble and fatherly, and indeed, part of it is that I cannot comprehend the horror of a 4-year-old having to suffer through something so vile and it makes me very sad, but underlying it all is a very selfish thing: if they get sick and throw up, there is a high probability that I will get sick as well and that is UNACCEPTABLE! So then I start chanting it faster: “Please don’t let her throw up, please don’t let her throw up…” Ad nauseam. (What a disgusting Latin phrase.)

The last time this happened I got fed up. I was like, “this is STUPID.” So I went downstairs, got online, and looked it up. I wanted to know more about it.

Turns out, it’s an actual disorder called emetophobia. And apparently it’s one of the most common phobias out there. There are people who literally starve themselves because of this. (I am obviously not one of these people.)

Who knew?

By this point, it was way into the middle of the night. I was going to be very tired the next day if I wasn’t sick myself, and I was not happy about it, but I was thankful to know that I wasn’t alone in my terror.

And what happened?

Nothing at all. She wasn’t even sick.

But, BUT, and this is the kind of thing that drives phobias, there was one time when my oldest said she felt sick, and I kept poo pooing it, and she said it for several hours, and then she threw up lots of times and I had to stay up with her all night and lay with her in the bathroom while she moaned and it was really sad and it seriously felt like one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and I got all existential and weird and jaded and was like “WHAT KIND OF WORLD DO WE LIVE IN WHERE LITTLE CHILDREN HAVE TO VOMIT? WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE? IS THIS EVEN WORTH IT?” and I wasn’t even kidding, and it was really horrible and very melodramatic.

So, clearly, I have to be on guard for that.

Man about to vomit

Is life even worth living when this moment of horror is inevitable?

Also I went for 18 years without throwing up and then that record was broken two years ago but it wasn’t a bad one and I almost think it shouldn’t count.

Also, this post is really rambling but it’s kind of how my brain works when the “V” word is mentioned.  I might edit the crap out of it (go Ritalin!) tomorrow. Might not. We’ll see. (Update: I won’t.)

Also, do you realize how often people talk about vomit on Facebook and Twitter (and blogs? Touche!)? It is utterly ridiculous and I view it as an act of status terrorism.

Also one of the most terrifying stories I’ve ever heard was of this type of flu that made my friend Lindsey Lawson throw up every 20 minutes or so for 48 HOURS STRAIGHT. That is some serious stamina. I think she deserves a medal. And if I ever get that I will seriously consider euthanasia.

In conclusion: I am a neurotic freak and why do people even like me?

Wait. Don’t answer that.

Good night.


There is a bona fide emetephobia counselor who saw this post and commented here. First, that is hilarious. Second, this is a real disorder, and while I was being somewhat hyperbolic for comedic effect, there are those for whom this disorder is a very debilitating thing. I understand how that could be the case–I certainly feel some of the symptoms (obviously). Anyway, if you are someone who genuinely has emetophobia, check out emetophobiahelp.org to find out more information and get help.


  1. You are hillarious. So does this mean you don't want me to tell you about that time that I visited a new ward and the speaker turned green right at the pulpit. You do not want to know what happened next…yep seriously.

    I am tempted to tell you more stories…or I was…until I remembered that I am phobia central. I am afraid of my own shadow, not literally, but I seriously have more phobias than should be allowed one person.

    So I am just going to back away slowly…with my hands in the air, and my mouth shut!

    Here's to good health~!

  2. Joshua, have you heard of Zofran? It's a miracle. My sweet scrawny child caught a horrible bug earlier this summer which made him throw up every 15-20 minutes for 28 hours. When we reached the point wherein we could count his ribs and his skin no longer masked his hip bones, we took him to Primary Children's where they gave him IV fluids for several hours *and* Zofran. And no more barf. And now my feelings for that drug border on the religious.

    Point: You might look into a prescription of that for emergency purposes. 🙂

  3. I am a lucky one who doesn't have this fear. Perhaps after three pregnancies, wherein certain unnamed things happen multiple times per week, I've gotten over it. I will, however, keep in mind the need to avoid mention of such things around you in the future.

  4. We both know we share this. But in public it's like it's grown. Although I have to say one thing. The picture of the guy terrified me. So much. In fact, I was wondering where you even found a picture of that without running into questionable material!!! You don't really need to tell me, I was more just musing over it. I like your blog.
    Your Bro-in-law. Steve

  5. This is so me! I have somewhat gotten over it after having kids, but I still really, really hate vomit. Unfortunately my husband does too. Just imagine both us in the middle of the night trying to clean up a nasty bedroom covered in it while both of us repeatedly squeal "ew, ew, ew'. Or don't.

    I think my fear at least partly comes from the time my sister woke up in the middle of the night when I was 9 and threw up all over her side of the room. I couldn't sleep for about year after that because every little noise she made sounded like it was going to be something else…

  6. Hey Weed! I found your blog because I have a Google alert for emetophobia. You sound so much like I used to be it's incredible! I'm now fully recovered, and I'm the only counselor in the world who specializes in emetophobia. I treat people via Skype all over the world. Check out my website! (And I'll add you to my links. It would be great if you'd link to me, too)

  7. My very worst vomit story:

    I was staying with my sister for a few days. I was sleeping in the guest room, when I woke up in the middle of the night because something felt WRONG. I sat up, leaned over the bed's edge, and vommited VIOLENTLY. Three of four times in rapid succession. Due to my unfortunate angle, I was literally vommiting on the floor, on my arms, on the bed, and UP MY NOSE. It was TERRIBLE.

    I woke up Sister, to ask for help please. She handed me a roll of paper towels, and a bowl, and went to bed. I cleaned up as best I could in my delirious half-asleep state. Took me thirty minutes. Went back to sleep.

    ….I woke up two more times that night to vomit. One time I almost made it to the bathroom, but instead threw up on the wall and the tile floor. Cleaned that up too.

    ….by the way, can we still be friends after sharing this little story?

  8. My wife is preggers and threw up every 20 minutes for about 7 hours. It was terrible and awesome at the same time, like watching a volcano erupt.

  9. I think I've found my emetophobic soul mates! In the past I've been so bad that I have violent panic attacks with extreme nausea that last for DAYS, and I've gone without food for several days, and you don't want to know the measures I take to make sure I and my kids are not exposed to anything contagious. My "mom gene" does not kick in, BUT after years of therapy (no exaggeration), and an effective anti-depressant, I can *function* when I *have to* around vomit. But I still hate it more than anything else. Thanks for sharing, really!!

  10. You can definitely be forgiven seeing as you're kind to spiders. Of course I might not feel that way if I was grand mal guy. Duty of care and all that. On the bright side, your students have now gotten to know you that little bit better!


  11. Ha! I almost can't read some of your guys's comments because of the high vomiticious factor, but thanks for sharing! Also, I'm glad to see that I'm not the only emetophobe 'round these parts.

    @Joshua J–What a horrifying observation! You're exactly right. Crap.

    @Steven–I was kind of scared to look when I typed it in, but was really relieved to see that there wasn't anything unquestionable.

    @Adina–Very true!

    @Mom's–Who knew that I grew up right down the street from a fellow emetophobe? We should have hung out not thrown up together more.

    @Anna–First, that's my eldest daughters name. So you win! Second, I sent you an email.

    @Melissa–I haven't ever heard of Zofran. But it sounds like something I might start taking daily. Kind of like a vitamin.

    @Adina–Very true, except I think the class thought I was very easily traumatized is all (which happens also to be true. NEW POST IDEA.)

    @Everyone–thanks so much for reading about vomit, and then for leaving very entertaining comments.

  12. You make me laugh so hard. Josh, I am a vomit-phobe, too, although not as bad as you. I went 11 years without throwing up, which I thought was pretty cool. It all ended with a burrito from a gas station. WHAT was I thinking.

  13. that is why I have JT- he is fine with all of this yucky stuff.
    A few years ago we were at the doctor for Riley and JT got super sick out of the blue and started to "V" like crazy:
    JT: Bleh (in the tiny Dr. office sink)
    KT: (grab the kids) I'll be out in the hall!
    That's right, the sound of it is enough to make me ditch my man…

    Yet, I don't consider it at a "Phobic" state (did I just make up a new word? I like it)

  14. I had a friend at college who in hindsight I'm fairly sure was an emetophobe. The mere sound of gagging would trigger her gag reflex, so like any good friends we would fake gag in her presence for entertainment purposes. Sadistic, right?
    I'm also surprised that your cousins didn't have the presence of mind to wait until AFTER they had puked to brush their teeth…

  15. Vomit is one of my favorite words because it just captures the essence of nastiness that is vomit. I can handle when someone says "throw up"-it's a happy fun ball kind of word. "I need to throw up! Wheeeeee!" But vomit. Ohhhh. It's dark and full of biliousness. I must say, it is truly disgusting. And I am not fond of vomiting. It makes me cry and have to lie on bathroom floors, which must be yet another freakish phobia.

  16. *LOL* Happy might be the wrong word, I know…, but it's so good to see that there are other emets around that still also manage to see everything from the humoristic side of life. Thank you for being you!

  17. Oh my gosh josh!(ha ha lol that rymed), i have the exact same phobia! if i even hear,see or smell the "you know what" or even hear that someone else got sick from someone else, i feel sick, i feel all shaky, and i even get extremely ticked off! because like if someone is throwing up, i will look like i just saw a ghost, and i will like yell at them! but then i feel really bad and really selfish because like i know that the person throowing up is feeling even more horrible, and i'm like yelling at them! so if i hear someone throwing up, i will either try and drown them out or i will get like all shaky and i can only think about them puking! I hate it!!! i'm so glad that i'm not just crazy and that i'm not the only one!

  18. Oh good, I thought I was the only one. As a kid it would be really bad, I'd have little OCD things I would do just so I wouldn't get sick. I don't do that anymore but I still have a reading tick where I stop on a certain word/ or a chapter. And I don't breathe if I go in a room where someone is sick. Ya know, in case they were *sick*.

  19. HAHA I love how you abandoned your sudden role of being hero… Been there. I live in Oklahoma and work in a Psych Hospital (that is a LOADED statement right there) and when we were hit by a tornado, I was freaking wonder woman, leaping around and hauling catatonic people to safety. A few months later, we were hit with a 6.0 earthquake. I had never experienced an earthquake and I straight fled without a thought, leaving all the crazies on their own. It was NOT my finest moment.

    Hilarious post!

    This reminds me of a few months back when Oklahoma had all these random earthquakes… I work in a psych hospital, and when the floor started shaking

  20. omg. couldn't agree more. i'm convinced that vomit IS the reason i'm a light sleeper- if my husband even gets up to pee during the night, his getting out of bed sends my eyes wide open and i wait (shaking, sweating) to ensure that he is in fact peeing, and not puking. i'm terrified. i usually cannot go back to sleep for quite some time because i'm still recovering from a racing heart rate, and he's back in bed and sound asleep once again. and by this time i'm not sure if my nausea is because i am sure i have the flu, or because i've been shaking so much out of fear.

    1. I know this is an old post and comment, but I am the same way!! Also, if my husband is taking a long time in the bathroom in the middle of the night I'm sure he's in there feeling sick. I bleach my bathrooms like crazy! I hate my brain sometimes!!

  21. Haha emetophobes united over here! I am one as well. I read somewhere that at the first sign of someone near you being sick, you should start drinking 100% grape juice, and have like 3 or 4 glasses a day. Somehow that makes your stomach's ph level unsuitable for a stomach virus to survive. I don't know, sounds weird but it's worked for me. Blarg I feel like I shouldn't say that out loud in case it jinxes

  22. I couldn't get a workout in this morning…thank heaven for your blog. Pretty sure I laughed off a few calories just reading this…and since I share the fear, I'm sure I won't eat for at least a few hours…Thanks! 🙂

  23. I have to add…now that I post that, why don't I get off the couch and this blog and hop on ye olde elliptical? Life is full of tough choices, isn't it?

  24. Josh! Oh my word! Reading this post was like reading my mind. I cannot begin to tell you what a relief it is to know I'm not the only one. I remember when I was little and my sister got sick, I was so paranoid I slept in the back of my closet with the door shut, and locked. THAT is insanity. :^)

  25. Um, you are describing me in EVERY DETAIL. I actually lost 10 pounds* during my freshman year in high school because I was so freaked out that I would get the flu and throw up that I STOPPED EATING. I will throw myself in front of a moving car, a bullet, a train, an angry mob – whatever – to protect my loved ones, but should they even LOOK like they might puke, I am heading for the hills! My mom makes fun of me if she ever catches me washing my hands because she says I use soap and water "like I'm scrubbing for surgery." Once my husband got a mild case of food poisoning and I made and excuse about the terrible weather and slept over at my sister's house that night rather than drive home, just so I wouldn't be near him! What in the world will I do when I have kids???

    *I have since gained that 10 pounds back and more. Dang it.

  26. I am the SAME! I have never related to something written online more intensely than I did in the last 10 minutes when I read this post. I think this post will be mandatory reading for all those vying for my friendship. And spouseship. Thank you good sir.

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