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How to Handle the Fear of Throwing Up in Public

Another reason I hate to leave the house is my fear of throwing up in public. Similar to my fear of fainting in public, it’s often that I get that queasy nauseous feeling that makes me think I could vomit.

I don’t think I have full-blown emetophobia, which is the official name for fear of vomiting, but it’s enough to disrupt my life on bad days.

I have the same important question that I ask in the fear of fainting post–Do you throw up a lot? In my case, I do not. As intensely nauseous as I get, I rarely throw up, especially in public.

This is just my personal experience with the fear of vomiting due to my general anxiety. Please see a doctor to rule out any medical issues that may cause your nausea.

A woman holding her stomach and mouth like she might vomit.

Why am I so scared of vomiting?

I believe this is one fear that I can actually trace back to a moment in childhood. It was during the movie “Stand By Me” in the Barf-o-rama scene. That pie-eating contest where everyone ends up throwing up after each other unlocked a new level of trauma for me.

I had to be about 8 years old at that time. After watching that movie, I was so traumatized that I would ask “Is there barf in this?” before watching anything else for years. We didn’t have trigger warnings back then, but I would have needed one for barf if we did.

Now that I am very much an adult, I still throw my hands over my ears and look away if I anticipate upchucking in a movie. I would say that I got over this enough to be okay (as okay as anyone can be with the act of throwing up) when I am at home. However, the fear of throwing up in public is still very much with me.

Also, did kids used to throw up in school all the time when you were young? Was this an 80s thing? I swear someone was always throwing up all over their desk after we would get our milk cartons. The janitor would come and toss that orange powder over it. I can still remember the smell.

How can I get over my fear of vomiting?

To figure out how to get over the fear of throwing up in public, let’s first identify why it’s a fear. What feelings would I have if I did lose my lunch in front of people?

Embarrassment

Yes, it would be embarrassing to throw up in front of people. However, when you think this through, you realize that throwing up is a human reaction. Every single person in that room has most likely done it.

Personally, if I witnessed someone get sick, I would feel nothing but concern and empathy for them. Sure, it’s also gross, but that person is not gross. I’d like to believe that’s how most others would feel, too.

There’s no need to feel embarrassed if your body has this natural reaction. There’s so much on people’s minds these days that even if they do feel a certain way, they will move on quickly. No one is likely to remember that it was you “who threw up that one time.”

Helplessness

I would also feel helpless if I threw up in public because I would assume that people would run away from me. Depending on the place, this is also probably not true. Parents and health professionals see people get sick all the time. Managers, establishment owners, and authority figures are other options to seek help if you need it.

Pain

Yes, often the act of regurgitation is painful and uncomfortable. The good news is that it’s usually over quickly, and you typically feel better after you throw up. Have to look at the silver linings!

I recently believe I had food poisoning that caused me to vomit for the first time in a very long time. Yes, it was brutal, but was over quickly. Thankfully, I was at home, so that makes it easier to deal with.

As disgusting as it was, I felt so much better after it was over. It was clear my body had to eject a poison on that one. I won’t be eating that food again anytime soon, but the whole episode was far less dramatic than my anxiety works it up to be.

Know your Triggers

Once you get to know your nausea triggers, it’s easier to have a plan in place. Here are some common triggers that cause nausea.

Motion sickness

The moment I look down at my phone or try to read something in a moving vehicle, I am a goner. I usually don’t throw up, but I get intensely nauseous. I now know that sitting up front, doing the driving myself, or at least looking ahead at the road, is helpful to keep my motion sickness manageable.

Certain foods

Certain types of foods make me overly nauseous. It took me a while to realize that too much sugar makes me feel sick the next day. I generally have to watch my blood sugar, so this makes sense for me. Get to know your own body enough to find any trigger foods.

Stress and Anxiety

When I get too worked up about going somewhere, I am guaranteed a nauseous stomach. Due to my issues with anxiety, this is an ongoing work in progress.

I try to practice other coping tools for managing my generalized anxiety to calm myself down.

Actions to Take

There are many things to do to combat the fear of throwing up in public. Your first stop should be to your doctor to rule out any legitimate medical issues causing your problem.

Therapy

Of course, therapy should be high on your list for anything that is disrupting your mental help. There are plenty of treatments for emetophobia to discuss with a professional.

Exposure therapy also worked for me in this case. This was my own exposure therapy due to being around kids and having dogs. I didn’t have children, but we have fostered and adopted enough dogs to be around quite a lot of barf.

I find that most things in reality are never as bad as my brain makes them out to be. Things happen, and you just go through the motions, however unpleasant they may be. “This too shall pass” I repeat in my mind while I clean up the chunks.

Medications

Whether it’s something over-the-counter for motion sickness, or an antianxiety medication from your doctor, there are a lot of medications to explore with your doctor to help your quality of life.

Wear loose clothing

If you find yourself getting nauseous when you go out, wear comfortable clothing. There’s nothing worse than tight jeans around your waist when you feel queasy. If you have acid reflux or indigestion causing your issues, you will also want loose-fitting clothing around your midsection.

Keep a food diary

As mentioned above, foods can trigger nausea. To figure out which ones, a food diary is key. Sometimes it can take a few days for food sensitivities to show symptoms. It can be a challenge to figure out what caused your feelings if you don’t track what you eat.

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11/26/2022 01:56 am GMT

I feel like I mention a food diary in every post, but that is because food is so often my problem. In my case, it feels like diet is everything.

I had my doctor do a food allergy test and a food sensitivity test. I found out that I have a low-level allergy to eggs and peanuts. It’s not enough to have an instant reaction to the foods, but over time, eating these things is no doubt contributing to a lot of my issues.

Bring supplies

Supplies help me feel prepared. If you’re going somewhere and afraid of throwing up, bring some things that might comfort you if you do. What does one put in an “In Case of Vomit” Emergency kit? Here are some ideas:

  • Travel barf bag
  • Extra shirt
  • Motion sickness bands
  • Any medications or supplements that help you with nausea
  • Disposable wipes
  • Mini disposable toothbrush
  • Mints or gum
  1. Disposable Vomit Bags
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  3. Motion Sickness Bands
  4. Motion Sickness Bands
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  5. Double Ginger Peach Tummydrops
  6. Double Ginger Peach Tummydrops
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  7. Hand & Body Sanitizing Wipes
  8. Hand & Body Sanitizing Wipes
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  9. Mini Disposable Toothbrushes
  10. Mini Disposable Toothbrushes
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  11. Wint-O-Green Breath Mints
  12. Wint-O-Green Breath Mints
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Avoid alcohol

Drinking booze can make anyone throw up, so if you are afraid to vomit, skip the alcohol.

Tell people

If you are out with others, tell them your fears. I feel like any time I voice my concerns, part of their power is taken away. The people you tell might even have some advice, share your feelings, or at least get to understand you a bit more.

Girl holding her mouth and stomach like she's about to be sick.

Trust me that we all have our quirks! There’s no need to be ashamed of anything in the way that you are feeling. The more I started opening up to people, the more I got “Oh my gosh, me too!” We are not alone. Let people know you.

Are you ever afraid you might throw up in public? I’d love to hear what you do to help your fear!