Is It Possible To Learn How To Not Throw Up?

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated December 4, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Vomiting is miserable to experience, complete with cold flashes, clammy skin, and churning stomach. What causes vomiting? Is it only a sign of an illness? Is it possible to teach yourself to not throw up? In this article, we'll take a closer look at the causes of vomiting and discuss whether it can, or even if it should, be stopped.

Is Stress Making You Sick?

Reasons We Vomit

Contrary to what many people think, your stomach does not tell your body when to vomit. Your brain does. In fact, every action that occurs in our bodies is a result of some type of signal from the brain; vomiting is no different.

There are several reasons a person may vomit. In many cases, it's your body's way of purging a harmful substance. Some of the most common reasons for vomiting include the following.

Food Poisoning

Food poisoning results from eating food that is contaminated. This may occur when a person who is sick prepares food without using proper hand washing techniques, if food is old/expired, if food is not prepared or cooked properly, or if it was not stored properly after cooking. To rid the body of the bacteria causing food poisoning, the body responds with vomiting. 

Most cases of food poisoning resolve within 24-48 hours. However, there may be times when medical attention and/or treatment are needed to completely rid the body of the bacteria. 


Nausea and vomiting are some of the first signs of pregnancy. Although it is commonly called "morning sickness," it can actually occur at any time of the day. As much as 80% of pregnant women experience vomiting. Pregnancy-related vomiting during the first trimester is believed to be caused by the rapidly-changing hormone levels in a woman's body. Many doctors consider this to be a sign of healthy placental development. 

For most women, vomiting in early pregnancy is not something that should be a major concern. However, if the vomiting becomes severe or you become worried, it's always best to err on the side of caution and visit your OB/GYN.


Gastroenteritis, commonly called the "stomach flu" or "stomach virus," often cause diarrhea and vomiting. It is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection that causes the stomach and intestinal lining to become irritated and inflamed. The body's natural response to harmful or foreign pathogens is to get rid of them. This results in vomiting and diarrhea. One of the major concerns of gastroenteritis is the risk of dehydration. Drinking fluids is encouraged to prevent dehydration and the risks associated with it.

Motion Sickness

Motion sickness occurs when there is a difference between what a person perceives visually in comparison to the body's sense of movement. The most common types of motion sickness are being carsick, air sick, or seasick. Symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting.


During times of high stress or anxiety, the body's natural defense is to initiate the "fight or flight" response. When this occurs, the area of the brain called the hypothalamus releases hormones that create a sense of awareness that you should either run from danger, or fight because you are in danger. When these hormones – adrenaline and cortisol – are released, some people experience nausea and vomiting.

Should I Learn To Stop Vomiting?

People have different opinions regarding whether learning to stop vomiting is safe or not. There is a difference in learning to stop vomiting and learning measures to control responses which may lead to vomiting.

While no one really wants to experience the feeling of vomiting, it is one of the body's natural defenses against harmful substances. However, if vomiting occurs for more than 24 -48 hours, it is advisable to see a physician. There are some instances when vomiting is related to emotional or psychological issues; these should be addressed as well.

Measures To Help Control Or Stop Vomiting

Recognizing symptoms that lead to episodes of vomiting may help you control whether it happens or not. There are a few things you can do to relax your body and try to prevent vomiting from occurring.


  • Deep Breathing: Take a slow, deep breath through your nose. Your abdomen should expand as you breathe in. Slowly exhale through your mouth. Allow your belly to relax after each breath. Taking controlled, deep breaths is believed to activate the parasympathetic nervous system in the body. This helps control the body's response to anxiety and nausea.
  • Eat Crackers:  Bland foods, such as dry crackers or toast, help absorb stomach acids, which often cause nausea and vomiting. It's important not to eat too many at once, as your stomach still has to break down the food for digestion. Having a few dry crackers about 10-15 minutes before getting out of bed is one of the most common ways to help alleviate morning sickness in pregnant women.
  • Drink More Fluids: One of the risk factors associated with vomiting is dehydration. Therefore, drinking plenty of fluids is important. Sip fluids slowly, so as not to upset your stomach. Also, avoid acidic drinks, such as tomato or orange juices. Ginger ale, peppermint tea, and water are good choices when nauseated. If drinking causes too much distress on your stomach, try eating ice chips slowly.
  • Medications To Treat Vomiting: Medications that contain bismuth subsalicylate, such as Pepto-Bismol and Kaopectate, may help relieve nausea and vomiting. They coat the stomach lining, which reduces the interaction of acid and the stomach lining, therefore reducing vomiting. These medications can be bought over the counter. Dramamine, which is also an over-the-counter medication, is often used to treat motion sickness.

It's important to note that although some medications can be purchased without a prescription, uncontrolled vomiting should be assessed by a physician. Your doctor will be able to determine if there is an underlying cause of the vomiting and advise you on an appropriate treatment plan.

Knowing When To Seek Help

Vomiting does not always mean that you should see a doctor immediately. However, being aware of changes in your body and knowing when to seek the help of a professional is important. For example, you should see your primary care provider if you

  • Vomit for longer than 48 hours (adults) or 24 hours (children)
  • Vomiting occurs sporadically for over a month
  • You experience weight loss

Emergency medical help should be sought when any of the following accompany vomiting:

  • Chest pain
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • High fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Severe headache

There are also situations in which seeking help is necessary, due to the potential presence of an underlying disorder. We'll discuss common ones below.


Believe it or not, there is a medical name for the fear of vomiting, known as emetophobia. Some people have a real fear of vomiting. It's not just the act of vomiting that is frightening to an individual with emetophobia; those who experience this fear often obsess over whether or not they can find a restroom in time, are embarrassed to vomit in front of other people, or fear an inability to stop vomiting. For these individuals, the anticipation of vomiting is often more stressful than act of vomiting.

Treating emetophobia is usually accomplished with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of therapy involves correcting faulty beliefs, reducing the need to avoid situations that may cause nausea or vomiting, and confronting challenging situations.

Eating Disorders

 is an eating disorder that can be life-threatening. It is characterized by consuming abnormally large amounts of food in a short period of time followed by purging in an attempt to avoid gaining weight. Methods of purging include the use of laxatives or diuretics, extreme periods of exercising, and forced vomiting.

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Is Stress Making You Sick?

Bulimia nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening psychological disorder. Therefore, knowing when and where to reach out for help is crucial. The treatment for bulimia is focused on treating the underlying factors, which usually include poor self-esteem and a negative body image. It involves learning to break the cycle of binging and purging, restoring healthy eating habits, identifying, and changing thoughts related to poor self-perception, and resolving any emotional issues that may have led to the disorder.

Getting Help

If you are experiencing vomiting and want to learn to stop or control it, consider talking to your primary care provider. Your doctor can perform a routine physical assessment and obtain a history from you to help determine whether medical intervention is necessary. Furthermore, if your symptoms are related to emotional issues, you may find relief and help by talking with a mental health professional.

Online counseling services, like BetterHelp, have been found to be effective in treating a broad range of both common and uncommon conditions. For example, one study demonstrated how people who used BetterHelp experienced a significant decrease in depression symptom severity after engaging in online therapy.

Online counseling, such as that provided by BetterHelp, offers individual counseling to meet their needs when and where they need it. The online nature of BetterHelp’s therapy also allows it to be cheaper on average than most other forms of therapy, as you don’t need to commute to and from sessions and our therapists don’t have to pay to rent out office space.

Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

"Orly Katz is an incredible therapist who is clearly very experienced and passionate about what she does. I would highly recommend her to anyone who is seeking help. My first session with her definitely made me feel more optimistic about how therapy can help me see positive change in my life. Thank you, Orly!"

"I've gone through many counsellors in my life but none of them have been able to make a connection with me and get me on the right path. Although, we are in different countries and time zones Grace always replies in a timely manner and always has availability for an appointment. Grace has always made me feel extremely comfortable when it comes to talking about anything, that I can be open and has always made me feel understood. Grace has helped me overcome an eating disorder, helped me while I was in a really terrible work place, help with having difficult conversations with people and has given me so many useful tools that help to calm my anxiety. Grace has been a huge help with my personal development and definitely since signing up to better help I have noticed huge positive improvements in my life."


Vomiting is a common physical response to harmful pathogens and changes in hormone levels. It may also occur due to an imbalance related to an individual's visual perceptions. Additionally, vomiting may be a sign of a mental health disorder, such as anxiety or stress, or an eating disorder. 

While most vomiting resolves quickly without the need for intervention, knowing when and where to seek for help is important. No matter what you're experiencing, you can move forward to a truly fulfilling life. All you need are the right tools. Take the first step today.

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