Living with Emetophobia (Anxiety Series)

Emetophobia for me is like The Grim Reaper. It waits until I’m feeling on edge about something and then it likes to come out of the shadows. You know that question, when people ask you “Who would your three dream dinner party guests be?” “Oh that’s easy!” I say. “Lana Del Rey, Emilia Clarke and Jennifer Lawrence.” Probably the best night EVER. “And how about your three nightmare dinner party guests?” I look as if I’ve been asked the most stupid question. Like you need to ask me this? “That’d be Anxiety, OCD and Emetophobia”. Total. Head. Fuck. It’s just another little fellow, along with the anxiety and OCD, who likes to sit on my shoulder and piss me off. Regularly.

Emetophobia is an intense phobia that causes overwhelming, intense anxiety pertaining to vomiting. The sufferer could experience any of the following…

  • A fear of vomiting themselves
  • A fear of someone else vomiting
  • A fear of vomiting in public
  • A fear of seeing vomit
  • A fear of watching the action of vomiting
  • A fear of being nauseated

I am the top three. Right there, that is me. Ok, so most people I’m close to will know I have a bit of a thing about sick. And germs. I love to get the bleach bottle out and make sure the place is satisfactorily disinfected. That’s just me, I’ve always liked cleaning. I find it very cleansing! But they won’t realise I have Emetophobia. In fact they probably haven’t even heard of it. Writing this blog means I’m opening up lots of old wounds that haven’t even healed in the first place. It’s quite nerve wracking being so honest about my mental health. What will people think of me when they read this? Most people don’t know the true Bex. They see bubbly Bex who is on the go most of the time, and although this is how I actually am in real life, I’m pretty good at hiding how I’m really feeling. Because, most of the time I feel anxious, worried and I’m always hypervigilant about something bad happening. I am “the worst case scenario” kind of girl! (I am trying to be more positive, honest. Please bear with!)

I can honestly say I can’t remember how or when being so scared of vomiting started. I remember being sick as a child and I was fine. My brother was sick when we were playing in the living room as kids, leaping across the sofas, having a fabulous time. And then he threw up. And I found it hysterical. So why am I so scared about being sick now? I’m not 100% sure, but it seemed to rear it’s head when the bullying started and it definitely got worse when my mum was diagnosed with cancer and having treatment, and before my Helicobactor Pilori diagnosis when I was having really bad tummy problems. I went down to seven and and half stone and couldn’t eat anything. I felt extreamly nauseous all the time and it took me nine months to get the eradication treatment from the GP. I had to do the research myself and go armed with it to my appointment. It was a tough time but the antibiotics seemed to clear it up. I still worry it’ll come back one day, though.

The very thought of being sick makes my blood run cold. It’s even worse if someone else is sick, especially when it’s someone I’m around a lot of the time and can’t get away from that easily (sorry that sounds awful!) These people being Hubby or work collegues. Right now, Hubby has a sickness bug. Half an hour before it started I quickly packed some of mine and LL’s things, bundled us both in the car and headed straight to my parent’s house. I have had to stay there for three days as I can’t bear the thought of being in the house. Hubby told me to go, so he knew something was brewing as he wouldn’t have gently warned me otherwise! Sickness bug germs. I’m literally having a panic attack at the thought. Hubby is going to have to bleach EVERYWHERE in the bathroom and kitchen, change our bed and put all the sick bug sheets and clothes in the washing machine before I even step through the door. I cannot touch them. Yes, I know this may sound really extreme. But to the person with a phobia anything to avoid a situation regarding it is a no brainier. There’s no questioning it, it just has to be done for us to feel better.

The thought of someone possibly vomiting can cause the phobic person to engage in extreme behaviors to escape the perceived (and sometimes very real) threat. The phobic person will go through great lengths to avoid even potential situations that could even be perceived as “threatening”. As you have read of Hubby being ill, this is so true and something I can relate to time and time again. I feel like a terrible wife. “In sickness and in health” I said as I repeated our wedding vows. I should be at home looking after him. (He’s fine, by the way bless him, playing on his Xbox now whilst I’m in hiding.) I feel so selfish. I’ve cried on the phone to him as I feel so guilty and he’s so understanding about it all. He must love me! I’ve never been drunk (I just haven’t had any interest in going out clubbing), will avoid meat if I go out to a restaurant and I am guilty of excessive hand washing.

I can usually tell when I’m experiencing a “flare up” of my etemophobia. I start to wash my hands a lot more and it isn’t until they’re chapped and bleeding that I realise that I’m going through the “sickness phase” again. My hands are red raw at the moment because of the sickness bug thing, and no matter how much I moisture the damage is done and I’ve aged them about thirty years. I start to feel a bit more wary about what I’m eating, as well. Raw chicken is a bit of a thing for me, if it smells even the slightest bit more “chickeny” than usual (my Hubby finds this hilarious) then it goes straight in the bin. I have to inspect it, too, and if it doesn’t look nice and pink it has to go. I will never eat out of date food, even if it’s only a day old and looks and smells ok. There’s no way I’m risking that. I’ve always had tummy problems, but every few months I get a really bad bout of it and it knocks me for six. I’m told it’s IBS but every time it flares up it’s really frightening as the symptoms are so bad. I’ve been writhing around on the floor in pain and other nasty things happening (I won’t go into detail!) It’s made me really nervous about eating new or different things.

It isn’t known exactly what causes this phobia, although there are a few theories. Treatment is exposure, from what I’ve read. I’m sorry but if I can avoid anything to do with sick then I will. As you’ve read, someone suffering with this phobia isn’t going to be the easiest candidate to “cure”. I’ve been trying to overcome this phobia for years, but with no luck. I’ve considered hypnotherapy actually, and the longer the fear persists the more appealing it is. I’ve been told I can’t avoid being sick forever (yes I know that) and I should stay at home when anyone is sick. That I should stop being silly or to “pull myself together”. But that’s the same as telling someone who has Arachnophobia to sit in a room full of spiders and feel ok. Would that be easy for them? There are so many different phobias, and to the person who is suffering with one it’s a very real and distressing situation. No phobia is “silly” and it certainly isn’t as easy to “pull yourself together”. As much as the people struggling would like to.

For more information and advice please visit these helpful links…

Please comment below if you experience Emetophobia and what advice you have. It’d be wonderful to hear from you Xxx


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