Emetophobia Struggles

I have Emetophobia. This is one of the things I’ve been really wanting to write a blog for, for a while now. I want to help people understand what I feel and how it affects me, because it is so frustrating when I tell people and they tell me “oh don’t worry, it will be fine”. So, here’s one of the biggest stresses in my life, explained for you all.

Emetophobia is the fear of vomit. Some people who have Emetophobia only have ‘half’ of the fear; they either fear others vomiting, or themselves vomiting. I however, have both ‘halves’, and it it one of the biggest contributions to stress I struggle with, and it really does affect my life. I fear the day when I will have to throw up, and I fear the day when someone will be sick and I will be the only person around to help them.

I don’t know what caused such an intense fear in me…For as long as I can remember I have been scared. When I was younger and in Primary school I used to get stomach aches every single day because I was afraid to be away from my parents in case I threw up in school. My teacher used to worry about me, because I never got better. I would go through phases of these daily stomach aches, and at this point even I didn’t realise that I had a phobia.

I have been in and out of school for various reasons my whole life, and now I have finally settled down. The decision to enroll at my current school was not made lightly, of course. One of my biggest issues, although I did not alert anyone of this for fear of being laughed at or ridiculed, was what if someone is sick? If i hear that someone near me feels like they are going to get sick, or even just have a bit of a stomach ache, I immediately start to feel myself panicking. I first attempt to locate the source of this persons stomach ache, knowing that some types of stomach ache, such as hunger, are much less likely to result in vomit. If I am reassured that the person will not throw up, I calm down a little, but the thought is still there, nagging at me. If however this person really does feel like vomiting, I go into panic mode.

Once I have established there is a chance someone will throw up around me, even if they are in a different room, I assess my situation. If there is a way I can get away, I will do so as soon as possible. If there is not, I panic. I shake uncontrollably and breathe faster, my pulse increases. Also I grab small chunks of my hair and twist it and pull it, because somehow it helps me from going into a full-blown panic. Generally then I myself begin to feel nauseous, which makes me panic even more. It is so frustrating, because I want to help people when they feel ill or are vomiting, but I can’t!

When I feel nauseous, I do the hair-pulling thing still, and start to shake. I also find my self having to pace, despite people telling me that if I feel sick it is best to sit down, I just can’t. I have to always have water with me, as it helps calm me down. I am getting better at controlling my panic when I feel sick, because more often than not, my nausea is caused by panic. I breathe slow and sip water, which calms me down a lot. If the nausea does not pass, I will panic some more, as now it is more likely I feel sick because I need to BE sick, and that in my mind is never an option. If I ever do get to this point, I break down. I remember one time watching a show with my mum and sisters, all sitting on my parents bed, and I had eaten a lot of chocolate. I started to feel sick, and so I did the hair pulling and sipped water, but it wouldn’t get better! At this point I stood up and told mum I didn’t feel well, avoiding the phrase “I feel sick”. She asked if I wanted to go to the bathroom, and I put my arms around her and said no, before just weeping, and saying to her “don’t let me be sick!” Lots of people would just say to me “it’s okay, nobody likes being sick”, but those people don’t understand how I feel.

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact thing that makes me hate vomiting so much. I know for myself it is just the complete lack of control, but for others being sick, although that is also a control thing, I’m not sure sure what it actually is about it. I think the most part of it is the sound, because whenever someone is sick, the first thing I do is not close my eyes, but cover my ears. To be honest, the whole thing is just traumatising for me, and it’s not just people actually being sick that I don’t like…It’s if someone coughs or burps, I am scared, if someone chokes, I am even more scared. I only recently learned to take tablets because I was scared that I would choke on them.

One of the things about having a phobia is that you become attached to it, it becomes part of you. You call it “my phobia”, it’s yours, it belongs to you. You become certain that nobody will ever be able to help you get rid of it, and it is SO hard to gather the determination to rid of it yourself. Also, Emetophobic people are statistically less likely to vomit. This makes me think “why should I get rid of this fear? It’s stopping me from being sick!” I know this is the wrong way to go about it, but I feel that if I finally conquer this phobia, I will throw up more.

Emetophobia is such a stress. There is one more thing I would like to say about it before I relieve you all of this incredibly long post… Exams. I’ve been doing a bunch of exams recently as I am in the midst of my GCSEs. Most people stress because they are exams, they determine your future and whether you please your teacher or not. This doesn’t stress me out nearly as much as the time we have to spend in a silent hall full of nervous students. I noticed last week that in our 1hr45min maths exam, I was jumpy and jittery and scared beforehand, whereas before our biology, I was happy because it was only 20 minutes long! Then I realised that I was scared because the longer we are in that hall, the longer I am spending in silence with a bunch of students who had the potential to throw up. Every time someone coughed I jumped. If someone asked to leave half way through, my immediate thought would be “they feel sick”, even though they may just need the loo. I hate finishing before time too, because that means that I am not distracted in any way, and there is a constant fear of someone vomiting running through my head without any kind of maths of science to push it to the side.

Some of you may think “it’s just vomit, why is she making such a big deal of it”, but I promise you, all I have told you here is true. If anyone has anything that might help, please comment below, especially if you are a sufferer yourself – it would be nice to know I’m not completely alone, and to have someone who really does understand how I feel!

Love, Megan x

13 responses to “Emetophobia Struggles

  1. katie

    OMG Megan that’s so well written! A great insight into phobias. Thanks! Xxxxx

  2. riley

    This blog is so good megan, x

  3. Mandy

    A lady who I used to work with had a daughter with this phobia and for her it kind of peaked at your age and then she began to find ways to cope better and now after working on it and speaking to a therapist about it she is free from the phobia. It was hard work for her (and her family and friends) but be encouraged that you CAN be free from it. Well done for writing such a clear and honest article by the way :) x

    • Thank you Mandy, that’s really encouraging! :D aw, thanks :D x and erm, no it doesn’t really affect me as much around babies, as after they’ve been fed its just little sick it’s not as extreme as when they get a little bit older :) x

  4. Mandy

    Also – does the phobia affect you around babies because they are sick a lot but its very very different to adults. Just wondering x

  5. Hi Megan. I just want to start by telling you that my thoughts are with you. I have this phobia also and while I.m not afraid to throw up myself I am DEATHLY afraid of others doing it and I.ve four children at three different schools. I have considered suicide many times but am stopped in my tracks by the fact that my babies need me and they are my life. When one of them looks a little pale, doesn’t ask fo a 2nd helping of dessert, looks sleepier than usual or just looks tired, (you guessed it) my pulse hits 130+ beats pm, I sweat, can’t talk/eat/think/sleep for 24hrs. I don’t know if you’re familiar with The Experience Project (a web site with a special section just for us!)

    • If you’d like to share ideas, stories, or simply want to talk, it would be great to hear from you. Again, I’m so sorry you’re plagued by this miserable condition, remember, you’re not alone. If you come to visit The Experience Project,my screen name is Mamafear. Take care, and I hope your day is v free!.

      Donna

      • Thank you so much, I will have to check that out! :) you’re lucky that you aren’t afraid of yourself being sick, I wish I could be calm about it! But yeah, I am exactly the same! If one of my friends says “I feel so ill” I have to make sure I know exactly what they mean by that so that I can evaluate their chances of actually throwing up! If they say “I’ve got a cold”, for example, I breathe a HUGE sigh of relief! I recently got this book called ‘Thrive’ and it is by Rob Kelly, and it isn’t about emetophobia specifically, but it has helped numerous emetophobia sufferers overcome their fear – it is the best ‘self-help’ book I have heard of, and it’s very helpful as well as very interesting! Thank you again, take care :)

  6. Conrad

    you basically described me… :( ugh right now my fear has been getting worse and worse these past few weeks and I have NO IDEA what to do about it. I’m afraid I’m so stressed out that I’m making myself feel sick because of the stress. I Just have no idea what to do.

    I’m sorry to hear about your struggle, I hope you manage to find some way to stay calm. One thing I’ve learned is recognizing that you’re panicing can help you stop sometimes if it’s not too bad….just a tip if you hadn’t figured that out already.

    • I am so sorry for the inasanely long reply, I never check my emails any more! It is horrible fear, I hate it so much :’( and yeah, I ma getting lots better at being able to recognise the difference between feeling panic-sick and actual-sick, but it still affects me like every day and I just want it to leave now! :( xxx

    • Oh, you might be interested to know that I recently got this book called ‘Thrive’ and it is by Rob Kelly, and it isn’t about emetophobia specifically, but it has helped numerous emetophobia sufferers overcome their fear – it is the best ‘self-help’ book I have heard of, and it’s very helpful as well as very interesting! At first I was like ‘a book isn’t going to help me overcome this’, but it actually does help! There are lots of challenges and things to do as well as interesting facts and it tells you not only how to overcome your fear/anxiety, but also how it got there in the first place… I have also developed strong anxiety, but through even reading the first few chapters and realising that I can’t be scared of walking to places alone and silly little things like that for the rest of my life, I have started to feel much more like the me I knew even last year! :)

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