Sunday 17 April 2016

Emetophobia and Me

I suffer from a phobia of vomit which is also known as Emetophobia

I always think it's quite a strange phobia to have because it tends to be something that not many people enjoy. I've honestly never met anyone who claims to enjoy vomiting or vomit in general. It's generally an unpleasant experience for anyone concerned. It therefore differs slightly from other phobias, for example a fear of spiders, because generally there is a divide of people who either like or dislike them. 

I can't really pinpoint where this phobia came from or my earliest memory of it. I pretty much feel like it's something I have always suffered from at varying levels of intensity. 

I distinctly remember as child being scared of being sick as I used to pinch my lips together with my fingers in the hope of not allowing any vomit to come out of me! (Crazy, but it did work!) There used to be a particular medicine which was given to me as a child which would always make me vomit so maybe it was linked to this. I have memories of crying every time I had to take this medicine and doing everything in my capability to avoid taking it which meant a lot of tantrums. 

As a teenager I don't really recall being aware of this phobia as I definitely had my phase of experimenting with alcohol and not feeling any fear about my limits or the consequences of my actions. I remember when I first went off to university and it was £10 drink as much as you like at the student union so I used to stand at the front of the bar downing double vodkas until I couldn't see properly! I had a few occasions at uni where I was sick as a dog but I don't recall it bringing on any form of panic of fear in me. 

There was one time though when I was home for the weekend and I went on a pub crawl with my boyfriend at the time and I felt the most drunk I have ever felt. It resulted in me feeling as though I couldn't breathe properly and I felt myself blacking out. I also proceeded to be violently sick all night which really had an effect on my drinking thereafter. In fact I can honestly say that I have never really let myself go on alcohol since that very night. It also must have had a deeper impact on me because after that night I wasn't sick again for about 12 years! 

If I had no memory of fearing sick as a child I would definitely pinpoint my Emetophobia as being a result of that one horrendous night as a teenager. But my childhood memories make me feel as though this has been a lifelong issue. 

A common trait among people who suffer with Emetophobia is that we will go to all lengths to avoid being sick, hence my ability to avoid it for 12 years which to many people will seem almost inhuman. But I did it. I was so scared of being sick that I avoided everything I associated with something that could potentially make me unwell. I pretty much became t-total and I would only ever drink one glass of alcohol at any one time. 

I guess this whole phobia really became so much worse and more significant when I was again sick after that 12 year break. After a prolonged period of stress and high anxiety 3 years ago I had a panic attack one evening which was so intense it made me physically sick. As you can imagine, after managing to avoid it for so many years this threw me mentally and physically into a state of shock. A simple throwing up episode at the side of the road felt like I had been through the most traumatic event of my life. And it's something I feel I am still paying the price for and coming to terms with today. 

That one traumatic experience 3 years ago led to me experiencing a panic disorder where I began to associate being in the car or being outside of my home with being sick. I became so fearful of the experience repeating itself that I entered a high state of anxiety whereby I became almost housebound and had to be medicated with antidepressants. My life literally got turned upside down to the point where I could no longer do anything including work. And of course this high state of anxiety had me feeling nauseous all the time so the fear of being sick was very much a constant reality for me. 

It was after this event that my fear of vomit became much more intense than it had ever been. Prior to then my fear seemed to only be around myself being sick and that exact experience. After my 'breakdown' I became fearful of vomit in general. This meant I was scared of seeing someone else being sick, seeing sick on TV or films, being in places associated with sick i.e pubs, clubs & parties, using public toilets, being on public transport and pretty much any situation where I felt I could be exposed to sick. I avoided anyone who had a sickness bug and I also became a really fussy eater. 

If i'm totally honest I think I felt totally in control of my life when I was avoiding being sick for all those years. I would even boast about it to my friends and I felt somehow superior because I was able to live my life happily without ever being sick. To me it felt like an accomplishment and not the ever growing problem that it was. When I was finally sick again, 12 years later, I think it changed me mentally in that I no longer felt in control of anything. In fact I felt completely out of control. 

So 3 years on and after having taken medication and having received CBT (no less than 3 times!), am I cured? Well, and i'm sad to say, no. 

The fear is still within me and still does control certain aspects of my life. I still don't let myself go on alcohol and I still have anxiety about certain situations which may expose me to vomit. It's certainly not as bad as it has been as I find that i'm ok reading about it, seeing images or viewing it on TV.  It may be unpleasant but I can cope with it and I don't find myself ruminating about it afterwards.

Today my fear of vomit is very much linked to my anxiety levels which at the moment are much better than they have been in the past. If I find myself highly anxious then my fear of vomit is at the forefront of my mind. It doesn't really impact me very much on a day to day basis anymore but if I have to travel or use public transport I find that the main thing I am worried about is either me being sick or someone else being sick around me and feeling trapped in that situation. 

As it stands right now, the last time I was physically sick was April 2014. So I am already back to a prolonged 2 year period of not being sick. Is that normal? I'm not even sure! But I now recognise that's its been a long time since I last threw up. I came very close last December during a panic attack to the point where I felt myself heaving but nothing come up so I again feel that I am perhaps over controlling this natural physical reaction. 

So what's next on my Emetophobia recovery? My CBT therapist has advised me to place a photo of vomit on my wall and walk past it every day until I feel no emotion. I still need to do this. Once I have completed that exercise I then need to expose myself to viewing YouTube videos of people being sick (oh dear god!). Then maybe one day I can bring myself to be a comforting friend to a real life person being sick in front of me without feeling any panic. Or maybe I will just allow myself to be sick and not feel fear when and if the situation ever arises. 

Are you scared of being sick? 

Do you feel as though you suffer from Emetophobia? 

I would love to hear your own experiences and thoughts in relation to this topic so do feel free to comment below. It would be comforting to feel that i'm not alone on this journey and I would especially love to hear any success stories in completely overcoming this phobia. As yet I am not aware of anyone who has cured themselves!

I am planning to follow up on this post with a YouTube talk on it so if you have any questions you would like me to answer, or topics in relation to this you'd like me to talk about, in that video  then please let me know. 

Thanks for reading.


  1. I know it's horribly unpleasant but this post makes me so glad I'm not the only one! I remember being paralysed by fear of sick as a kid, I used to do all sorts to avoid it myself but for me it's always been more a fear of other people being sick. I honestly don't remember when it started, I just remember kids in class being sick and me always being absolutely hysterical about it. I've never really met many other people who've felt the same though! There was a horrible incident a few weeks ago where my boyfriend told me he'd made himself sick at the gym and I completely lost my shit over it, it's he biggest thing that terrifies me about living with another person.

    Weirdly though watching a lot of greys anatomy over the years has helped me get over the to aspect of it - there was a point I couldn't even watch shows that *might* contain sick but I think because it's not stirctly just about sick I can kind of acknowledge its happening and move on?

    Brianne xo

    1. I agree Brianne, I think watching fictional sick on Tv is a lot less scary than actually being faced with the situation in real life. I can also tolerate stuff on TV & films I think because I know it's not real. But put me in a room with someone who feels sick & im out of there! I wish I could be more sympathetic to people feeling unwell but I'm the last person to come to for any help! X

  2. Aw thanks for sharing this! I used to have the same phobia and wasn't sick for a really long time. Weirdly I got over it when I just got sick after doing a whole lot of long haul flying. I felt horrendous but then actually realised being sick did eventually make me feel better which helped break the cycle. Sending lots of love!

    Jasmin Charlotte

    1. I agree Jasmin, when I have been sick I realise that it's helped me to feel better but for me it doesn't take away the fear because the episodes are so few and far between. If I was sick every day I'm sure I'd get over it pretty quickly! It tends to be the before part I hate the most, the feeling sick and panicking it's gonna happen xx

  3. Thank you for sharing. I also wrote a blog on this matter:
    I would dread having to put a picture of vomit on my wall never mind watch videos of people being sick, but it might be something I have to do to get over this horrible phobia but it scares me so much, just the idea.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing, I'll have a read! Sadly I think it's gonna have to take me doing some of these things go get over it but I seem to just be avoiding it all at the moment xx

  4. My sister and ex-flatmate both suffered from this. My sister has tried CBT like you but I think her general anxiety issues often halt her progress.
    Alex, my ex-flatmate, completely turned her life around with hypnotherapy. I know this sounds completely crazy but it's worked so well for her. Before, if anyone was sick on a night out she'd have a screaming breakdown and not remember much the next day. It was really hard for her to enjoy uni because of this. After graduating, she decided to look into new methods. After a few months of hypnotherapy (I think about 6 sessions) she's now able to pursue her dream of being a nurse because her phobia is gone. It's not that she's just better at handling it these days - she's completely cured. It's amazing and honestly I was so skeptical, but she's really come through her problem. I'd really suggest checking it out if you can find a respectable therapist. She lives in Cumbria so I guess I can't recommend her therapist, but I implore you to consider it.
    Also, I think it's so brave of you being able to blog about this! So many people will be able to relate to this!


    1. Thank you so much Jess for taking the time to share this with me! I'm definitely going to look into hypnotherapy now as a few people have said it's really helped with this phobia xx

  5. I can relate to this so much. When I get anxious I feel like I might be sick and it's lead to a vicious circle where I'm anxious about being anxious and get claustrophobic - I feel like I'm trapped in public places and will feel ill and won't be able to leave. Like you I also stay away from alcohol, and drinking it in general makes me feel anxious. I've also tried CBT, and it's very much work in progress. I think I'm better at managing my anxiety, but like you this phobia is very connected to my anxiety levels, and I'm definitely not cured! Certain situations are still no goes, but I'm going to continue to work on it. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, and being so honest! I hate that you feel simmerlar to me, but it's also nice to know I'm not alone xo

    1. You're certainly not alone and although it's not talked about much it's definitely a phobia which affects a lot of people. I hope you recover from it too sometime soon xx

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  7. I totally relate to this post! I have a very bad fear of being sick. You are defenitely not alone. For me it manifests it self in complusive hand washing, I wash my hands till they bleed and don't touch door handles etc in the fear I will get sick. I am going to the doctor about it soon, I think. It can be real debilitating, as I don't feel like I have a social life etc.


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