Living with a Phobia (Emetophobia)

This was really hard for me to write but if it helps people understand and helps even one person to go and seek help then it’s all worth it. Please share this with as many people as possible in the hope that it reaches someone who really needs to read it.

From the outside my life looked pretty normal, lovely husband, two beautiful children, a nice house, job, friends, family…..all the things that make us look like we are functioning perfectly well. That’s not to say I wasn’t functioning,  it was just more of a struggle than many would believe. I have something called Emetophobia, I have had it for about ten years but I didn’t even know that there was a name for it until about six years ago. I truly believed that I was the only person who had this irrational fear of vomiting. I felt like a failure in life and kept the true extent, of the impact that my phobia was having on me, hidden from most of the people closest to me. The only person who knew everything was my husband and he really bore the full brunt of it.

About  six years ago I typed ‘fear of vomiting’ into a search engine and suddenly I realised there was a name for what I had and I wasn’t alone, it is amongst the top ten most common phobias. I started going onto forums about it and while to many these are a huge support, to me I just felt like people were almost trying to normalise the phobia and that’s not what I wanted. I wanted to be rid of this burden, to be free to live a ‘normal’ life.  I wanted to get better and I thought the forums would offer me a way out but instead they just made me think more about it, increasing the anxiety I already had.

I decided to pay to get help from a therapist, I spend hundreds and his tactics of avoidance helped for a little while.  Listening to music on public transport, avoiding situations where people were drunk and zoning out and going to my happy place in my head. I can still picture my happy place, my nans’ house. I would zone out and imagine walking there from school, going in straight through the back door and she would always be there asking me about my day and (more importantly), if I wanted food. I went to that happy safe place in my head often but eventually my avoidance meant I couldn’t get through a day without thinking about my phobia, it was always at the forefront of my mind. I would avoid going out with my husband due to the fear of him being sick in the taxi on the way home and I remember lying in bed one night thinking I’m going to have to leave him and be by myself, I just didn’t think I could continue with life the way it was. I felt angry when people where sick, I felt like they were doing it to hurt me. I would go out and be having fun but then it was like suddenly a switch had been flicked in my head and I would start to panic. I would always stop drinking before I was really drunk and felt uncomfortable around drunk people or if people were trying to encourage me to drink (I still do). Completely irrational thoughts filled my head daily. Some how I struggled through, spending my days watching the people around me for signs of sickness, having anxiety attacks daily but managing to keep it hidden from so many people. Then I had my babies and with both of them I spent 9 months feeling sick but never allowing myself to be sick. They got to an age where they started being sick (not just milk) and while the adrenaline took over while they were being sick, (I could hold the bucket and even clean it off the bed sheets) afterwards I was a total wreck, waiting for it to happen again, feeling like the worse mother in the world. I felt like a fraud and I was so scared I’d be found out by my children and they would think I didn’t love them. Children see much more than we think and when my son started crossing his fingers whenever he was anxious, I worried that I had caused this. Children can pick up on phobias even if you think you are doing so well at hiding them, and this can then manifest itself into some other anxiety or fear.

I finally went to my doctor as I felt like I was cracking up and potentially harming my children.  I begged her to help me but after completing a survey I got no help because I wasn’t suicidal.  Then we moved and I went to my new doctor and again asked for help. This time he listened and put me on the waiting list for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). I had to wait quite a while but 6 months of waiting was better than a lifetime of feeling the way I did. I started my CBT in January this year and after 5 months of treatment my therapist had gone as far as he could with me and I would say I am 90% better. At times the treatment was beyond difficult.  Confronting my issues and de-sensitising myself was painful but it was worth every horrible minute of it in the end. My life has changed, my phobia doesn’t effect me every day like it used to, it still rears its ugly head every now and again but mostly I feel free…

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6 thoughts on “Living with a Phobia (Emetophobia)

  1. Hi, I am Charlotte’s mum (Katie’s friend from school days) and as I am fb friends with Katie I read your blog. I worked in mental health for 23 years until a year or so ago and I would like to say how great it was that you took courage and went for CBT which is certainly not easy. I worked with many people with many kinds of phobias through CBT and I know how much it helped them. It isn’t a cure but it does give you the tools to cope. Keep on practising what you have been taught, don’t let it slip, and you will cope. Very best wishes to you and I hope you didn’t mind me commenting. Jan

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