Living with Emetophobia – #TellYourStory

Chris Hack

We all have fears. Even the most confident and brazen people are afraid of something.

I was thinking about my own fears while I was planning this piece. I’ve always had this deep-rooted fear of vomiting ever since I suffered from a persistent bout of travel sickness during a school trip. I was only 11 at the time but that memory and that underlying fear have always stuck with me. Emetophobia is the correct term for such a condition. I’ve never actually been travel sick since then but the fear of it is always there in the background.

I haven’t set foot on an aeroplane because of this fear. I’m not afraid of flying as such, but afraid of what might happen if my stomach decides to regurgitate its contents. It’s the same with sitting in the back of a car, or travelling on a bus or a coach. Even the thought of having to tackle any of those everyday activities brings me out in a cold sweat.

That’s the thing about Emetophobia. It prevents you from doing perfectly normal things that other non-sufferers wouldn’t bat an eyelid at.

According to Anxiety UK, Emetophobia is not widely diagnosed even though it is a fairly prevalent anxiety disorder. It is also more common in women, with an estimated 6-7% of females reporting experiencing the condition compared to 1-3% of men.

Debilitating

Whenever my partner and myself go to a theatre or arena to see a show my fear is always lurking somewhere in the background. I have to make sure that we get a seat right next to the aisle so that if I suffer an Emetophobic panic attack at any point I can quickly escape to safety. I also have to buy a large bottle of water and cling to it for dear life. I find that sipping water throughout the performance helps to focus and reassure me that everything is going to be okay.

I’ve never been on a rollercoaster or any form of extreme ride. My partner has suggested on many occasions that she would love us to book one of those experience days where you get to go in a supercar. I love cars and I love driving. But the thought that I might end up painting the car’s interior with the contents of my stomach prevents me from entertaining such an idea.

Treatment

I often see Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, (CBT) as well as Exposure & Response Prevention, (ERP) suggested as tried and tested methods of overcoming Emetophobia, which I’m sure will work for some people. But me personally I’ve never had much success with CBT when it comes to managing my other ongoing mental health conditions. So I’m not sure whether it would have the desired effect on me.

I wish I could get over my fear of being sick somehow. As a condition it’s debilitating. It stops me from doing the things that other people manage to achieve so easily. I would love to travel and see the world outside of England one day, but until I can work out how to conquer my biggest fear there is very little chance of that ever happening.

What are your biggest fears? Do you suffer from Emetophobia? Do you have any experience of this or a similar condition? Let me know your thoughts below.

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