What is emetophobia?
I recently blogged about why I am so openly talking about my anxiety and emetophobia. A comment on that post made me realise that I had failed to explain what emetophobia is. Because I live with it daily I forget that others have never heard of it before.
To put it simply (although its far from simple) it is a phobia of being sick or seeing another be sick.
A lot of people ‘claim’ to have this phobia and will tell you it’s because they don’t like being sick. However, there is a huge difference between not liking being sick and suffering from emetophobia.
As a an emetophobia sufferer you experience more than just a dislike towards being sick. It’s a fear that’s so strong it affects every area of your life. It’s a fear of your own body. You are left wanting to run away from yourself but are trapped with your body and so are in a constant state of worry.
AnxietyUK somewhat explains the phobia
Emetophobia varies enormously in how it effects people; most worry excessively about being sick even though they are less likely than the general population to be sick because of all the steps they take to avoid being ill. For instance, some people may be unable to leave home if there are any tummy bugs going around and they will avoid family and friends who have an illness. (AnxietyUK)
In addition to myself, 3 other family members suffer from the phobia – it affects each of us differently. From my own experience and witnessing those around me the phobia can affects all areas of your life. The phobia can often be misdiagnosed and often sufferers are diagnosed with eating disorders or OCD. I will list the reasons for misdiagnosis below:
- The phobia can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food through a fear of it making them sick. I once would only eat a spoonful of food for dinner for fear of being sick. This can lead to sufferers being diagnosed with food related health problems.
- An unhealthy relationship with food due to the phobia can often lead to suffers losing a substantial amount of weight and being diagnosed as anorexic.
- OCD traits can be present in the form of obsessive hand washing/ obsessive cleanliness to avoid germs.
- Agoraphobia is a common misdiagnosis due to people not wanting to leave their house and avoiding crowded spaces due to the spread of bugs.
Here are some examples of how the phobia can encroach on people’s lives:
- Cancelling plans because the person you’re meeting has been ill
- Avoiding films in which people are sick
- Avoid eating certain foods – in addition to animal welfare a bout of food poisoning is what swayed me towards becoming a vegetarian at the age of 11
- Avoiding travelling due to travel sickness or avoid boat tripes/cruises/ferries in fear of getting sea sick
- Unable to pursue certain career paths such as Doctor/Nurse
- Cannot leave the house without a bag full of items that make them feel safe – eg, mints, hand-sanitiser and anti-sickness tablets
- Avoid alcohol through fear of either losing control or it making them sick
- Preventing sufferers from working
- Creating additional mental health problems such as depression and OCD
These are just a few examples of how the phobia can affect someone’s life. If you have any further questions then please drop them in a comment below and I will do my best to answer them!