Trigger warning: this post contains talk of anorexia and being sick. Please don’t read if either of these things could upset you!
No one likes being sick, I mean its hardly a pleasant experience. But for most people thats all it is, something they don’t like but thats just an unavoidable fact of life.
Not so for people who suffer from Emetophobia. You might be wondering just what the hell it even is though: Emetophobia is quite a wide ranging condition but basically put it’s the fear of being sick and/or the fear of seeing someone being sick.
Even though I’ve suffered with it for most of my life (without even realising it!) I never knew it was an actual phobia. According to Anxiety UK 6-7% of women suffer with this condition, in contrast to only 1.7-3.1% of men that do.
I once had someone tell me that “you’re just being melodramatic, no one likes being sick but its not a real phobia, it doesn’t effect your life”.
Well actually, yes it does!
I became severally anorexic because I caught the Novo bug that was floating around a few years ago and my brain, in its infinite wisdom, thought that starving myself would stop me being sick. No, what stopped me being sick was the anti sickness tablets I was popping like smarties. All starving myself did was nearly put me in hospital. If you want to read the whole story of what happened and some of the long term side effects I’ve ended up with, I wrote this post on My Anorexia Story.
Oh and having kids? Yeah that one isn’t going to happen for me because the thought of having to cope with morning sickness terrifies me. Even just typing that made my hands clam up! I know for a fact I would starve myself again before I let myself be sick, which would seriously harm the baby. Plus what kind of mother would I be if my kids got sick, I couldn’t go near them.
Not wouldn’t, couldn’t.
My mum got sick on New Years Day and because my room is next to the bathroom I heard her being sick, so I went to my bedroom door to asked her if she was okay and if I could get her anything. Even stood 10 foot away I was shaking from head to foot and I physically couldn’t get any closer. I tired to make myself move and my body wouldn’t respond. I love my mum more than anyone in the world and if I couldn’t go to her (no matter how much it broke my heart to stay away) then I can’t imagine it being any different with a child.
I also can’t eat new things or in places I don’t know because I’m terrified the food will making me sick. This isn’t just restaurants and pubs, I panic when I eat at my boyfriend or best friends house! I have to buy or take my own food with me more often than not and then explain to them that it’s nothing against them, its just my phobia. Luckily they don’t get offended but its a constant worry for me that they will, especially when meeting new people for the first time.
If theres any kind of sickness bug going round I will become a hermit and refuse to leave the house unless I desperately have to. If I do have to go outside I’ll obsessively use hand sanitiser if I’ve touched things like handrails and door handles. I went through a whole bottle in less than a week once…
I’ve always been scared of being sick but amusingly I can count on one hand the number of times its ever actually happened. I don’t remember ever even having a traumatic experience to cause the fear, its just something I’ve always had. Even as a 3/4 year old I was exactly the same and its just got worse the older I get.
Having a name for the fear and realised that its actually fairly common has helped come to terms with it and I’ve even improved a little in the last year but I don’t think its ever going to go away completely.
A twenty-four-year-old autistic writer and designer from Sheffield. Tattoo obsessed, animal lover, self confessed bookworm and eclectic witch.