A Battle with Emetophobia: My Personal Story

Trigger warning: this post contains talk of anorexia and emetophobia, which is a phobia of being sick.

No one likes being sick, I mean its hardly a pleasant experience.

But for most people, that’s all it is, something they don’t like but that’s just an unavoidable fact of life.

Not so for people who suffer from Emetophobia.

It’s quite a wide-ranging condition but basically put it’s the fear of being sick and/or the fear of seeing someone being sick.

According to Anxiety UK, 6-7% of women and around 1.7-3.1% of men, suffer from emetophobia.

I had it for years without even realising it was an actual phobia.

It wasn’t until I read a blog post by someone else who has it too, that I realised this wasn’t just me “being silly” – a mindset I had been struggling with ever since I’d started with it.

I’ve actually had medical professionals tell me that I was just being melodramatic, that no one likes being sick but its not a real phobia and it doesn’t affect your life.

Well actually, yes it does!

Photo by Sarah Dorweiler on Unsplash

I became anorexic because I caught the winter sickness bug that springs up every year 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.

[Related: 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 could hear everything, so I went to my bedroom door to ask 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 emetophobia physically wouldn’t let me get any closer.

I tried to make myself move and my just 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.

Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash

I also can’t eat new things or in places I don’t know, because I’m terrified the food will make 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, it’s just my phobia.

[Related: How I Manage My Emetophobia During The Winter]

Luckily people don’t usually get offended, but it’s a constant worry for me especially when meeting people for the first time.

If there’s 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…

The amusing thing is, I can count on one hand the number of times it’s ever actually happened.

To this day I still don’t know why I suddenly ended up with this fear of being sick. I have a few guesses, but I can’t pinpoint for sure what set it off.

But having a name for the fear and realising that it’s actually pretty common has helped come to terms with it.

I’ve been making slow progress with it, and I hope in the years to come I’ll make even more.

However, as much as I hate to say it, I also don’t think its a fear that’s ever going to fully leave me now it’s here.

Do you struggle with Emetophobia? Do you have any tips or advice that help you cope?

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A Battle With Emetophobia My Personal Story

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  • R.Quirls says:

    Wow I did not know that was illness neither but I have come across people that react in the same manner. I always thought that was a form of hypochrindia.

  • Jade Marie says:

    Nope not at all, it’s the same as any other phobia. Might seem daft or an overreaction to someone who doesn’t have it but to the person who does it’s utterly terrifying

  • Asakemi says:

    I’m glad you’re finding ways to cope. That’s very important. Don’t let this limit you, girl 🙂

  • Jade Marie says:

    Thank you lovely! 🙂 I try my best not to let it limit me any more than I can help 🙂

  • gymbagsandjetlags says:

    I had no idea that this was a thing! Thank you for sharing; it’s good for people to know illnesses/phobias like this are out there to better understand others. You got this girl <3

    🍉 Pia

  • Jade Marie says:

    I hear that so often! I technically only found out my phobia had a name and was real from reading another bloggers post on it- until then I thought I was just being weird!
    I’m glad you enjoyed the post and hopefully it’s useful to raise awareness ☺️

    Thank you lovely! 💛

  • Sarah says:

    This would be so hard to live with. I understand how great it is to have a name for something that’s caused you distress your whole life!

  • Jade Marie says:

    It really does effect every aspect of your life 😔 I’m making small improvements though, so there’s hope ☺️

  • Sarah says:

    Absolutely! I wish you all the best, truly x

  • Jade Marie says:

    Thank you lovely, I really appreciate that!x

  • hudapervez says:

    Wow, I had no idea about this condition. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be at times. I actually have had health anxiety since I was a child but nothing too severe but it can really make normal day to day things a little harder than usual at times! Thanks for sharing this! 💗

  • Jade Marie says:

    A lot of people have it and don’t actually realise, it’s one of the reasons I wanted to write the post; to raise awareness! Health anxiety is horrendous, I struggle with that too and it really does make life difficult 😔💛

  • sharnahsblog says:

    wow I have never heard of this before but I am so glad I have read your post! It is very brave of you to share and good because I bet there are a lot of people (like myself) that have never heard of Emetophobia. If you don’t mind me asking, do you drink alcohol then? x

  • Jade Marie says:

    There are so many people who haven’t! I actually spoke to someone at my uni last week who has it but didn’t even know- he just thought he was “being stupid” 😔
    And I don’t mind you asking at all ☺️ no I don’t drink; I’ll have a glass of wine occasionally but I’ve never been drunk. Partly because of the fear of it making me sick but also because I have a heart condition that makes my heart stop, and drinking makes it worse!x

  • sharnahsblog says:

    Yeah I bet a lot of people think that unfortunately that is why its so great to raise awareness of it! and yeah I was thinking alcohol makes people sick a lot of the time! sorry about your condition:( and thank you for answering my question! xx

  • Jade Marie says:

    That’s the main reason I wrote the post, I want to make people more aware of it and hopefully help people who have it realise that they aren’t alone and it’s a pretty common phobia ☺️ thank you hun! I’m learning to live with it these days and making progress to overcome it ☺️ you’re more than welcome, thank you for asking!xx

  • Kayla says:

    Hi Jade, I have to say what an incredible post. I had no idea there was an actual phobia for this, and I to have suffered through some of same experiences as you. I’ve gotten much better over the years, but as I’m sitting here reading your story, I’m thinking “holy shit…. this is me” and I’ve never come across another individual who shares my fear. I feel the same about morning sickness, and only eat certain things. It’s almost impossible for me to eat at a new resturant.

    Thank you so much for sharing this, it’s given me inspirating to possibly write about my own story.

  • Jade Marie says:

    Hi Kayla, I’m so glad to know my post has helped you! Honestly I used to be exactly the same, I didn’t know it was an actual condition or anything. I’m sorry to hear you have the same problem though, I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy 😔

    I really hope you do share your own story; I’d love to read it! Feel free to send it me over if you do end up writing it ☺️

  • I never realised that this was an actual phobia! Although I’m not quite as bad as you I think I might actually suffer from a mild case of this! I absolutely hate being sick and like you will do anything to avoid sickness bugs (which is really hard when I work with children). I do want my own family some day but the morning sickness is one of the main things which worries me and my Fiancé is well aware that if the children had sickness bugs he’d be the one helping them, it sounds bad but I just cannot cope with sick at all! If I ever go on a night out and I have a few alcoholic drinks as soon as I begin to feel sick I’ll stop drinking, I’ve never let myself get drunk because of the fact I don’t want to be sick! Thanks for sharing your story!

    Jess // foundationsandfairytales.wordpress.com

  • I have the same phobia, it’s good to hear other people’s stories. Stay strong.

  • Jade Marie says:

    I’m sorry to hear you have the same phobia, but I hope my story can help you in some small way! Stay strong yourself, you’ve got this!

  • I have emetophobia too! I was a lot worse a couple years back being in a constant cycle of panic attacks as the anxiety would make me feel ill and it was a horrendous cycle all through the night and day causing me to miss a lot of school. To help I did weekly CBT which helped with general anxiety and depressive thoughts I was having because of my poor quality of life as a result. I did exposure therapy weekly with homework which had me write pages of words eg. Chunder, watch videos and even make sick and poor it on the floor outside! AND I have family therapy with my parents and sister as my phobia was causing a lot of tension in the house and helping them to understand also support them as it was hard for them. I am not healed/treated etc. I still experience my anxiety by it does not impact my life as much and I can live relatively normal. DO consider help cause it is out there even if the phobia is not well known

  • Diane says:

    Wow, as a former emetophobe it is absolutely wild to read this. What you said about never ever being able to have kids really jumped out at me; I felt the very same way, thinking there is no way I could cope with a sick child. I remember restricting eating just a little bit, avoiding seafood like the plague… I would have benefited so much from this kind of resource and frank discussion back then, just to know I wasn’t alone and to have a framework in which to understand what I was doing!

    For what it’s worth to folks reading, recovery is possible! My case wasn’t as severe as the one in this article for sure, but a few bouts of unintended exposure therapy and time (not to mention a lot of therapy dealing with my anxiety in general) seems to have done the trick. I still get a lot of fight-or-flight response around sick folks, but now when the kiddo I care for is sick, my biggest concern isn’t getting sick specifically—just the other unpleasant consequences (caring for a well kid while feeling terrible, feeling extra terrible because the stomach bug triggers some of my other medical conditions, stuff like that).

  • Jade Marie says:

    Thank you so much Diane! That’s one of the reasons I wrote this + my other emetophobia post, as I think I would have started been able to cope with it a lot better if I’d known other people struggled with it too!

    I’m so glad to hear that you’ve been able to recover, that’s wonderful to hear for you personally, as well as for those of us who still aren’t there ourselves ☺️

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