Wednesday 6 July 2016

What's It's Like Living With Emetophobia (A Fear Of Being Sick)

What's It's Like Living With Emetophobia (A Fear Of Being Sick)  mental health advice tips support anxiety OCD

You may be thinking wow that's a fancy word, Nicole. You may also be wondering what on earth it means. Well, today I am here to explain and educate you on the world of emetophobia. I want to explain to you guys the utter debilitating impacts, emetophobia can have upon somebody's quality of life, how it affects me personally and what I do to battle it every single day.

"Emetophobia is an intense phobia that causes overwhelming, intense anxiety pertaining to vomiting. This specific phobia can also include subcategories of what causes the anxiety, including a fear of vomiting in public, a fear of seeing vomit, a fear of watching the action of vomiting or fear of being nauseated."  

I have emetophobia. Just like any phobia or mental illness the way in which it affects somebody can be very different from the next person. For some people, they are affected mildly whereas for others it completely controls their life. Today I am sharing my own personal struggle with emetophobia and how it affects my life. If you are experiencing something similar, I hope this post helps you out or if not I hope it can educate you a little bit more about a phobia you may not have known existed.

*MASSIVE TRIGGER WARNING* I have included pictures of what my hands look like. Due to compulsive washing, they are very red, dry, cracked and they bleed a lot. If you have OCD please do read on with caution. I needed to include these pictures to demonstrate what my OCD and emetophobia are really like. That's it's not "oh I like all my pens to be in height order" and "oh I am so OCD because carry hand sanitiser around me and my friends think I'm so OCD" NO NO NO! You have been warned! 

Firstly I would like to say that I do have OCD. This isn't to say that everyone with emetophobia will have OCD and everyone with OCD will have emetophobia. My emetophobia is the cause for a lot of my OCD symptoms, as they are closely linked but this isn't to say that my emetophobia is the main cause of my OCD. Some people will fear being sick but it does not lead them to perform compulsive, obsessive behaviours and rituals like I do.

Like I said at the start of the post, everyone is affected differently. Some people will truly not be able to leave their house whereas others find it a mild inconvenience. 'Phobia' is a mental illness which you can get help for by going to your doctor and starting CBT (Cognitive behaviour therapy) or exposure therapy. If you feel like your emetophobia is taking over your life or interfering with your normal daily activities than you can seek help and you shouldn't be embarrassed. 

My emetophobia affects me in many different ways, not only in the present but also about things in the future. For example, it makes me scared to have a child in the future because the thought of morning sickness scares me. I can't drink alcohol or be around alcohol because I am terrified I am going to be sick or someone around me is going to be sick. This means that lots of social events that are typical for people of my age to enjoy such as parties and clubs are just not possible for me to attend. 

For my emetophobia, I am scared to be physically sick, I am scared to be around sick (because I am fearful that I will then be contaminated consequently meaning that I will be sick) I am also scared of seeing sick, hearing someone being sick and the whole action of being sick. When I am out in public, I worry constantly over and over in my head (I have quite intrusive thoughts, which is where my OCD comes in) that the people around me have been sick recently or come into contact with someone that has been sick recently which means that I am now contaminated. I even convenience myself that people walking past me in the street feel sick even though it's highly unlikely.

I don't want to dwell too much on my OCD because I will probably save that for another blog post, but I will quickly mention some of my symptoms which link to my emetophobia. I am so scared of being sick, that the voices inside my head tell me that if I am sick, I will die, I will infect my friends and family, who will die as a result to and all these bad things will happen. As I see bacteria and germs everywhere, I feel the need to wash my hands over and over again. I don't feel comfortable going into all the details about how or what I use to wash my hands because I genuinely find it upsetting to talk about and I don't want to trigger anyone else. 

What's It's Like Living With Emetophobia (A Fear Of Being Sick) OCD hands over washed sore red cracked

What's It's Like Living With Emetophobia (A Fear Of Being Sick) OCD anxiety hands over washed sore red

What's It's Like Living With Emetophobia (A Fear Of Being Sick) OCD Hands over washed

These are just three of the many many photos I have taken of my hands over the last two to three months or so. This is because I feel compelled to take photos of my hands as an act of reassurance to help ease my thoughts inside my head that my hands are clean and don't need washing again. I probably wash my hands around 50 or so times a day, which is because of the obsessive thoughts and images in my head (which is my OCD again), which is caused by the anxiety of being sick and being contaminated, which is because of the emetophobia. I hope I am making sense.

My hands hurt. They hurt a lot. Washing your hands over and over again, spending hours on it each day is not only emotionally and mentally draining it is also physically exhausting. I am shattered at the end of the day, even if I haven't physically done much at all. This just reiterates the debilitating impact emetophobia/ OCD can have upon someone's life. I don't want to wake up in the morning, already in pain with my hands knowing that I am going to put myself through more pain, in another day of compulsive hand washing.   

As I have already said before, not everyone with emetophobia will wash their hands over and over again but most will pay extra attention to their hygiene, carrying hand sanister everywhere with them and going to great extents to minimise any contact with surfaces in public e.g. door handles, hand rails. I do all of these things. I wear long sleeves in all weathers so I have something to cover my hand just in case I do need to touch anything which I see as being covered in bacteria. This is very uncomfortable in hot weather, which also leads to me not wanting to go out much at all.

I also can't touch people. I can't make any skin to skin contact with anyone. This stops me being able to go and enjoy myself, in the fear of all the people that I will come into contact with. Even if someone stands next to me at the traffic lights waiting to cross the road, the intrusive thoughts and images come thick and fast, meaning that I get very anxious and feel compelled to wash my hands, which is not always possible when I am out and about. This also means that I struggle with relationships and friendships, which isn't great when you are about to turn 18 in six months!

Some suffers of emetophobia, will not be able to take any medication that says nausea or vomiting is a possible side effect, they won't be able to eat certain foods such as meat and dairy, in the fear of food positioning and they might not be able to watch hospital programs in the fear of seeing sick. My OCD can stop me eating altogether. Because I see the bacteria on my hands, I can't put my hands in my mouth, even if I have washed them 10 times prior and used hand sanister, I just can't eat if I don't feel like I am in a clean environment. I am not too bad with medicine although, I won't take it unless I absolutely need it. I don't watch many medical programs anyway, so this point doesn't really apply to me.

What's It's Like Living With Emetophobia (A Fear Of Being Sick) Mental health illness OCD anxiety help advice

My OCD/ Emetophobia have a serious affect on my life. Not only are they emotionally draining, they are physically draining too. They stop me doing the things and going to the places that I want to. They make me trapped and isolated in my own world, which I can't escape. I feel alone, ashamed and embarrassed to say that I have any of these symptoms because I know deep down it's all irrational but the thoughts are too much and tell me otherwise. 

Emetophobia is simply more than a fear of being sick. It's a daily battle. OCD isn't something that you have one day and not the next. OCD isn't cute and quirky. If I could give the people that claim to have OCD my hands for the day I would. I would want them to feel the pain which never ends because you keep on washing your hands, even when they are bleeding and you are crying in pain.

I don't want this post to be all doom and gloom, though. If you feel like your OCD or emetophobia (or any phobia) is getting too much for you. You are not alone. You can go and speak to someone about it and they won't judge you. And if they do, go and find someone else. Keep doing that until you do find someone who won't judge you. Fight until you get someone to listen to you and take you seriously because your health and wellbeing is worth it.

What's It's Like Living With Emetophobia (A Fear Of Being Sick) mental health illness support anxiety OCD

I would also like to state that I am not doing this post to get attention or sympathy. I don't believe I deserve any sympathy. As I said in my 'What it feels like to be diagnosed with a mental illness' post I want to document my mental health journey as a way of therapy for me but also as a way to educate you guys on mental health or provide support/advice for those struggling with mental illnesses.

I hope you guys either found this post 1. educating 2. helpful 3. interesting or 4. reassuring! Please do let me know down below if you suffer from either emetophobia or OCD and how you deal with it within your day to day lives. 

As always, if you need someone to talk to who will listen to you regarding mental health, you can drop me an email to or send me a DM on Twitter and I will do my best to support you and provide you with the best advice that I can.

Thank you for reading, as always x 

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