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 thriftyvintagefashionbusiness@mail.com 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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30 comments

  1. I can't begin to think what it is like to live with emetophobia or OCD as I have heard such tragic effects it has on people. You are so extremely strong and I hope that you are already finding comfort when writing these posts. Like you said, this is a type of therapy for you and maybe this will really help you in the long run. Thank you for sharing Nicole, also always here to have a chat.

    Whitney xoxo | Whitney Loren.

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    1. Thank you so much Whitney, I hope doing these posts helps me too xx

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  2. I really think that posts like this are so important. I've heard about excessive hand washing as a symptom of OCD, but until I saw these photos I had no idea how severe and debilitating it could really be. I hope that if you have CBT soon it helps to ease the pressure a little

    Steph - www.nourishmeblog.co.uk

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    1. aw thank you! Yes my hands can hurt a lot from hand washing, trying to cut down though but its hard xx

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  3. I can relate to this post 100% since I've suffered with emetephobia for ten years, three years prior to now it was very manageable and I could go about my daily life without worrying or changing my behaviours to suit. When I first started suffering with anxiety and panic disorder, I constantly felt sick and of course that took a controlled phobia into overdrive. Last year was probably the hardest time with dealing with my phobia, but some of the things I don't care too much for anymore. Although the phobia is still so strong and terrifies me, parts of my life I have got back and others have got worse. But it's definitely a hard one to deal with and completely consuming of your life. I wish I never let it get as bad as it did. But I'm optimistic I can get through it and manage it better, just like I believe you can do Nicole :) all the best as always. I'm really pleased you write posts about your mental health. It's so reassuring to others who suffer the same things, to make them feel less alone and also so inspiring for others to be open about their struggles xx

    Lauren | itslaurenvictoria.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. aw I am sorry to hear your phobia and anxiety got the better of you! Please remind your self that you are not weak, you are very strong and we can both get through this! xxx

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  4. Nicole, I'm so proud of you talking so openly about everything recently and I'm really loving all your posts! You're such an inspiration Xx

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  5. Definitely found this post interesting to read, we don't hear enough about how people feel about their phobias, proud of you xx

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    1. Yes, I agree we don't at all! I am glad you enjoyed xx

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  6. Thank you for posting this, it's so helpful for people for people who may think they have it! I used to think I had a phobia of being sick, but my fear is nothing compared to what you have! You're so brave for posting this, and you explained everything so well and it helped me understand it better!

    Robyn x
    www.0hsodaisy.blogspot.com

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    1. aw that's great to hear that I have helped you understand the phobia better xx

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  7. I'm so proud of you for posting this!
    I've just almost finished my CBT for a mouse phobia, so I can understand where you come from on that level. I would definitely recommend it if you can, it took me over 2 years to pluck up the courage to go for it but it's already been so helpful. I think its also so important for people to realise that a phobia is when it constantly effects your life, and not just being scared of something.


    My phobia has constantly effected my sleep for almost 3 years now and as a snowball effect has made me struggle with a lot of life situations, which isn't ideal. I have written a post about my phobia and really want to write one about my CBT journey (although I've had to pause it right now because I've moved haha)

    Anyway I'm so pleased that you wrote this post, well done!
    Mel @ www.melberryy.com
    💕

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    1. aw I will definitely check out your post! I am so glad CBT has helped you out! xx

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  8. This almost made me cry, its actually so reassuring to know I'm not the only person in the world that suffers this badly with emetophobia. It affects my daily life so much, from the moment I wake up to the moment I fall asleep. Its a horrendous phobia that controls my life, actions and mind. I carry hand sanitizer around with me everywhere, and if I forget it then I won't be eating anything. Last year I got very bad and ended up stopping eating for a while which obviously wasn't very good at all and made me feel worse. Eating meat is practically a no go, I couldn't deal with food poisining. CBT therapy didn't really work for me and I'm still battling the phobia but I've tried to go on medication so fingers crossed it makes even the slightest bit difference. Thank you for writing this post, and I fully understand how you feel so if you ever need someone to talk to I'm definitely open to anything! Hope things are okay for you x

    Lucy | Forever September

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    1. aw Lucy that is so sweet of you to say, thank you! I am sorry to hear CBT didn't help you out but fingers crossed the medication does xx

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  9. Just been reading through you blog and your openness is very inspiring. Even inspired me to write my own personal post opening up to help other people too. I didn't know a lot about emetophobia until now so this has been really helpful, hopefully I can empathise a little more with others who struggle the same.

    Sarah
    www.scarletstate.co.uk

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    1. aw thank you! Yes, I like to be open about mental health here on my blog! xx

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  10. Thankyou so much for sharing this post! It is so very brave of you to talk so openly about the impact that OCD has on your life. You should be really proud of yourself for sharing such a personal thing to help educate others. I'm so sorry that you live with emetophobia & OCD. I didn't know much about emetophobia before reading your post. I also suffer from OCD as a result of my generalised anxiety disorder, and I hope one day I am brave enough to discuss my struggles with how my OCD affects me. I hope that you can find the right therapy to help you with your emetophobia x

    www.raiin-monkey.blogspot.com

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    1. aw thank you! I am glad I have helped you understand the phobia better! When you feel ready please do share your OCD story, I would be very interested to read it xx

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  11. It was really eye opening to read this post and has definitely raised the awareness of emetophobia for me xx
    www.blossomofhope.blogspot.com

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  12. I 100% relate with you... I have a huge fear of being sick, I wouldn't class myself as having emetophobia but I've been scared since childhood because I have a condition which is triggered by me vomiting... You may think I'm silly but I'm training to become a children's nurse and I thought it would help me combat my fear, in some senses it has but I now carry hand gel EVERYWHERE with me (if I don't have it I buy it) and if a child is poorly I will always let a younger student sort them out unless they reaaaally need help.

    I'm so happy I came across this post, morning sickness worries me too and I can only have a couple of glasses of alcohol, any more I feel sick and I have to leave my drunken friends early. If you ever need anyone to talk too I know I'm a complete stranger but I understand xxx

    Lauren x | http://huggled.blogspot.co.uk/

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    1. aw I am sorry to hear that you have to go through the same! Keep staying positive! I know you can do it! :)

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  13. This was such an interesting read. I am so sorry that you have to live with this, but also really glad that you wrote about it in such a detailed way. OCD is such a misunderstood condition and I can't imagine some of the ignorant comments you must have heard along the way! Talking about mental health is the only way to reduce stigma - well done for speaking out xx

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    1. Thank you so much! It's not really comments but its the stares when I am out in public which get to me xx

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  14. I too have OCD and used to compulsively wash my hands to the extent they were extremely chapped and constantly cracking and bleeding. I was in constant pain with them and the thought of how tight the skin on my hands would go if I flexed my fingers or simply made a fist still gives me shudders.

    I couldn't touch anything without washing my hands and then using hand sanitiser over and over until they felt clean enough. Like you, skin-to-skin contact was unthinkable so my relationship suffered a great deal during this time.

    I am now on medication and I undertook a course of CBT last year which has helped lots. I still have bad days where it kicks in a little again but life is so much more bearable than it used to be.

    Fingers crossed that CBT works for you. You can get through this. :)

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  15. Really brave and honest post, really appreciate you being so open. I also suffer from emetophobia and it can be so hard to find people who understand when binge drinking (and the consequences!) is the norm. I hope you manage to overcome you fears, as well as the rest of the people in the comments who suffer too, and thanks to your post we now know that we're not the only ones. Take care!
    Sophie x
    www.thescientificbeauty.com

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  16. Very brave from you to talk about it. Being lucky enough for never having had to suffer from any kind of serious mental illness I have a huge amount of respect for people who do - and still battle it every day. Though I've luckily never experienced a mentall illness, I appreciate it when people talk about it in public and when people are open about it. Mental health is just as important as physical health and should also be talked about in a similar way. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I'm learning new things from every post :)

    xx Solange (creativepineapples.blogspot.com)

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  17. I can relate to absolutely everything you say. I also have Emetophobia and OCD. I had always been afraid of getting sick throughout my entire life, but it was not very severe. Then, it progressively became worse. I compulsively washed my hands and would not eat very many foods. (I didn't touch my cat for at least three weeks at one point.) I would only eat pretzels or other packaged foods that I would consider safe. I then was hospitalized for three days on bed rest. I had very low potassium, Iron, and low blood pressure (and many more) and was diagnosed OCD and also emetophobia. It is embarrassing when people will pick up my hands and tell me that they are so dry and then I just sit there screaming on the inside and try to wait patiently until I can escape to wash my hands. I can't eat with my hands, I will eat the same thing over and over because it is my safe food. I don't eat meat, fish or eggs and won't eat veggie and fruits at times considering pesticides. I am 14 and OCD and Emetophobia controls my life and I don't know if I will ever be able to live without the constant fear of sickness. Thank you so much, this really helped, sorry I went on a tad of a rant.

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