Bit of a personal post today, friends. This isn’t something I really talk about much, mainly because it usually makes me seem like a massive weirdo; but last night I watched Katie Snooks’ video where she talked about her emetophobia. It was oddly comforting to know that someone else suffers with it just as badly as I do, so I thought I would do my own take on my experience with emetophobia just in case it ends up helping someone out there.
“So what is emetophobia?” I hear you ask. Well in short, it’s the fear of sick. And before you say it, yes I know no one likes sick. Everything about it is horrible and it’s just gross. Emetophobia is actually being terrified of sick. The most common form of emetophobia is the fear of yourself being sick, which I can understand because, again, it’s gross. However the form I have is the fear of other people being sick. I think this is mainly because if I feel sick then I can either settle my stomach (luckily I have a really strong stomach and rarely get sick) or I can mentally prepare myself for being sick. If other people are sick though, it’s usually unexpected and therefore it’s much scarier than myself being sick because I don’t have time to prepare myself for it. Sidenote – take a shot every time I say the word “sick” in this post.
Here’s the weird thing though, I don’t actually know how I got this phobia. Like I said, no one likes sick but I don’t know exactly how I went from “sick is gross” to “omg someone says they feel sick, I’m going to have a panic attack”. I’ve not had any traumatic event happen to me, and I don’t have any horrific memories that scarred me for life. I think my brain has just over thought it so much to the point that if I even think that I see someone being sick, I started having a minor panic attack until I realise that oh, they’re just bending over to tie their shoe laces.
Let’s talk about how Emetophobia has affected my life.
Public transport – this used to be quite a major one for me since I was a commuter but luckily I can drive most places now. This is something that Katie spoke about in her video and I’m so glad that I’m not alone in doing this. If I’m on the bus or the train, I’ll constantly be looking out for people who look ill and judge whether or not they look like they could be sick. When I hear someone having a coughing fit, my first thought is “omg they’re going to be sick”. If a drunk person gets on, my first thought is “they’re drunk so they’re going to be sick”. Even if a child gets on, I worry that they’ll be sick from motion sickness. Waiting for public transport is another thing; bus stops in Edinburgh are notorious for people being sick at. If I’m waiting for the bus I always have my music on and I try not to look around me just in case. Like I said, luckily I don’t have to take public transport that often anymore but when I do, I’m on high alert.
Public places – restaurants, shops, PUBLIC TOILETS. Everywhere I go I’m constantly on alert for someone being sick. I try not to use public toilets, even in restaurants because I’m terrified that someone will run in and be sick. When I do have to use the toilet in a restaurant or something, I will pee faster than I’ve ever done before just so I can get the hell out of there before anything can happen. Even when I’m at work I try to not go to the toilet too much, which usually results in me coming close to wetting myself; and when I do go to the toilet I usually quickly use the disabled toilet – which I feel terrible about doing but I know it’s safe because it’s one toilet by itself, so no one can run in and scar me for life.
Nights out – I’m not much of a night out person, thankfully. I actually wrote a post about this which you can read here. On the very rare occasion that I do end up going out for a drink, I usually leave very early or I spend the whole night constantly on alert for drunk people being sick. Again I’ll avoid going to the toilet as much as I can, and I’ll try to get a taxi home instead of getting public transport late at night (see first paragraph).
Family – this is the one that I feel so bad about. If someone close to me is sick, I literally cannot go near them. I can’t look after them, I can’t go and check if they’re okay. I have to be as far away as possible with my hands over my ears, probably crying in the corner. It makes me feel so heartless and horrible but my body will absolutely not let me go anywhere near them until it’s well and truly over. If someone even tells me that they feel sick, I try and get as far away from them as I possibly can.
Children – luckily I’m still at the stage of “ew, children”, but I always worry about the day that I do eventually have children of my own. I honestly don’t know how I’ll look after them when they’re sick because like I said, I have to be as far away as possible from anyone being sick. People have told me that it’s different when it’s your own child so I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to handle it a little better and not run away crying. I’m okay with baby sick though because it’s just milk, don’t get me wrong – it’s still TERRIFYING, but I can handle it better than a grown man being sick.
TV/Movies – my phobia is so bad that if I see someone being sick on tv or in a film, I’ll most likely have a panic attack. I remember watching a SacconeJoly vlog and Emilia was sick in it, so I had to turn it off because I had a panic attack. Even though I know on tv and in films that it’s not real most of the time and there’s literally nothing to be scared of, it still happens. I’m okay now with cartoons because it usually doesn’t even look real and it’s just silly to be scared of a cartoon being sick, but anything that looks remotely realistic is a big fat NO from me.
My anxiety – I’ve suffered with anxiety for years now and sick is a massive trigger for my anxiety. If I see someone be sick, I will have a panic attack. If hear someone be sick, I will have a panic attack. I was dogsitting the other week and one of the dogs was sick and then boom: panic attack. I will start feeling anxious the minute someone mentions feeling sick, which in turn makes me feel sick from the anxiety. It’s not a good time tbh.
I’ve heavily considered seeking therapy for my emetophobia, especially now since it seems to be steadily getting worse and worse but the thought of therapy scares me almost as much as sick does. I’d maybe give hypnotherapy a go but that’s probably it. Exposure therapy seems terrifying to me, I know that Katie said in her video that she went through exposure therapy and had to watch videos of people being sick and I know for a fact that I absolutely couldn’t do that. You couldn’t pay me enough to watch videos of people being sick. I would honestly rather watch a post-mortem of a dead person than someone being sick.
I’m hopeful that one day I’ll either just get over this phobia or that I’ll be brave enough to get therapy for it, but as of right now I’m just living in my bubble of doing my best to avoid sick everyday. Please let me know if you suffer from emetophobia as well and how it affects you, and also if you have any tips on how to deal with it better instead of crying in a corner.