I've posted here a few times before, but I'm really at my wits end right now and could use some advice. I suffer from anxiety, but my anxiety is based on a very specific phobia. I have emetophobia, which is the fear of vomit/vomiting. I've had this phobia for about 15 years, since I was 8 years old. I've always felt incredibly alone with this phobia, but after doing some reading online I've realized there are other people out there who suffer with it, although it's not commonly talked about. I don't generally talk about it because other people just don't understand it. When I say I have a vomit phobia people always say "Nobody likes throwing up." Well, duh! I try to explain it using a phobia that is much more widely known and accepted, which is a phobia of flying in an airplane. When you have a phobia of flying, or rather being in a plane crash, getting onto an airplane is a known risk and trigger, but sometimes can not be avoided. When you are on the plane you will be having panic attacks and probably not be functioning very well for the duration. But once you get off of the plane your symptoms will subside. Now imagine that you have the same level of fear about vomiting...only you can never escape or "get off the plane." Every day is a risk because you have to go out in public, where you will be exposed to germs that can cause stomach bugs. Or you might see someone vomit in public. You might eat undercooked food that will cause you illness. Someone in your house might become ill. You can never really relax because there is nowhere that you absolutely no you will be safe from your fear...whereas if you are phobic of flying you know you are safe while on the ground.
So that's my phobia. I have been diagnosed with GAD, social anxiety, panic attacks and OCD, but I know all that directly stems from the phobia. I have social anxiety because I don't want to go out in public and be in large crowds where I will be exposed to germs or witness a vomiting incident. I have panic attacks when I know I have been exposed (someone in my family is sick, someone at work is sick, etc) and when I feel sick myself. I have OCD tendencies because I wash my hands frequently due to fear of germs, I obsessively check meat and expiration dates, and I have little "rituals" I do to stop me from feeling sick. In the past I have also been diagnosed with anorexia because I refused to eat for fear of being sick.
I have received therapy for this problem, first when I was 10 years old, because my parents were frustrated by the fact that I wouldn't eat, refused to go to school, and basically freaked out when anyone in the house was sick. That therapist didn't help because he said that I had separation anxiety and that I was playing games with my parents so that I wouldn't have to go to school. I think he even blamed it on "middle child syndrome." I started therapy again when I was 18, and for some reason none of the 3 therapists I went through wanted to acknowledge that everything was stemming from this one phobia. They would focus on the social anxiety or OCD even though I kept saying that I was terrified of vomit. They just kept trying to get me to talk about my family and my relationships, etc. I just wanted someone to help me work through my phobia! I was also prescribed Paxil around that time, and then Lexapro, so I was on some form of AD for about 3.5 years. It did help somewhat, I didn't have as many panic attacks and I felt more comfortable going out in public because I just didn't feel as nervous...but I just didn't feel AT ALL. That's why I eventually stopped the med, it made me like a zombie. It was like I had no fluctuation of emotion...sad, happy, angry...they were all the same. I stopped therapy too because I didn't think it was helping.
I have been doing OK in the past 2 years, at least I have been functioning. I've been able to go out with friends, I've held down a full-time job, etc. But suddenly things are getting worse again and I feel like I can't handle it anymore. We are headed into the winter, which is the worst time for me because it's stomach flu season, and I am falling apart. This phobia is all I think about, just that constant thought of "What if I throw up today? What if I catch a bug today?" It's on my mind when I first wake up and I dread going to work. I've stopped wanting to go out with friends and be out in public, "just in case." It seems like the only thing I want to do is lock myself away and just lay around and not be exposed to anyone. The worst part is that I have a boyfriend right now, and he doesn't know the extent of this. We've been together a little less than a year, and so he wasn't around me much last winter. I'm terrified that this phobia is going to annoy him, or he won't understand it. I've tried to tell him about it but he sort of laughs it off like "That's a crazy thing to be afraid of." I know that!!!! I'm so afraid that I'm going to become agoraphobic and just stop going to work and sit in my apartment all the time, because honestly that thought appeals to me right now. I can't not handle this level of anxiety on a daily basis, and having panic attacks at least once a day. The other night I had a panic attack with a group of friends and had to go home, once I got there I didn't calm down for hours and didn't sleep till 5 a.m. It's miserable.
I don't know what to do. It seems like there are NO therapists around me that know about this phobia and would be willing to treat it as such. I've considered going back on an AD but I just don't know how much it will help.
Sorry I've written a novel here! But I would appreciate any advice, even though I know this is a strange phobia and people might not understand it...