At my breaking point...

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Regular Member

Date Joined Aug 2007
Total Posts : 171
   Posted 11/28/2007 10:07 AM (GMT -6)   
Hi all,

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...

Elite Member

Date Joined Jan 2005
Total Posts : 24909
   Posted 11/28/2007 10:45 AM (GMT -6)   
Hi there
I do understand what u are talking about with " catching bugs " and going out or having ppl around you sick
I am basically w/o an immune system and I catch all there is too catch ......
My D SIL brings my nephew here with a cold a couple of mths ago ...runny nose coughing you name it ...
I got pnuemonia and was very very sick and lost alot of weight as I would not eat due to not wantig to vomit
I dont have a phobia bout Vomitting BUT I do not like it and I try avoiding it at all costs

I would suggesst instead of looking for therapists or docs that know nothing about this anyways go in the other direction
Go to an Eating Disorder specialists they deal with isues of bulimia anorexia ect BUT also they I am SURE would have some insight into this particuliar phobia........I know you are not afraid to eat BUT they may be able to bleeding well shed more light on the phobia you have ya know
Just a thought
Out there......... but still it could be worth checking out IMHO..........

I am sooo sorry hun you are going thru this and plz do not be a stranger keeep posting I have been wonderig how you are doing............
Let me / us know how you make out if you go the route I suggessted........
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Regular Member

Date Joined Sep 2007
Total Posts : 345
   Posted 11/28/2007 11:49 AM (GMT -6)   
I am sorry you are feeling this way. I don't have a phobia of vomiting like you do, but I also hate vomiting----and do 'obsess' about it as soon as school starts for us. My kids have brought home more bugs through the years---and I would always be the one to catch it.. Not my DH, but ME! I have gotten to the point where I am afraid to clean it up---the smell of it, and I hate feeling like I have to vomit---or the thought of it!

My DH (and others) have told me that the stomach bug is just something that you cannot avoid---it will happen to me (or "you" in a general sense)---at sometime. So, I TRY to think of it as "this will just needs to run its will pass"---but, the whole time I am feeling sick I am scared to death!

I have no words to help you get through this---but, can tell you you aren't alone here at HW! Lyn offered some great advice----and I also hope you will post letting us know how it goes for you!


Elite Member

Date Joined Apr 2007
Total Posts : 32602
   Posted 11/28/2007 11:54 AM (GMT -6)   

Good Morning anxietyridden,

I am so sorry you are going through this and I understand the anxiety that comes with your phobia as I have anxiety when exposed to certain illnesses.  I don't do sick well. :(

Lyn's suggestion to see a physician that deals in eating disorders is a wonderful idea.  This is one avenue to explore and I hope you soon have found a way to cope with the anxiety.

Know we are here to support you and we understand where your coming from with you issue. Keep on posting.......hugs.


Moderator Anxiety ~ Panic Disorders
*~* Not a mental health professional at all *~*
Dx: Anxiety/Panic, Depression, GERD, Osteoarthritis
*Wife of a Crohnie*
It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.~Mahatma Gandhi~

Regular Member

Date Joined Aug 2007
Total Posts : 171
   Posted 11/28/2007 1:37 PM (GMT -6)   
Thank you guys for your responses and at least helping me to feel I am not completely alone in this. I try to tell the people that are closest to me, like my family and BF, because I want them to have some explanation for my "neurotic tendencies" (as my sister so dearly calls them). But they just do not get it. The question is always "But why are you so scared of throwing up? Everyone throws up." And that's the thing...rationally I know that everyone throws up and that it's not the end of the world, it feels bad and it's gross, but it will pass. But knowing that doesn't stop the anxious and panicky feelings I have and lately they are overwhelming me and taking over my life. I feel so abnormal compared to everyone else. It causes me even more anxiety when my phobia affects someone else. On Thanksgiving I decided not to eat the turkey because I get very anxious about meat being cooked properly...and my family at the table all laughed at me, especially my sisters. It makes me feel so ashamed and embarrassed. And truly I could have forced myself to eat the turkey, but I would have been panicking for the next 24 hours, waiting to see if I was going to get food poisoning. I decided to do what was right for me, which was to avoid the anxiety trigger so that I could enjoy the rest of the holiday. Unfortunately I didn't enjoy the rest of it because of the reaction I got, which made me upset and embarrassed. The same type of thing will happen with my BF. I'm very conscious of expiration dates on food and how long leftovers have been in the fridge, and sometimes he yells at me for throwing things away and wasting food. Once I wanted a piece of candy and as I was unwrapping it very carefully so as not to touch it with my fingers (we were in public and I hadn't washed my hands) he reached over and put his thumb on it. I promptly threw it away and he laughed at me and then told me I was insane. I can only imagine how he will treat me if he comes down with a stomach bug and sees how I react. Or if I come down with one.

Honestly, I do feel hopeless right now. I feel like I will never be able to lead a normal life and I am sure that this phobia will cost me my relationship. Even I hate putting up with myself and my thoughts and I can not imagine someone else wanting to put up with them. It has cost me a relationship in the past.

I am thinking of seeing my PCP about starting back on an AD. Even though it won't cure the phobia, it might at least ease the panic related to it. Getting in touch with a specialist on eating disorders is not a bad idea either, because even though they might not know how to treat the phobia, they may be able to point to someone who will. At the very least I think I am going to get some therapist referrals from my PCP and then conduct some "phone interviews" -- it might be helpful for me to weed out the ones who don't treat phobias, and to do some research on the methods of the ones who do.

Living this way is just making me depressed. Even making it through the day is exhausting...and BF wants to go out for a drink tonight when all I want to do is make it through the rest of work and then curl up with a book. sad
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