I know this is ironic for me to post this considering I have been posting dessert recipes lately. However, the fact of the matter is, it is stomach virus season, I am going absolutely bananas! I will note why in a moment, but I first want to say that sickness is something that all people want to avoid. Unfortunately, even though this cannot be avoided at some times during your life, the thought of being sick does not normally present as being an issue in most people. That is unless you have a terrible phobia of it which pervades every area of your life and turns you into a big ball of nerves, panic and anxiety. This is an actual condition which is called emetophobia and there are a huge number of people around the world who suffer from emetophobia.
If you have never heard of emetophobia, let me note some ways how it affects sufferers-
1. They are deathly afraid of vomiting, and is not a simple case of ‘not liking to throw up’- obviously no one likes to vomit, but they do not think and worry about it every single day. This is normally characterized by an extreme phobia that a lot of others cannot start to empathize with. In order to be empathetic, think about your biggest fear, or phobia- how do you feel when you think about it? Anxious? Yep that is what I thought. That is how I feel about vomit.
2. Not comfortable with leaving home due to the idea of possibly vomiting in front of others- This is not something that really worries me in particular fortunately. That is because it has never happened (except for being drunk when I was 19, but that doesn’t count and I wasn’t aware of what happened anyway), and I get there is a first time for everything but if I am feeling that sick, I stay home anyway. However, for many people with emetophobia, this is one of the worst case scenarios that could ever happen to them and they will do anything to avoid that kind of situation.
3. Being unable to eat particular foods and drink particular liquids because the sufferer is certain that doing so will cause vomiting- This sometimes occurs because of eating or drinking something that previously caused the sufferer to vomit or feel as though they could do. I do believe that if something made someone who doesn’t have the phobia sick, he or she would avoid that kind of food again as well. However, one time spring rolls made me sick. I avoided it for years- until one day a spring roll at a Chinese buffet looked good and was told it was good, I dared myself to eat it, and I was fine. I can now eat spring rolls.
4. Being anxiety ridden when thinking about vomiting- These can reach such a stage that the person with emetophobia is physically unable to continue with daily life. In my case, I am not impacted that severely, however I am extremely paranoid and scared about norovirus outbreaks. My biggest fear is that my husband and kids will have it simultaneously. If that ever happened, I would simply have to leave home. In fact, one time I did leave home with my daughter when my husband was sick, and left him alone. He had to call his brother for help. For those who don’t want to be compassionate towards me in anyway, they can call me selfish all they want. But before you do call me selfish, go and think about what terrifies you the most, and imagine yourself being put in that situation.
5. Physical symptoms of anxiety are present, such as the heart rate increasing, sweaty palms, dizziness and even panic attacks when the worry of vomiting becomes too much to handle. Experiencing this can be incredibly worrying for a sufferer and this can lead them to believe that they will never be able to function normally ever again.
Panic attacks that can sometimes happen daily or several times each day.
6. Social worry – when a person with emetophobia is convinced that they will vomit in public, or see someone else vomit they will start to isolate themselves from others. Unfortunately they will stop going out and will not respond to invites to parties and other social occasions. When this happens to a person it can be hard for them to break the cycle of trying to hide from others. I don’t have an issue with going to events such as weddings, however, if there are birthday parties involving little kids, I will not go.
7. Can’t even bring themselves to say the words that are related to vomiting- I personally am okay with seeing the words ‘vomit’, ‘sick’ or ‘throw up’ or even ‘food poisoning’ (the proof is the fact I have written them out in this post), but many who suffer from emetophobia replace those words with v*, s*, tu or fp. They can’t even look at those words (and my apologies to emetophobic readers who are sensitive in regards to this for writing those words out).
And what do I do when my kids vomit? Unfortunately I am unable to handle it. My husband has always had to be the one to care for them, even if it happened in the day. He has had to pick them up from school. Fortunately, even when they were younger they didn’t vomit too often, and now that they are getting older- it happens less often, and can care for themselves. Even my son with autism has cleaned up after himself if he has gotten sick.
Emetophobia is not a condition that should be taken lightly, and it can produce behaviours and symptoms that can make leading a “normal life” virtually impossible. There has been much talk over the exact cause of emetophobia, and it is often a personal event in a person’s life that causes it. If this event is severe enough it can lead to a lifelong fear of vomiting which can end up ruling a person’s life. In fact, that is how any phobia can be developed.