In the quickest summary, emetophobia is a fear of vomiting.
…And that’s the only time I’m going to say the V word because some people can be triggered just by the mere mention of it.
For the longest time, I didn’t know this phobia of mine had a name. I thought it was just something that made me weird, something I couldn’t control and hated having to explain to other people. It goes beyond disliking the act; it’s an overwhelming fear of seeing it, of doing it, and of being around it.
When you have emetophobia, the idea of getting sick feels like you’re going to die. That’s how intense it is. Though going to college desensitized me to certain aspects (I’m better about eating around people, trying new foods, seeing it on TV), I still deal with it all the time. A good way to think of emetophobia is that it’s similar to Panic Disorder, but with a focus on the throat and stomach.
Here are things I’ve done as a result of emetophobia that other people didn’t really understand. Anything you deal with that I didn’t list? Feel free to comment below. It’s nice to remember we’re not alone.
1. Avoiding social activities that are centered around food.
Food is a constant source of stress. The idea of eating something that might interact with you badly keeps you from wanting to eat around other people. As a result, you prefer to just not take the risk. You either skip the dinner invitations or join people later after the food part is done.
2. Feeling really anxious about eating at a new restaurant.
For most, trying out a new restaurant or cuisine is exciting and a chance to love something you’ve never had before. But for you? It’s hard. You think about the chefs and if they’re qualified and if the server is washing his hands and if you’re going to accidentally eat something that will hurt your stomach. It’s a lot of freaking out over nothing.
3. Sticking to the same “safe” meals.
You become obsessed with foods that you deem “safe” — a.k.a. foods that you’ve consumed and did not get sick from. You tend to eat the same things routinely. And it’s not because you love them sooooo much. It’s because you can eat them without massive anxiety.
4. Closely monitoring how much people are drinking to make sure you’re not near someone who might get sick.
Not only are you keeping tabs on how much you drink (because the idea of getting sick around people is your literal nightmare), you’re also observing the people around you. You’ll never be the friend holding hair back. You just can’t. You’re running for the door the second someone mentions not feeling good.
5. Overcooking your food.
The fear of salmonella or other foodborne related illnesses can cause you to spend a little extra time making sure your food is fully cooked. Sometimes to the point of it being a little overcooked. So yeah, you’re not exactly winning any Chef Of The Year awards any time soon.
6. Excessively washing your hands or showering.
To you, germs are the ultimate enemy. On particularly triggering days, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for you to shower more than once in a day. If you’ve had to shake hands or come in close contact with anyone sniffly, forget it. You’re washing those hands until you turn pruney.
7. Getting very uncomfortable or having to leave when people talk or make jokes about getting sick.
The very mention of the act can cause instant nausea and minor (or for some, major) panic attack symptoms. On a personal note, when I was growing up, I refused to see movies in the theater unless I knew for a fact there wouldn’t be a scene on camera with someone losing their lunch. My friends (the kindest people) used to warn me, “Hey, don’t see that movie! There’s a pretty long scene you won’t be able to tolerate.”
8. Locking yourself in your room if your roommates or family members are ill.
It feels like your room, or whatever space you’re hiding away in, is a bubble of safety. If you leave, you’re going to catch whatever’s going around and that’ll be the end of it.
9. Waiting a specific amount of time after eating before agreeing to doing anything with someone.
You have a time limit you like to wait before going out or doing anything in public. Similar to your safe meals, you have safe hours – i.e. food has digested so you decide you’ll be okay.
10. Canceling plans if you feel even the slightest twinge of nausea or upset.
If your stomach feels even the tiniest bit wonky, you’re not taking any chances. You’d rather be at home where things are more in your control than possibly out with other people when disaster strikes.
11. Acting like getting sick will actually be the end of the world.
Because, yeah, it’s irrational. But it feels like you won’t survive. This is your biggest fear, and no matter how normal and typical it is for a body to do, each time you’ll be convinced it’s going to do you in.