What’s it like to live with Emetophobia?

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Living with a mental illness can be a struggle, especially at university. There’s already so much to deal with like deadlines, meeting new people and adapting to new surroundings- without the added issue of mental health. I’ve battled with emetophobia (fear of vomit) since I was four years old, and even writing that word stresses me out.

When I tell people I have a phobia of being sick, they can’t believe it’s a real thing, but it’s actually more common than people think. Emetophobia is the fifth most common phobia and it is estimated that 6-7% of females suffer from it, as well as 1.7-3.1% of males. It’s often misdiagnosed as OCD or agoraphobia because it can have a lot of similar symptoms.

When I was younger I had a really bad stomach bug and my phobia spiraled from there. I was terrified of eating and after every meal time, I used to go to bed crying and make my parents sit with me until I fell asleep.

The phrase ‘I won’t be sick will I?’ became a family joke as I must have said it 20 times a day. I would wash my hands constantly and everything I did had to revolve around my fear.

As the years went by, I began to get my phobia under more control, but when I got ill again at 18, it resurfaced and was even worse than before. I wouldn’t leave my house for weeks because I was so scared of being sick in public and I barely ate for months – apart from toast and plain pasta. I stopped going to college on the bus in case I felt sick and I wouldn’t go anywhere crowded in case I couldn’t get out in time.

I also gave up drinking and going out – something which has proved quite difficult at university. Coping with this illness while studying has been a very difficult experience at times. Making excuses not to go on nights out has been one of the hardest parts as a lot of people can’t understand why I wouldn’t want to get drunk and enjoy myself.

It’s such a difficult topic that some people feel uncomfortable talking about it and don’t really know what to say, so I definitely think there needs to be more education around it. If people know more about mental illness then so much of the stigma around it could be removed. There have been days where I have felt so alone and even getting out of bed has left me exhausted. It’s so draining to live with something that takes over your mind every single minute of the day, but having a great support network and understanding friends has really helped.

It’s so important to talk about mental health and how you feel. Doing so has made me so much more aware of how much support there is out there and I am determined to fight my phobia once and for all.

Words by Brogan M Maguire, Contributor. 

Hope and Vicky are your lifestyle editors.

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