The Challenge of Emetophobia During Cold-Weather Months


Ah, the crisp air hits your face as you walk out the door this morning. Feels nice, doesn’t it? Not to me. Living with emetophobia has me in fear of the upcoming cold months. The dreadful “stomach flu” a.k.a. norovirus is on its way to a household near you. Hopefully not mine.

For many people with emetophobia, the winter can be when sh*t hits the fan. This is the season many of us prepare for the minute it gets warm. We stalk up on bleach, Clorox wipes, Lysol — all of the essentials for surviving a stomach bug. We may live in a tiny bubble during the summer, with rose-colored glasses thinking we will not get sick. It’s warm out, the sun is shining — germs are not a thing to think of right now. This is often false though, because the stomach bug can be lurking when we least expect it. I do feel more safe than usual though. Or maybe I’m in total denial.

Kids start back at school. We go to our jobs. We talk to people, share things, and eventually we share germs. The colds start; that’s when we may start to get nervous. It means it is right around the corner, waiting for its next prey. This is personally when my cleaning rituals become intense. Hand sanitizer in the car, in my purse, in the diaper bag — everywhere. I start Lysol-ing door knobs, I hand-wash constantly, I limit my food intake if I have come into contact with someone who has been nauseous. In my brain, not having food in my stomach means no vomiting. I lose weight. I stress. I basically live off of my “safe foods.”

Now that I have a child, we are in the doctor’s office for everything under the sun. My husband used to be a school teacher, so I was often afraid to touch him and his “school germs” when he got home. I would pester him about how many kids were sent to the nurse, how many kids he had missing in class, and why. Now that my own child is in preschool, I am a walking ball of anxiety. I want to hibernate until spring.

My biggest challenge when the weather gets colder is — a lot of things actually. Not keeping my kid home from school to avoid the risk of germs. Going to the grocery store, where someone who threw up a few days ago likely touched something I touched. Not washing my hands until they bleed. Avoiding doctors’ offices. Actually eating so my immune system stays healthy even though I am petrified I will be sick. Eating food prepared by others. Not running away when somebody says they feel ill — or asking them a million questions about what is wrong. Trying not to freak out about my 72-hour rule if I do come in contact with someone who had the stomach virus. This makes me count down the hours from exposure, over-thinking each feeling I have in my stomach, limiting food, and extreme cleaning of myself and my household.

So here are some tips from one emetophobic person:

Please, if you have the symptoms of norovirus (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea) please stay homeThis virus is fast-moving, and it can affect anybody. Do not make that potluck dinner you signed up for if you’ve been experiencing symptoms in the last 72 hours. Do not send your child to school/games/practice if he or she has been ill. In all honesty, don’t do this just for people with emetophobia, but for everybody. No one wants this virus. It sucks big time. So you can spare everybody by parking your butt at home to rest and keeping your fluids up.

I hate the cold…

Image via Thinkstock.


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Mental Health

Promotional image of a scary girl coming out of a television screen.

Mental Health Advocates Protest Knott's Berry Farm's Halloween Attraction, Fear VR: 5150

Update: FearVR:5150 has been removed from Knott’s Berry Farm and California’s Great America theme park as of Wednesday, 9/28/16, according to a statement released by Cedar Fair Entertainment.  “California’s Great America is proud of its popular annual Halloween Haunt event. For nine years we have delivered unique and immersive haunted experiences to our fans and [...]
vector illustration girl in the bedroom

If Mental Illness Kept You at Home Today

Autumn is finally here. Even in my warm, Southern hometown the difference is noticeable. If you’re a student, the semester is in full swing. 2016 is in its final stretch, and the sun is staying with us less and less each day. For me, these usher in more frequent panic attacks, heavier feet when it’s time for… anything, and a stronger sense of overwhelm. [...]
a safety life ring

When You Live With a Mental Illness, It's OK to Send Out an SOS

Imagine you’re sailing on a ship full speed ahead to your next destination with not a care in the world. All of a sudden, the ship springs a leak. It’s a small leak. So you patch it and continue to sail on. You don’t go much further before that small leak turns into a bunch [...]
urban girl standing out from the crowd at a city street

The Good and Bad of Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment, From an Involuntary Patient

An extended leave authorization form. In light of the recent Supreme Court Charter challenge to involuntary psychiatric treatment under British Columbia’s Mental Health Act, I was prompted to reflect on my own situation as an involuntary patient living in the community. This challenge has sparked a lot of debate, with one side strongly supporting the challenge, while the other [...]