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Why Emetophobia Is So Much More Than Hating Being Sick


As a person with chronic illnesses, I have a lot of anxieties around my health. However, more specifically, I struggle with emetophobia.

If I’m honest, I didn’t even identify it as emetophobia until more recently; I just thought it was part of my wider anxieties. However, a few months back I had a psychological assessment and speaking it through with the psychologist showed me just how much I fear being sick, and more specifically the consequences of it.

I think it only started about two years ago. I was on a trip away and I got sick for unknown reasons. I was with a friend I didn’t know very well, ended up having to cancel my train home and stay in a random hotel for an extra night, still being very ill. When I tried to visit the same friend a few months later, the same thing happened, and I think my brain jumped on board and decided it was scary.

The consequences are more wide-reaching than you might think; every time I admit my phobia to someone, I usually get the same response: “Oh yeah, I hate being sick.” It’s so much more than that. Eating is scary — I very rarely eat out, and when I do it has to be a restaurant I know well. Even eating at home, I only eat small portions and I can’t eat around other people. Taking medication is scary, because what side effects label doesn’t have being sick on it. Car journeys are scary, and plane journeys, and train journeys. Having an illness is scary because it makes me feel sick all the time. It stops me leaving my house for days at a time. I won’t get drunk, or be around drunk people. I won’t go on rollercoasters. Even my own wheelchair — the thing meant to help me get around — makes me scared in case I’m too ill to push myself home.

I know perfectly logically that it shouldn’t be scary, and if I am sick, I’m always OK. But that doesn’t stop me being scared.

Originally published on the author’s blog.

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Thinkstock photo via champja