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10 Tips for Living with Emetophobia

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Living with any phobia is difficult, but emetophobia is a particularly tough one to manage. This is because the thing you fear (vomit and anything related to being sick) is a natural bodily function. While people can go years without actually throwing up, the sensation of nausea and the depiction of vomit in films and television are hard to avoid for long periods of time.

Emetophobes may therefore find themselves living increasingly limited lives. If you’re struggling with this phobia, then EmetoGo can help. We’ve put together a list of 10 tips that will help you cope with your emetophobia on a day-to-day basis. Let’s get started!

How emetophobia can impact your life

The way emetophobia affects daily life will vary from person to person. However, a common thread running through the lives of emetophobes is that they will do all they can to avoid getting sick. In practice this could look like:

  • Only eating bland food
  • Frequently washing hands, clothes, utensils, door handles, etc.
  • Refusing contact with anyone who is ill
  • Avoiding alcohol or venues where alcohol is consumed
  • Steering clear of places or events with multiple people present
  • Taking anti-nausea medication preventatively
  • Not leaving the house

Many of these behaviours take a serious toll on your wellbeing and can quickly become obsessive in nature. Thankfully, there are a few simple (and some, admittedly, not so simple) steps you can take to loosen the grip that emetophobia has on your life.

10 tips for living with emetophobia

At EmetoGo, we understand that accessing professional help for a phobia can be a daunting prospect for some people. In this list we include both small habits and big steps that can make a huge difference to the life of anyone dealing with emetophobia.

1. Be kind to yourself

One of the best things you can do for your self esteem and confidence is to accept your phobia without judgement. Some people are embarrassed by their fears and this can lead to a dangerous cycle of shame and self-flagellation. If you’re in this mindset, it will be very hard to improve your situation. Practise self-compassion and try to dismiss any negative self-talk.

Phobias are not a sign of weakness—they are very common and you are not alone in what you are going through, even if it feels like that sometimes. Be patient and understanding with yourself. Sometimes it helps to picture yourself as a child. Would you speak harshly to this vulnerable version of yourself if they were going through an extremely difficult time? No. It’s not fair to do that now, either.

2. Challenge your fears with logic

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A major part of what makes living with a phobia so tricky is the anxiety that comes with it. You could be having a perfectly normal, seemingly stress-free day, when your brain decides to start spiralling. For example, a minor stomach twinge can quickly have you convinced that a serious illness is on the horizon. The mind is a very powerful tool, and in the throes of anxiety it can cause real physical symptoms like nausea. This can be terrifying if sickness is something you fear.

The good news is that you can use the power of the mind to your advantage. Next time the anxious thoughts start to creep in, counter them with statements of logic. How many times have you actually been sick in your life? The chances are that it’s a very low number, because it usually only happens to people a few times in their life. Plus, if you are the type of person who actively avoids illness, the odds are even lower! The more you repeat these logical conclusions to yourself, the more your brain will start to believe them. In time, your mind can start to favour the rational over the irrational thoughts without you even having to try.

When all else fails, repeat this to yourself: feelings aren’t facts. Just because you think you’re getting ill does not mean it is actually happening.

3. Be honest with the people around you

Even if you’re not ready for professional help, there’s no reason to go through your emetophobia journey alone. Overcoming it will be something you have to do for yourself, but you should embrace the support of others as you go. Rather than hiding your phobia, let close friends and family know how you’re feeling and why. You only have to go into as much detail as you’re comfortable with, but your honesty will help them to understand your behaviour.

You might be thinking that, because they don’t have emetophobia, others won’t be able to relate to what you’re going through, but that’s not necessarily true. Everyone has their issues and we are able to show great empathy for those we love, even if we don’t have first-hand experience of what they’re dealing with. We all deserve support and you are not a burden. You can protect yourself by establishing some boundaries during these conversations.

Don’t have a close social network that you feel comfortable sharing with? There are many support groups to be found online. The emetophobia community on Reddit is a great place to start. Make sure you brush up on your emetophobia forum abbreviations first though!

4. Look after yourself

As we’ve mentioned, one of the most debilitating aspects of a phobia is the anxiety it causes. There are certain steps you can take in terms of lifestyle choices, though, that will better prepare your body to handle these emotional and physical challenges. At the top of the list is sleep. Prioritise rest and aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night, where possible. Reducing caffeine intake and increasing physical activity will help with this goal.

You should also be mindful (but not obsessive!) about the food and drink you consume. Increase fruits, vegetables and whole grains and limit things like processed foods and alcohol. Indeed, while alcohol can relax you in the short-term, over time it can actually exacerbate anxiety and depression.

Of course, when you’re in the midst of anxiety, these healthy habits can feel like the last thing you want to do. That’s why it’s a good idea to get a head start. When you do feel up to it, practise looking after yourself. When you don’t, give yourself a break and try not to feel guilty about it.

5. Take incremental steps

Managing a phobia takes time, energy and patience. Instead of attempting to make big changes and then beating yourself up when it doesn’t work, take incremental steps to deal with the symptoms of your emetophobia. A helpful way to start this process is to write a list of all the obsessive behaviours and fears that are holding you back or interfering with your day-to-day life. Then, rather than viewing the length of the list as overwhelming, see it as an opportunity to achieve lots of small wins. You can even order them by severity and start with the small stuff to ease yourself in.

Recovery does not happen all at once—it’s the culmination of many tiny achievements and often includes a few slip ups along the way.

6. Breathe

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They’re easy to dismiss as too basic for severe phobias, but breathing exercises can make a huge difference to your emotional and physical state. Sure, it takes practice and might not work right away, but if you learn how to use it, your breath can be very anchoring. Think about it—when you’re incredibly anxious, your breath tends to be quick and shallow. It makes sense, then, that if you focus on taking long, deep breaths, anxiety can start to melt away.

As we’ve said, these techniques are not necessarily easy to master. You can find lots of great tutorials for free online, though, so it’s worth checking out. This is also true of yoga and hypnosis.

Alternate nostril breathing (also known as Nadi Shodhana) is particularly good for reducing stress. Plus, the effort you put into getting it right will distract you from whatever’s triggering your phobia!

While we’re on the subject…

7. Seek distractions

Phobias are incredibly powerful because, once triggered, they can completely consume you. Before an anxiety attack reaches that point, there are mental and physical steps you can take to distract your brain. When your negative thoughts start to spiral, have a few mental tricks or games to switch your attention to. This can be as simple as counting the number of a certain thing in a room, or running through your to-do list for the next day.

If something is making you feel nauseous, it can help to distract your senses. This might mean taking a cold shower, smelling essential oils, or listening to white noise or classical music through headphones. Some people like to carry what they call a ‘worry stone’. This tends to be a small pebble or crystal that they squeeze when they start to feel distressed. The physical sensation forces the brain to shift at least some of its attention to what’s happening in your hand. This can be particularly useful for when you are in a public space and don’t want to draw attention to yourself.

8. Find comfort in “safe” food and drink

You need to be careful with this one, as it is easy to become obsessive about what you consume. To be clear: limiting yourself to a strict diet can be just as debilitating as a phobia in the long run. However, it is useful to have certain drinks and snacks on hand for when your anxiety tricks you into thinking you are getting ill. After all, being hungry or dehydrated will only make these feelings worse.

Here are some items other people with emetophobia find useful to have on hand:

  • Plain crackers
  • Rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Mint gum
  • Clear, fizzy drinks
  • Peppermint tea
  • Ginger capsules

9. Medication

If your phobia is severe there are medications available that can help to manage various symptoms of emetophobia. It might be wise to start by keeping some non-prescription, anti-nausea medicine in the house. You shouldn’t rely on or abuse it, but sometimes just knowing it is available can help you to stay calm when you start to feel unwell.

Of course, if your symptoms are having a negative impact on your daily life, you should consult a doctor to see if they can prescribe something more effective. Depending on your situation, this could be an antiemetic, antianxiety or antidepressant drug. Always make sure you have a thorough understanding of the potential effects of these medicines before taking them. If you have any questions or concerns, seek professional advice.

10. Talk to a therapist

Seeking professional help for your phobia can feel like a very big step, but once you take it, a whole new world of support opens up. A therapist will not only provide useful tools to help you manage your symptoms, but they can also explore the issues that lie at the root of your fears. This tends to hold the key to overcoming the phobia altogether. Such insight is very hard to achieve without the guidance of an experienced professional.

Some people are put off accessing help because they feel embarrassed or assume it means admitting weakness. However, therapy can be one of the most empowering journeys you can go on. A therapist is not an authority figure telling you how to live your life. On the contrary, they aid you in recognising your own strengths and reveal how the ability to grow and regain control over your life is in your hands.

Ready for a life without emetophobia?

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We hope these 10 tips will improve your experience of living with emetophobia. It’s certainly not easy, but it doesn’t have to be a burden that controls your entire life. In fact, a phobia is not something you should resign yourself to living with forever.

When you feel ready to accept professional help, EmetoGo is here for you. We have a hand-picked team of friendly, experienced therapists who understand how difficult emetophobia can be. To get started or find out more about our services, simply fill out a contact form and we’ll be in touch as soon as possible.