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A woman sits uncomfortably on the bathroom floor with her hand over her stomach and staring warily at the toilet in front of her which is illuminated by an evil red light.

Dealing with Emetophobia and IBS

As if having IBS wasn’t tough enough, when you add emetophobia into the mix – it can make your situation a whole lot harder!

What is emetophobia?

Emetophobia is a phobia of vomiting. It can be a fear of vomiting in public and/or seeing others vomit. It can lead to a whole host of other anxieties such as catching a stomach bug, feeling nauseous or the fear of gagging. I, unfortunately, suffer both with the fear of being sick and seeing others vomit.

How my fear of vomiting affects me

Until my early 20s, I thought it was completely normal to be this terrified of being sick or seeing others being sick…After all, as everyone keeps telling me, no one likes being sick! But when you’re fearful to the point you avoid social situations, go to extreme lengths to avoid catching bugs and are so picky about the food you eat, it’s really not normal. I once worked with someone who mentioned that she had this phobia, we discussed it a great deal and I realized I wasn’t the only person who felt like this. I’d been hiding how I felt for a really long time. It seems to be quite a common phobia, one that is particularly hard to treat, but people are often reluctant to open up about it for fear of judgment.

How does emetophobia relate to IBS?

One of the symptoms I can get quite regularly with my IBS is nausea and oh boy does it set my anxiety off! I’ve never actually been physically sick with my IBS. Even just typing that out there, makes me realize I should remind myself of that more. But the symptoms of nausea itself are enough to send my mind into full-blown panic. I know myself that vomiting is the body’s way of getting rid of something it doesn’t like and it’s completely normal. I also know that nothing bad is really going to happen to me if it happens. But for some reason, my mind goes into absolute meltdown and I can’t seem to get on top of it.

Does my fear of vomiting contribute to my IBS symptoms?

Yup, it sure does. We all know stress can add to your symptoms, but having the constant worry of catching bugs, worrying about use-by dates on food and whether or not something is going to make you feel sick really gets me into a vicious cycle. I mean I really probably am thinking about my gut A LOT of the time. When nausea kicks in from my IBS and my anxiety starts, I end up in such a vicious cycle. I can’t help but wonder if this is what kick-started my IBS in the first place. I’m now on a mission to help overcome my phobia and in turn, I’m hoping it will help my IBS and anxiety. Perhaps it will calm my whole system down…well, that’s what I’m hoping!

Is this something you suffer from? Do you have any tips and advice for helping with this phobia?

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