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Emetophobia, Depression & Panic Attacks, PLEASE help

I am 16, and for as long as i can remember i have had Emetophobia. it was different when i was younger as young children are always getting sick. But it has gotten a lot worse this year and i just want to be normal. No one likes being sick, but why am i so petrified of it? last winter i have become very aware of the dreaded noro virus going round. i am absolutely petrified of getting it. I am scared to go to sleep in case i wake up in the middle of the night with it and i would honestly rather die than have it. i havent had it yet (touch wood) and have not been physically sick since january 2009. Any fellow sufferers or advise givers on how to deal with this phobia?

I have been suffering from depression since last summer. i have lost motivation in everything, i even thought to myself "i cant be bothered to type all this out" before i started writing this. I just feel so useless and stupid all the time. Depression has taken over my life and ruined my education, teachers just assume i am lazy and refuse to work and do homework, but the truth is i just cant be bothered to do anything and just want to stay in bed all day. i am hardly ever happy, and when i am it is very short lived. i always feel guilty even if i havent done anything wrong and i get in these weird moods were i will pick arguments with people i really care about and end up pushing them away.

I also think i had a panic attack today, but only today noticed it today as a mild panic attack. i have had feelings like that before but today it just hit me that that's what it could be. i had an exam today at 2.00pm but the attack occured at around 12pm. i was not worried about the exam and this seemed to come on unexpectedly and for no reason. i was in a shop with my two friends when i started to feel something at the back of my throat, and i tried to ignore it. by the time we walked back to my house and got in the door (1 min walk) i felt very light headed, sick, and like i wasnt there, (overwhelmed.) i then became very hot and anything i drank made the lump worse. i tried to calm down and eat something and took my dose of Kalms pills, and then just tried to calm down, about 5/10 minutes later, i started to calm down. i think this lasted around 20 minutes but im not sure because i felt very flustered and overwhelmed. please- if anyone has any advise, i would be forever grateful. i have never told anyone all of this together and i just want to be how i used to be- happy.

9 Replies

Hi Paramore

Whew that's a lot for anyone to feel, let alone with exams too.

I developed emetophobia when I was 18 (though didn't realise what it was until I was 26!) and it mucked up my A levels so know what you're going through and can seriously sympathise.

In terms of dealing with it (its going to sound so cliche but) have you thought about getting referred to your local NHS Mental Health service for treatment? It usually takes on the form of CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) which is a talking treatment. It isn't for everyone but it's certainly a start. If you're not sure where to find your local service you can get your GP to refer you.

The symptoms you descibed are very much linked to anxiety (hot, light headed, nausea, feeling in throat) where it feels like something awful is going to happen even if we're not sure what. I was told (by a health professional) that it's the adrenaline you're body releases because it has recognised a threat (fight or flight reflex), which is why 20 mins later you calmed down - the adrenaline has left you're body at that point.

It sounds like you can still eat which is brilliant and you calmed down - also brilliant. A little something which may help - Breathing exercises. You can do this when you feel tense. Take yourself somewhere quiet, sit down, relax your body as best you can, breathe in through your nose for four seconds and release through your mouth for seven. People don't realise that this is a skill and takes practise so maybe in the morning and in the afternoon take 5 minutes to do this - it really can help.

They say physical exercise can help too.

I never told anyone either, though I got the courage to tell my partner a few months ago. If there is someone you can trust (I mean REALLY trust) then it may be best to tell them how you're feeling. Maybe a parent/guardian who can then help you with the school side of things and exams.

Phew! Sorry for the long reply but I hope it helps a little and remember you are not alone!

Take care & keep posting

Aurora (^-^)


Hey, I'm 21 and I'm the same as you. I can't pinpoint when I first got this phobia but I have memories of being 7/8 years old and being terrified. As a child, it never affects you as much or for as long though. I'd love to have my childish mind back rather than dealing with this phobia every day. My phobia has been quite severe for the past 3 years now.

I'm also really petrified of being sick. No one else understands really. I never tell people I'm scared of it anymore because they just say "oh yeah me too" but it's not the same at all because they're not thinking about it every minute of every day. It doesn't stop them sleeping, eating or leaving the house. They just don't take you seriously at all. People look down on me because I won't drink alcohol and the UK has this huge drinking culture especially at University where I am. One of the things I'm most scared of is also waking up in the middle of the night to be sick. Other stuff like being out in public and being sick in front of people or completely on my own terrifies me.

I have depression too. It's hard not to have it when your life feels so worthless. I always think about my future - how i'll be too scared to get on a plane and go away anywhere exotic in case someone is sick, how scared i am of having kids because kids get sick all the time, whether i'll ever be able to have a good job because my phobia holds me back socially and academically. I totally understand what you're going through. I always just want to be in bed too - it's kind of like a haven to me. It's safe and you have everything you need around you.

I have a supportive boyfriend but most of my friends don't know and my family don't take me seriously at all. They just think I'm stupid. I've never had therapy for it because I'm scared they'll make me watch a video of someone throw up and I'm just not willing to do that. I want to keep trying to make sure I'm never sick.

Panic attacks are horrible. Mine sound really similar to yours. I struggle to breathe and my throat kind of makes this clicking noise. It makes me feel very sick, which triggers the phobia even more. The only thing that helps (and it doesn't always) is going to bed and lying down but obviously it's not always possible to do that.

I'm really sorry that you have to go through it too. I'd never wish it on anyone. I always wonder "why me". My friend actually told me today that she has been sick so I'm totally freaking out because I sit next to her in lectures and last week we shared some sweets from the same bag.

I used to be a fun person. I've never really been happy because I had a bad childhood but I did go out and have fun with friends through my teenage years. I used to enjoy drinking and going out for meals and all the stuff normal people do but now I only do it because I feel like I have to. If I don't go, I feel like I'll completely isolate myself.

My advice is just to come on here when you need some help. Most people won't understand sadly. The fear we have is totally irrational because being sick is normal - good even because your body is ridding you of toxins - but obviously we don't see it that way. I would say go and see your doctor. The first time you go, they might not take you seriously, they never take young people seriously because they just think "pfft what problems could they have" but keep going back until someone does. I think it was the third time I went that someone finally referred me for CBT but I was on a waiting list for so long that I moved away to the other end of the country before I finally reached the top of the list. Finally, just remember you are not alone. People on this site are so lovely :) And I know for me, it does help just being able to vent sometimes.

Good Luck xxxxxx


i have a cbt appointment soon- but i dont know if a 45 minute session will be enough at first. so glad im not the only one, everyone thinks i am making it all up :( xxxx


Not true for me, I care about young people because I was young like you when I developed my anxiety problems when there was no help available and I'm ancient at nearly 50 years old! If you want to get better then see your GP about your emetophobia, you have to get help for yourself.


im scared that they will make me watch videos of people being sick etc and make me sick to get over it


They certainly shouldn't make you sick to get over it - that's been shown not to work with emetophobia. It's actually a very common (and getting commoner) phobia though there doesn't seem to be a lot of research into it. The only person I've found who does a lot of research is David Veale ( who works at the Maudsley in London. He has written a book called Overcoming Health Anxiety which has a chapter on emetophobia which may also be worth a read - I certainly found it very good.


I suffer from this too and have done all my life. I know the fear of getting the norovirus, obsession with cleanliness and checking the use by dates on food. I was a child in the 60s and was treated like some sort of freak because of my phobia. It is a relief now that people can talk about it as it is reassuring to know that you are not alone and others understand. It is a constant battle to try and live a normal life, l have never asked for therapy in case they make me look at people being sick and l just couldn't cope with that. I was taken to hospital earlier this year with terrible stomach pains - it was a suspected ulcer - and l was more frightened of being sick than the pain. The paramedics couldn't understand why l turned down their offer of morphine for the pain, but it was because l had heard that morphine can make you sick.

If anyone has any ideas on coping with this dreadful, debilitating phobia l would love to hear them!


i would be the exact same. i've had loads of illnesses like a suspected cause of appendacitis, glandular fever, slapped cheek, and tonsilitis, but i can cope with any kind of illness as long as i know i will not be sick. thats all im ever worried about when i start to feel ill, am i going to be sick. i can understand the refusuing morphine and i would probably be the same.


I have Emetophobia and it is not fun at all. I'm 12 years old and I'm in middle school. I don't know if I have panic attacks if I do they're minor and occur a lot. I have them usualy at night, around 10:00. Reason being I think I'm going to come down with something an get sick the next morning, so being scared of getting sick makes me feel more sick. A start to shake, I grit my teeth a lot, my mouth gets sour, I feel nauseous, and sometimes a get dizzy. This is bad for me because it happens late at night and I have school at 6:00 in the morning. I have hardly any sleep now and I can't get good grades. My parents are starting to get mad at me for freaking over something (That being getting sick) on a daily basis. I'm really not sure what I should do anymore. It just keeps getting worse and worse.


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