IBS, Anxiety and emetophobia help please!!

Hi everyone, I'm a 32 year old female and have suffered with IBS since I was 17, my symptoms have varied over the years and have gone through a stage with virtually no symptoms at all. I'm a very anxious person and have been for as long as I can remember I suffer badly from emetophobia (fear of being sick) and this seems to be a vicious circle of having slight IBS episode which in turn makes me feel unwell then the anxiety kicks in that I might have a dreaded bug and the anxiety makes my IBS worse! I have seen a counsellor, hypnotherapist , had an endoscopy and referred to the hospital but I'm no further on, this is taking over my life, can anyone relate?

I also work in a school and have picked bugs up and when I do it seems to take forever to get better is this normal with IBS?

Any advice welcome and sorry for the essay!

21 Replies

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  • Hi im a 34 year old female who also suffers with really bad anxiety. I have a massive fear of catching any illness and when my anxiety gets bad my ibs gets worse. Not sure which starts first but they definitely dont go well together. I have continuous colds which seem to last forever and it seems like when my ibs flares up my body struggles to get any good nutrients from food, as my skin gets really dry as well. I have just started to take aloe vera juice as have heard great stuff about it but to early to tell if its gonna make a difference. Will keep you posted. Its not an easy life but your definitely not alone.

  • Hi Rach1626 I am a 28 year old female with extremely severe IBS-mixed and just had norovirus (caught it in a primary school). It has lasted 2 weeks so far and hospitalised me for 3 days with severe dehydration and high temperature, excruciating pain plus in controllable D&V. I was told people who have IBS take longer to recover from bugs and are more prone to worse symptoms because the gut is already sensitive (and perhaps inflamed and fed up and goodness knows what else). Keep a food diary if you haven't already and make sure you have a good stock of whatever medications you take, if any. Try and stay hydrated or that can make you feel worse at th best of times :-) This forum is such a good source of help and advice as well. Hope you have or can find a decent GP I think this can make all the difference. All the best.

  • Thanks emster I think the fear of getting ill is actually worse than the real thing! Such a relief finding out I'm not alone, I constantly get told to "get on with it" there's such a strong link between IBS and anxiety and both are often dismissed by people who don't understand thanks again.

  • Thanks emster I think the fear of getting ill is actually worse than the real thing! Such a relief finding out I'm not alone, I constantly get told to "get on with it" there's such a strong link between IBS and anxiety and both are often dismissed by people who don't understand thanks again.

  • Hi whiteladder42 your post fills me with absolute dread! This is what I live in fear of everyday, it makes total sense about it taking longer to recover though, I really hope you feel better soon. I'm so glad I've found this forum it seems very informative. I have got a good GP but not seen him for a while I might book in though and go through my symptoms thanks again.

  • Sorry about all your problems. After 10+ years of IBS - all the tests and different medications, have finally found the best help is taking Alverine which relaxes the intestinal muscles, and a course of Hypnotherapy (only 4 sessions needed), Anxiety and stress are definite IBS triggers, and I was at the stage of worrying constantly about my stomach, which made my symptoms worse, which then worried me more, until it just became a vicious circle! I had to cancel a holiday recently, and miss out on various social events because of worrying if my stomach would play up. I have a CD from the therapist and if I'm feeling "uptight" before going out I play a couple of tracks and that calms my stomach down. Am also sleeping better. There doesn't seem a cure for IBS so we all have to learn the best way of controlling it as much as possible. Hope this helps - good luck to you all!

  • Hi ausems thanks for your message I'm exactly the same cancelled many things over the years, I'll definitely look into alverine and maybe I should try hypnotherapy again think I felt quite negative about it before I was very down and believed nothing would work. I'm glad to hear your sleeping better that's so good for your health in itself! Good luck.

  • I used to have constant colds in winter but took Vit. D from October until now. We make our own Vit. D when the sun is out. I haven't had a cold this winter nor picked up any other virus..

  • Hi Rach1626. I totally understand where you are coming from. I too suffer from emetophobia and IBS-D. I have recently finished CBT sessions to address this and learnt that they are quite closely linked, for me anyway. As an IBS sufferer we are more sensitive to sensations in the gut and as an emetophobe I become anxious that it could lead to vomiting which then exacerbates the feeling, so yes it is a vicious cycle!

    As whiteladder42 says, people will IBS do tend to take longer to recover from digestive infections.

    On another note, you are brave for working in a school while suffering from emetophobia ;-) I worry about being around too many children because I feel at least one of them may have something contagious which can cause diarrhoea and vomiting!

    You are not alone with how you are feeling :-)

  • Thanks matusadona I'll definitely try Vitamin D.

  • Hi chocobella this is the first time I have ever spoken to anyone else who suffers from emetophobia, although maybe I have it's just not something you advertise! People usually say to me "well nobody likes being sick" did you find CBT helpful? did you find a private practitioner?

    I have 2 children of my own and don't handle them getting bugs at all well but I try to hide it as best I can, I would hate them to grow up with it. I was in a better place and feeling quite positive when I took the job at school I'd been back to college and took extra courses in early years development but after been there 18 month's I honestly don't know if I can do it my IBS seems much worse again and the anxiety there is always at least 1 child off and I have to find out if it's a sickness bug or I won't settle. I constantly worry about it and it basically rules all aspects of my life! If I'm having a bad IBS day I always think is it that or am I getting a sick bug.

    Thanks again for getting in touch I feel so much better knowing I'm not alone!

  • I`m also emetophobic, & winter is a scary time for me because all you hear about is people throwing up 20 times in one night from noro. I dread catching it, so far Iv`e escaped it, but I`m always scared of my luck running out. I think it`s mainly a control issue with me.

  • I know I'm exactly the same! I had it in 2009 and before that had not been sick since I was a child, since working in school I've had 3 tummy bugs in 18 month no sick though just D thank god. I go through stages with it I'm particularly bad at the minute which then flares up my IBS and the whole vicious circle starts again!

  • Rach1626 I have exactly the same fears. It was so bad this winter that I had to run out of a situation as I was near someone who had been ill the night before, as I was having a full on panic attack. I've had a little wobble this weekend. I'm also working in a situation in closed conditions and the fear of something happen is starting to drive me slightly crazy.

    @chocobella - have you found the CBT to be helpful?? I've thought about some but wondered if I may sound really weird and it make the situation worse rather than better.

  • Hi rupertbear the fact that other people feel exactly the same as me is in itself very comforting, it is constantly on my mind. I wash my hands all the time and worry in every situation that I might catch a sick bug, I then get worked up that all the worry and stress will weaken my immune system and I will definitely catch something! I'm slowly torturing myself and have no idea how to get better.

  • Hi rach1626, I am also an emetophobe with IBS. I can see there are quite a few of us! Makes me even more sure that anxiety and IBS are so closely connected - when you are constantly looking for signs of a possible illness that might lead to being sick, it makes you very focused on what is going on in your digestive system!

    You should be very proud of yourself for sticking with your job at a school - I desperately wanted to qualify as a teacher but couldn't handle my fears and anxieties about getting ill and quit after just three months as a teaching assistant. Also take pride in the fact that you have a family - I really want to have children in the future but fear that my emetophobia will stop me (morning sickness, children being sick etc).

    It's very hard to take joy in life and behave normally when you're afraid all the time, and engaging in avoidance behaviours like constant handwashing,running away from people who are ill etc are quite difficult to manage, especially at work.

    I wish I had some answers (let me know if you find something that works!) but I have found therapy very helpful - at least now I understand the mechanism between feeling anxious and feeling nauseous, even if it doesn't make it go away. Relaxation techniques like meditating are helpful but require time and dedication. I don't know if you suffer from panic attacks but there is an organisation called No Panic that runs a helpline for crisis moments (good emergency measure when you need some reassurance or a friendly, non-judgemental ear).

    And it seems there are a lot of lovely people here online ready to offer support and share their experiences too :)

  • Hi clip159 thank you so much for your message it actually brought a tear to my eye. I am really struggling at work at the moment I went back today after the half term hol and its becoming more and more difficult I just can't cope feeling like this everyday, I go on holiday in August and I'm convinced I will be ill on the day and won't be able to travel, this thought occupies my mind 90% of everyday and is wearing me down I try to be positive but once the anxiety sets in that's it! The one thing I do take pride in is my children they mean the world to me and luckily I never suffered from morning sickness although I did feel queasy a few times but weirdly I didn't feel half as scared I think that's because with me it's a "sickness bug" that scares me rather than having a non contagious reason for it, I do struggle when they're ill but this is more the fact that I'm scared of catching it, if I knew I wouldn't catch it I would deal with it no problem! Honestly don't let this horrible phobia stop you from fulfilling your dreams and ambitions if I can do it anyone can. I have had panic attacks in the past but with me it's constant anxious thoughts and feelings that affect me more but maybe they could still help me if I'm having a bad anxious time? I wish everyday I could be free from this but I am determined to live as good a life as possible I often give myself a good talking to and tell myself "get a grip I'm not bloody dying" it doesn't last long though! Take care x

  • Have any of you tried meditation to help relax and ease anxiety? There might be some free classes near you. Or sign up to the chopra centre who do free online meditations every so often...there's one on now but you may have missed the first 5 days. Worth a try:-)

  • i'm a female and 17 years old and since i can remember I've always had a fear of being sick and others being sick.When i was 14 i started feeling sick everyday which made me constantly anxious about whether i had a sickness bug or not.I also began getting other symptoms such as a bloated stomach and constipation. I went to the doctors and they diagnosed me with IBS. Just hearing someone talk about sick makes me feel sick and my heart rate increases.I frequently have dreams about being stuck on a long car journey next to people with travel sickness.This is a huge fear of mine , when i'm in the car i like to sit by the window so if someone is sick next to me i can easily escape and my palms become all sweaty and i have to keep talking to people around me to check they don't feel sick.I feel extremely anxious whilst in a car.As well as this , when i use public transport i am always on edge about what bugs could be lurking around to do with sickness. When i'm on a plane i have to sit on the end row just in case i begin to feel sick by the window seat and i cannot escape.I usually get anxiety and feel very sick before getting on a plane.When i go abroad or away for a few days i always worry i'm going to be sick and usually experience quite a lot of sickness.I am scared of getting drunk encase i am sick.At Christmas i always feel constantly nervous and sick because there are so many bugs going round that i could catch.If i'm staying away from home i always inspect the toilet just in-case i'm sick in it.I have to wash my hands every time i come back from somewhere.I don't like sleeping with other people in my bed/room encase they are sick in the night.When i'm out i always get anxious that i might suddenly feel sick and be sick in public.I also have silly superstitions like i always worry about a certain date the year after someone has been sick on that day because i think it's cursed.Change also makes me get anxiety and begin to feel sick.Like when i moved house i felt extremely sick on the morning we were moving and very anxious.I avoid anyone who might or could be ill.I sometimes avoid eating foods like spaghetti bolagnese because they would look and taste disgusting if i happened to throw them back up.On the whole i think about sick many times a day and many actions in daily life trigger memories of sick which makes me anxious.

  • I also have many issues involving anxiety but what happens to me is that I have really bad emetophobia and it sucks

  • Hi I am a 41 year old lady I have only just found this website, I have all the same worries and ibs and I am worrying already about the winter, If I even get the hint that somebody feels sick I my stomachs churns and I think I am gonna be ill, I am going to try and find some way of managing it this year because I can't go on like it year after year.

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