Emetophobia: An Overwhelming Fear of Nausea and Norovirus, Explained

BlogHer Original Post

When it comes to my favourite seasons of the year, I seem to have developed a Jekyll/Hyde type complex. On the one hand, I loathe summer because I can't stand the feeling of too much heat, humidity makes me want to hibernite in the freezer and the thought of having people see my pasty and bloated body in a bikini is the stuff that nightmares are made on. On the other hand however, there aren't horror stories about norovirus in the summer.

Most normal, well balanced people aren't particularly keen on catching this virus of doom, as the symptoms are pretty horrifying - forceful vomiting and diarrhea, fever, shakes, etc. It's enough to make the most level-headed person reaching for the handwash, right? Now think how it feels for someone that suffers with a phobia of vomiting.

That's right, I'm emetophobic. My dislike of the v-word and all its physical attributes goes beyond the normal realms of 'well nobody likes puking' to the type of anxiety that can at times have me curled in a ball, trembling and whimpering. Every winter there are a plague (pun intended) of stories in the news about norovirus and how this year it's even more virulent and even more likely to get you. Hear that? GET YOU. Now all the phobics are imagining the virus particles with teeth and angry eyes. Don't even get me started on the whole 'you only need a tiny amount of particles to contract the virus'. What this means is I now turn into a hand-to-mouth ninja when I'm out in public during winter months.

I draw on the powers of imagination to survive the outside world without having a meltdown, by imagining that every single surface my hands come into contact with has a flesh-eating disease that will kill me and all of my family if it touches my lips. So I make my own hands public enemy number one. I'll do almost anything to ensure I don't have to touch my mouth until I can wash my hands, including trying to vanquish an itchy lip through the power of positive thinking.

It rarely works. 

I know this all sounds excessive, but think about phobias for a second. Most of us know someone or have met someone that suffers from a phobia. There seem to always be phobia documentaries on lifestyle channels - most memorably I remember the one where a therapist helped a patient overcome a crippling fear of buttons. Just because vomiting is a generally unpleasant act in itself doesn't mean it's an 'over-reaction' to say it's a phobia. It's a genuine THING. Not that it's anything to be proud of per se, but I wanted to reach out and gently touch other phobics with my latex-clad hand and tell you: it's so very nearly spring. Hang in there.


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