Emetophobia can be difficult to deal with at the best of times, but during the holidays it is even worse. Most people suffering from anxiety, panic and the fear of vomiting try to stay indoors if they can. They don't want to go out where they will encounter people who might have a norovirus. They don't like to eat out because they fear the food may be contaminated if they don't prepare it themselves. Most emetophobia sufferers also try to stay away from children because they believe that they carry a lot of germs.At Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's there are traditionally family gatherings and often not at the emetophobic person's home. So all of their fears can be present at one time: going out, not preparing the meal, being around other people, especially children.I remember those days and I only wish that I could have had some wise advice in those days. Yes, it will be stressful, but there will be much joy in it too and don't forget that. Here are some tips for helping you get through the holidays when you fear vomiting.
- Remember that being "around" people will not make you sick, even if they are sick. You have to ingest the virus. So always wash your hands before eating or putting them in your mouth. If you do that, you are just as safe as if you were attending the festivities in a bubble.
- Trust your relatives to cook the food properly. Don't ask questions about it. Continually questioning is an anxious behavior, not a calming one.
- If there's something you don't want to eat, just don't eat it and don't feel bad/guilty/obliging. You are a grown-up and you can eat whatever you want. Hold your head high and just say "no thank you."
- Don't continually question people if they talk about not feeling well or having been sick recently. Again, this is anxious behavior. You can't possibly hear an answer that's going to calm you down.
- Enjoy yourself! LISTEN to conversations, play games, catch up with relatives, smile at babies and children's happiness. Savor every delicious morsel of food. Avoid sitting in a corner freaking out - get out into the conversation instead. Keep busy.
- When you hear the voice in your head freaking out and being anxious try just saying "stop" and going on to distract yourself with something else. Even if you say "stop" five thousand times over the holiday, it's better than saying five thousand terrifying things to yourself and nothing else.
- As a Christmas gift to yourself, or a New Year's resolution, get some counseling and get over this phobia once and for all. My website will tell you how. You deserve this!
- Finally, these are religious holidays. If you are a person of faith, pray and ask God to help you conquer this phobia. Note that God needs soil to grow seeds - they won't grow on your coffee table, no matter how much you pray. Emetophobia counselors and therapists and emetophobia treatment programs are the soil you need!
All the best to everyone this holiday season!
I've spent the better part of yesterday and today designing and writing this new site and blog.
So many people commented on the page design for my emetophobia resource page
that I decided to use the same template. It is beautiful, isn't it? There's something about sunflowers and the colour green that just emit life and growth as well as peacefulness!Almost all of the information is the same as what was on my old site, however I've gone over it all and updated it whenever necessary.
I've also added links and updated the resource page to add books, magazine articles and scholarly papers. I hope you have time to read through all of this site as well as the many emetophobia resources. Then if you have a website and you're "out of the closet" as an emetophobe please link back to me and send me your link.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Can phobias such as emetophobia be cured? What about other anxiety disorders such as OCD or panic disorder? How about depression? These are questions I get asked a lot, especially since I entitled my own story “cured of emetophobia.” It’s a misnomer. Anxiety disorders such as OCD, phobia, panic disorder, etc. are not diseases
therefore they cannot be cured
. They are "disorders" meaning there is a problem with the way your brain processes data. Things that are not dangerous cause anxiety when they normally wouldn't. Irrational things are acted upon, which leads to temporary calm (such as rituals in OCD). This is a screw-up in brain "wiring." Depression is a mood disorder
which involves the chemicals of the brain as opposed to wiring. Sometimes anxiety disorders respond to fixing the chemicals for depression - we don't really know why. So if you’ve been prescribed an anti-depressant for your anxiety, it will probably help you a lot.
Both anxiety and depression respond to treatment (therapy), and both respond to medication. So between those two things you can experience an anxiety-free life and a depression-free life. Unfortunately, you always have to keep using the tools that worked to make you better in the first place. Much like addiction, the alcoholic can be successfully treated however they can never drink again. They have to always be working at the factors that accompanied their alcoholism. Phobics have to always be working at the factors that contribute to their phobia/anxiety.
I still have the tendency to become anxious in any given situation. But I have become so expert at implementing the tools of "positive cognitions" + "relaxation ability" and "body awareness" that I can recognize anxiety rising in its very small, insignificant stage and simply take one long breath and it's gone. So....what does that mean? Does it mean I still have an anxiety disorder and always will? Maybe. But for sure it means I have a relaxed, peaceful and joyful life and I never give vomiting a second thought.
I moderate the largest emetophobia website in the world (www.emetophobia.org
). In talking with thousands of emetophobes there for the past ten years I notice two very prominent things among them. The first is hopelessness - "I will never be cured" - and the second is a kind of denial that has no words. If I could put words to it, they might be "I'm not able (or willing) to put in the work that it takes to recover from this phobia because it isn't fair that I've got it in the first place so I will just try everything in my power to never vomit again and that's all I care about." Now nobody says this
and probably nobody consciously thinks it. But subconsciously, it's there.
Is there a cure? It’s the wrong question. It’s like asking “is there a cure for not being able to run a marathon?” No. But you can train for a long time and run a marathon, and if you keep your training up you will always be able to run a marathon. Those who can hope beyond hope and who can muster up the courage and the fortitude to do whatever it takes to get over emetophobia can have a 100% anxiety-free life like I do. There are no limits to the human spirit.
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Monday, November 1, 2010
The worst problem with any anxiety or panic disorder is that the phobic person cannot tell his or her body to calm down once they experience the trigger.
With emetophobia, the "trigger" is either someone else vomiting, coming into contact with someone who's sick, hearing news of illnesses or feeling nauseous or "off" somehow. And the trouble with not being able to calm the body quickly is that the anxiety and panic tend to escalate very quickly into a full-blown panic attack. Panic attacks feel terrible and many phobics fear them. With emetophobia, the phobic person may fear panicking because they believe the panic attack in and of itself will make them vomit (it won't).
Phobics try to "tell themselves" to calm down but their positive self-talk doesn't work because for every ten times they say that to themselves their brains also register the negative thoughts of "Oh my God! I'm sick!" about a hundred times. The trick is to intercept the negative thought loop right at the beginning of the panic cycle.
In order to do that, phobics must become masters of relaxation. When someone tells you to "calm down" it's about as useful as them saying "play the piano" when they've never had a single lesson. It's impossible. However playing the piano is indeed possible - if you learn how, and you practice every day. The more you practice, the better you'll become at it until the day when you can play perfectly, even without music.
Practicing relaxation is simple with the proper tools. You need to find a recording to listen to that:
a) teaches you how to breathe properly for relaxation to become second nature, and
b) uses guided imagery to teach you to assess and relax each part of your body from head to toe.
If you can listen to the tapes once a day for at least 3 months, you will soon be able to automatically stop an anxiety or panic attack by simply taking one deep, slow breath.
For years I used some old cassette tapes that I bought from the Cancer Society that were very good, but their angle was healing of the body. Which is fine. But I couldn't find any that specifically targeted relaxing the whole digestive system and such. Also, as a Christian I never found any recordings that integrated the healing beliefs of Christ into the relaxation process. So I got together with a musician friend of mine and we both improvised together as the spirit led us and did three relaxation recordings.
(Click image for more information or to download)
Safe in the arms of Jesus
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Fear of vomiting is pretty difficult to set aside when one of the listed side effects of your anti-anxiety medication is "nausea and vomiting." The problem with this for emetophobia sufferers is that they do not want to take the drug. Many people who fear vomiting subsequently have limited enjoyment of life because their emetophobia goes untreated. What is worse, emetophobia is a disorder that is often surrounded by a lot of shame. Because emetophobes are ashamed to tell their doctors exactly how terrified of vomiting they are, they lie about taking the drug. The doctor scratches her head, changes the dosage, tries different similar drugs and wonders why nothing is working. What are your options?
Option 1 - education
. Simply learning three important facts may help emetophobia sufferers with their anxiety around taking drugs that will help them.
- According to www.wrongdiagnosis.com, nausea and vomiting are listed as side effects in at least 2,929 drugs currently on the market. There are probably more. I did a lot of reading about clinical drug trials today and the protocols used to determine side effects. When drug trials are conducted, it's up to the doctor managing the patient to decide if the side effect is related to the drug. Nausea and vomiting are easy to jot down, because nausea and vomiting are normal for most people. Many anxious or depressed people get nauseous and vomit - whether they're taking a drug or not. Emetophobics do not.
- Emetophobia sufferers may get nauseous, but they will not vomit. I have talked with literally thousands of emetophobics over the past nine years on the International Emetophobia Society discussion forum. I have never heard of an emetophobic person vomiting from trying an anti-anxiety medication. They report nausea, yes. But emetophobia sufferers have a hard time distinguishing between nausea caused by a drug and nausea caused by anxiety.
- Finally, drug companies are corrupt. I could go on and on about this but suffice to say, they will report nausea and vomiting because they have to report something or people will get suspicious about the validity of the trial. Nausea is simple. People get some form of nausea on any given day. If you don't have a fear of vomiting, you may assume it's from the drug and vomit. Or you may vomit for any other reason such as illness or bad food. It all gets recorded on the drug trial.
Option 2 - talk to your doctor
. Tell your doctor that you are suffering so badly from anxiety related to your emetophobia that you will not be able to take a drug that has vomiting as a side effect. Tell her it will make you far too anxious and you will simply panic and not go through with it. Ask her to prescribe a powerful anti-vomiting drug
along with the anti-anxiety medication. Most doctors will happily do this for you. There are several good anti-vomiting (anti-emetic) medications that you can take as needed for the 2-3 weeks that it takes your system to get used to the anti-anxiety medication. If you're still incredibly anxious, ask your doctor for a tranquilizer
as well such as lorazepam. When you get really anxious about taking your meds, you can take the tranquilizer and it will really calm you down. Lorazepam in particular is also used as an anti-vomiting drug in hospitals. And yes, if you look it up one of the side-effects listed will be vomiting. Why? See Option 1!
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Every family holds a certain amount of anxiety. If you like the word "stress" better, it's interchangeable with "anxiety." It's as though a family is a "container" for anxiety and if there isn't much that happens to that family or that the family has to deal with, then the anxiety is mild and considered "normal." It shows up as merely some amount of worry, fretting, or stressful exhaustion.
But when the family container simply cannot hold all of the acute anxiety (stressful things that happen) then it overflows into one member of the family. Someone ends up with one or more of the disorders shown in the diagram above. There is even some evidence that someone in the family may fall physically ill, thus freeing up the other members of the family to better health. But that's for another blog. If the family anxiety is high enough, it will even overflow to more than one member of the family.
Anxiety disorders do have a genetic component, but like many genes sometimes they are turned on, and sometimes they remain off. And like most things, genetics can only account for about 50% of your probability in getting it. Family anxiety or stress accounts for the rest.
Even the happiest of families have stress: mom overworks, dad worries about money, grandma needs to be cared for or dies, there is arguing or silent distancing. There is a family secret, a divorce, a parent with depression, a brother who's in hospital, a problem with alcohol or a teen that rebels. The list of possible family stressors is endless.
Remarkably, family anxiety doesn't have to be very high for a child to be completely stressed to their maximum capacity. Most emetophobes were not abused as children, nor did they come from homes where there was violence or addiction or mental illness. But if you're emetophobic, at some point at the height of your childhood stress, somebody vomited. Maybe it was a sister or a kid at school, and the family anxiety spilled over the container and got hooked into vomiting. An emetophobic was born.
If the family anxiety was high enough, you may have ended up with another disorder shown in the first diagram along with your emetophobia. All anxiety disorders are interchangeable in some way.
As I was trained in Family Systems Theory, I do not treat emetophobic children. Because the anxiety doesn't belong to them - it's somewhere else in the family. Treating the child, as well as "talking with" the child and even excessively comforting or feeling sorry for the child is what Family Systems experts refer to as an "anxious focus" on the child. If just one family member can work on owning up to and managing his or her own anxiety and stop focusing anxiously on the child then the child will get better. Their emetophobia will probably disappear by the time they're teenagers.
To learn more about Family Anxiety and how to develop a comprehensive plan to bring about real transformation in your family, you can read my book: Evoking Change.
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Saturday, September 25, 2010
Emetophobia sufferers everywhere dread the winter months approaching because of the prevalence of Norwalk and related viruses. The proper name for these viruses which cause vomiting and diarrhea for 24 hours is norovirus
. It's short for "Norwalk-like viruses." Here are some other names you may hear:
- winter vomiting virus
- viral gastroenteritis
- gastro-intestinal virus
- stomach flu
The last one, "stomach flu" is really a misnomer because "flu" is short for "influenza" and the flu is something different entirely.
People who have a fear of vomiting or fear seeing others vomit are often much more anxious at this time of year, but they need not be. First of all, noroviruses are around all year
thanks to world travel. It's summer in Australia when it's winter in the USA and Europe, and people fly from place to place all the time. So enjoy your autumn, and your winter!
Noroviruses are very contagious, but if you practice good hygiene it's almost impossible to contract one. This means washing your hands after using the bathroom, and before eating anything. And never put your fingers in your mouth unless you've just washed your hands. Don't use anti-bacterial soap or hand cleaners - many of them are ineffective on norovirus anyway. The best thing is plain soap and water for 20 seconds and rinse well.
I caught a norovirus this past summer. It was the first time I had been sick for about 35 or 40 years. It wasn't nice, but I wasn't anxious and it was over in a day. Not bad - one day in 40 years to feel like crap. I know exactly how I caught it. We went on a road trip, touched everything in nasty gas stations, didn't wash hands, and ate Twizzler candy with our hands. That'll do it!
Despite the fear of norovirus, do not expend a lot of energy in trying to avoid it. Just be sensible with your hygiene and stop giving it so much of your thoughts and energy. Use the energy to research and work on your fear, anxiety or panic. There is lots of help out there for that. Always remember: your problem is not norovirus, vomiting, or avoiding the two. Your problem is anxiety
. That's what you need to work on "avoiding" so to speak!
Have a great autumn everyone!
Monday, September 20, 2010
Since I've been both writing and counseling full-time over the past month I've been privileged to come into contact with several people online who are earnestly seeking to help emetophobics. I'm often hesitant to mention them on the IES forum because, like me, they are interested in making money as well. It's a challenging "conflict of interest" that I run into now that I am charging to see clients along with every other counselor.First of all, there's nothing wrong with making money, there's only something wrong with exploiting people to do so.
For some reason, there's an idea out there that if you were truly interested in helping people then you would do it for free. The problem with this reasoning is that it would severely limit the number of people able to do it and the quality of their "help" would be pretty low. People who can truly help other people are experts and professionals. They do counseling, they write books, they manage large (therefore expensive) websites and/or they can give you amazing information at your fingertips. All of this costs money and takes time - the amount of time other people spend working.So with that out of the way, allow me to introduce you to the people I'm currently working with online.
The first is Rich Presta, author of the "Emetophobia Recovery System" which I recommend as the best inexpensive self-help system you can buy. If you can't afford any sort of therapy, this is for you. And even if you can, it's worth buying and reading. I like Rich because a) he's suffered from a severe phobia himself and b) he's an independent scholar like me, which means he does in-depth academic research before he writes. Rich has written and put together several systems similar to "Emetophobia Recovery" for people with panic attacks, driving phobias, flying phobias, and for children with anxiety. Rich now owns the "International Emetophobia Society" or www.emetophobia.org
. This is a large international site that gets a ton of traffic. It now boasts over 14,000 members - and those are the people willing to sign up - imagine how many more people lurk there. I moderate that site which for me means spending time and giving out advice and help for free. Both Rich and I try not to pollute the site with ads about our money-making services, although that information is available.
Someone I met just a few weeks ago is Santiago Demierre who makes his money more through traditional social networking - twitter, facebook, blogs. But Santiago has a great little blog at www.overcomeemetophobia.org
He writes short blogs and seems to endorse several of the online anxiety-help programs. But his site has no advertising at all, which is awesome.Among Santiago's endorsements is Rich's program which I believe is just as good as any of the rest and significantly cheaper. I just wrote an article for Santiago with my story so check his page out again in a week or so. I hope he can help me to get the word out around the internet that emetophobia is treatable and people can enjoy anxiety-free lives just as I do!