Emetophobia is so common yet most doctors, therapists and researchers have never heard of it. It's been featured on the TV show "My Strange Phobia" as though the woman featured was some kind of fluke of nature. As a result people suffer in isolation, are looked down upon by their partners and families and cannot find any help or hope from the medical community. This is wrong. Part of it is our fault.
For some reason emetophobic people (myself included, in the past) are horribly ashamed and embarrassed to admit that they are afraid of vomiting. Sometimes we try it, tentatively. "I'm deathly afraid of vomiting" we say. To which they reply "Well nobody likes it." As if we would then go, "Oh ok" and we'd get our lives back. But the problem is, these sorts of belittling comments silence us. This can go on no longer.
What I've noticed by listening to literally thousands of emetophobics online and after spending the past two years treating exclusively emetophobics is that we are not specific enough when we talk about our phobia. Some people use the word "phobia" loosely, meaning they squeal and jump up on a chair when they see a spider. This is not a phobia, it's just a fear. A true phobia of spiders would mean your life is completely ruined and you are debilitated by the fear. You can never sleep at night in case there's a spider in the house. You spend every waking hour vacuuming and cleaning and spraying with Raid. You can't work, socialize or even go out of your house because other places are not as "safe" from spiders. That's a phobia.
So we need to not only come out of the closet, but we need to say more. Explain more. I find in consulting with other therapists that most of them have no idea how scared an emetophobic is of vomiting. Some therapists have tried ludicrous ways of treatment such as suggesting that the emetophobic vomit in order to "see how it can't hurt you." Imagine having a fear of spiders and being forced to be covered with them for an afternoon. Now imagine having a phobia and doing the same thing. This is not "treatment" it's cruelty.
We have to speak out, and we have to be more explicit. We can't back down when our families or our doctor or therapist tries to brush the phobia off as not very significant and believes it can be overcome by just "getting over it."
Stay tuned to this blog (or subscribe) for ideas, press releases, tips and more as we get closer to May 1st. Meanwhile, think about what media outlets you might have access to or what PR/marketing folks you could approach for some help.