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emetophobes.....and obsessive behaviour

(18 Posts)
stoppinattwo Tue 29-Jul-08 21:03:11

DS is very worried about being sick, to the point he will get VERY upset about it and will do almost anything to avoid it happening. he has other hang ups about being alone, and being in the dark but i see those as things Im doing something he is getting, but more recently he has been obsessing about washing his hands so he doesnt get germs and then feel sick, and how much sugar he has had as he will feel sick.

I cant even use the word sick....and that is what is really worrying me, i know there are a few on here who suffer and (i mean this most respectfully) I dont want this to get out of proportion like it has for some people, this obsession with hand washing and sugar levels and not being able to say the word is a bit too much for me. I need to break this routine before it gets established, but how??

artichokes Tue 29-Jul-08 21:12:06

I am not sure how much good advice I can offer, but I have suffered from severe emetophobia on and off since I was about 8. Each time it has got bad I have had therapy (more recently it has been Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)) and it has always helped.

As a child I HATED the idea of being sick and begged my mum not to use the "V" world. I had long rituals I carried out to ensure I stayed well (e.g. treading on the paving stones outside our house in a certain way). Mainly I was a happy child but when I was stressed my obsession with illness became more obvious. My mum first got me therapy (psychotherapy, not CBT) when I was about 10 and it helped. I still hated being sick but until I was 17 I coped normally. Then at 17 the stress of exams and leaving home got to me and the emet really reared its head. I got a short course of CBT therapy and learned to cope again. I was basically fine (my fear was manageable) for 5/6 years but when I was 25 my Mum died and then my emet was the worst it has ever been. That time a longer course of CBT really helped and I have coped well ever since (touch wood). However, I do sort of accept that it may always be a weakness that I will have to address in times of real stress and I see CBT as the key to coping.

stoppinattwo Tue 29-Jul-08 21:17:24

this sounds v similar to DS....he is so worried about getting hot as it makes him feel sick, i cant even say the word infront of him atm

stoppinattwo Tue 29-Jul-08 21:21:41

we have seen the doc about this amongst other things and hopefully we can sort some type of help out, but atm i have some routines that he does that are quite unusual for a 9yo washing his hands before a meal....i mean he has never done that without me stood over him.

I had a prawn sandwich from the shop the other day,,,he said " do you kow how much salt is in that, you shouldnt eat said so on newsround!!!"

artichokes Tue 29-Jul-08 21:35:58

Bless him - I used to get stressed if my Mum chose something like oysters or pate on a menu. I could not understand why you would choose to eat something that might make you so sick (to be honest I still wonder about oysters).

Your son sounds very similar to me. If it cheers you up then I can assure you that my learning to control my fear I have stopped it affecting how I live. I have travelled the world (something that many emetophobes avoid as you are more likely to get ill), done the student years and clubbing scene (again often avoided due to effects of alcohol etc), faced two pregnancies full of morning sickness and generally got on with enjoying life. It is a horrible, horrible phobia but it can be controlled, especially if he is taught how to control it while he is still young.

stoppinattwo Tue 29-Jul-08 21:48:56

youve just reminded me.....journeys are important too, anything over half an hour and he gets twitchy...tis self fulfilling prophecy with car sickness thought....i think if you think about it you will fell sick. That is one battle i will not stopping every half an hour!!!!!

stoppinattwo Wed 30-Jul-08 12:11:53


cookiemonstress Wed 30-Jul-08 12:55:29

Ah, I feel for him and completely understand where he is at. I was exactly like this I used to have rituals to avoid it, would panic about my mum eating gazpacho of all things - to cut long story short either me or someone else being sick was the absolutely the worse worse case scenario. Luckily I was v healthy child so it rarely did happen.

I don't know what causes it but my mum handled sick very badly (would turn and run) as would her brother/my uncle. They all have the same fear. It took a long time for my husband to understand it, for example i would panic about getting a night bus in case people were sick. Overall though I have tried to not let it intefere with life too much.

Last year though after my DC having a bad attack of the rotovirus I was so fed up with the massive anxiety and stress it caused, I had hypnotherapy and this has made the world of difference. Through talking about it first I was able to understand why it happened (actually pinpointed a time when I was about 3 when a little girl being sick next me and my mum and uncle going into massive panic about it). Gradually discovered through the that I don't have a problem with other people being sick but that it causes anxiety that i might be sick. Realised eventually it's do with not feeling in control .The hypnotherapy taught me lots of techniques for coping with the anxiety it produces (visualisation etc). The difference is amazing. My husband can't believe it. unfortunately we have had more than our fair share of stomach viruses this year so I've been exposed to lots of sick (mine, husbands and DC). I still don't like it and do find that I get anxious still when one household member is ill but it is a squillion times better than it was. Only a fortnight ago was I hugging the toilet bowl without crying! I can even watch Casualty now!

If you can, try and get him to talk about it (using words he feels comfortable with) and pinpoint what it is he doesn't like. Give him some aids, like travel bands, rescue remedy etc so he feels like he has control over nausea. Explain to him why we are sick. I had a massive moment of clarity when it was explained to me that the stomach was just evacuating its contents so the body could concentrate on something else e.g. fighting the virus.

It is a very common phobia (up there in the the top 3). Overall be gentle. If he had a genuine fear of heights for example, you may not force him to scale a cliff. When he gets older, perhaps look into hypnotherapy?

Good luck. I feel for you both and appreciate how frustrating it must be if you don't have this fear..

stoppinattwo Wed 30-Jul-08 13:10:01

thankyou CM...I am trying to get him to talk about it...he wont use workds like sick, vomit anything that puts a picture in his head.

DD was very car sick a couple of motnhs ago which rattled him,

I dont understand where this washing his hands and germs making him sick comes from...someone has been telling him not realising that he has this issue.

i think the not liking being sick stems from him having appendicitis when he was very little (3yo ish) he couldnt stop being sick which was the first indication of the appendicitis. I think this has memories of that as most of it was a blur for him after that (he was on mophiine soon after that)

I just would like to break this chain of thought..

cookiemonstress Wed 30-Jul-08 13:57:56

it def sounds like he has made a connection between handwashing as being a deterrent to catching germs. Do you it's directly connected to the sick thing or a seperate behaviour?
Appreciate it's hard to talk to him when he would rather be in denial!.. I think one of the hardest things is that I felt I couldn't talk about it (my mum v unreceptive and quite dismissive even though she has same issue) and deep down I just wanted someone to understand and say it was ok as it was something I was genuinely very frightened by ...Perhaps given time he will open up, ask a few questions because he feels supported by you. In the meantime, you might just have to humour him (but certainly not unrealistically)and chip away gently...

stoppinattwo Wed 30-Jul-08 21:39:55

he will admit he hates the thought of being sick and gets into a blind panic crying if he thinks he has what he refers to as a rumbly tummy....(his way of explaining he feels sick without actually saying it)

thinking bakc you know i think this is something I might have been scared of as a child...I ceratinly didnt do anything about hand washing etc, but i do remember now crying for my dad if i thought i was gonna be sick.

i will as you say, support him but chip away at this...DP has now noticed his hand washing, I hadnt mentioned it to him and was waiting to see if he noticed too (wouldnt usually notice if a freight train parked up in the back garden!!)I have asked DP not to chivvy him about it as he can be a bit insensitive and i really think this needs tact.

Thank you all for your encouragement and comments, keep em coming smile

stoppinattwo Fri 08-Aug-08 22:15:58

Right...tonight is getting really silly and Im afraid this is spiralling a little too much for my he wont go near my friends new baby incase it is sick....he wont eat anything greasy, he is checking sell by dates sad.....and tonight he has been constantly coughing and clearing his throat as he says he feels like there is sometinhg there that will make him sick

stoppinattwo Fri 08-Aug-08 22:17:15

when i say greasy it isnt greasy spoon cafe type greasy...tis his intrepretation of greasy. I dont deep fry or fry any stuff at all, he is talking about grilled sausages and grilled bacon

BlessThisMess Fri 08-Aug-08 22:33:23

I'm so sorry to hear about your son's difficulties. You don't say how old your son is, but I think he needs some clear teaching about how anxiety works. There is a children's book called "what to do when you worry too much" which might help. It gives some useful techniques for keeping the worry in its place and not letting it grow too big. He needs to know about adrenalin and how anxious thoughts cause it to be released and the physical feelings it can then provoke in his body. He needs to learn and regularly practise relaxation techniques so that he can learn to calm himself down when he is getting anxious. See if you can google for relaxation CDs for kids, and play them to him every night when he is in bed. There's one called "Let your worries fly away" or something like that. And I don't know a lot about it and some people might think it is too weird but you might investigate the Emotional Freedom Technique too - something I've been meaning to do for ages for my anxious child, and my own anxiety too. I have been emetophobic all my life although for me it didn't get overwhelming until I was about 12 or 13.

I do hope you can get some good help for your son.

stoppinattwo Fri 08-Aug-08 22:36:29

he is 9 BTM Thankyou for your advice...I shall take a look, I really am at a loss at what else to do with him, he seems to have soo many blimmin hangups

stoppinattwo Fri 08-Aug-08 22:39:05

He has tried to explain why he feels this way....I think it is a feeling of not being in control iykwim....and he thinks he will choke?

stoppinattwo Fri 08-Aug-08 22:39:27

but he worries about it even when he doesnt feel sick?

BlessThisMess Fri 08-Aug-08 22:52:12

I have tried all my life (now I'm 43) to figure out what is/was so terrifying about vomiting for me, and I have never been able to name it. I have no clue why I am like this. You need to use that vivid imagination, that has him imagining being sick all the time, to work FOR him instead of against him. If I were you I think I would investigate if NeuroLinguistic Programming can be used with kids - that is a fantastic technique which teaches things like 'turning the volume down' on the frightening thoughts, imagining viewing something scary on a video screen, then turning it from a colour image into a black and white one and shrinking the size of the screen, that sort of thing.

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