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Emetophobia and refusal to eat

(20 Posts)
Lolalovespugs Sun 03-Dec-17 22:48:32

When DD10 was in reception a little boy vomited on the carpet in front of her. It set off a fear of vomiting which we have mainly been on top of since and although she has never liked it/ been scared of it it has been manageable.

Now she is 11. It has progressed to the point that she cannot talk about/hear about/think about illness. If you cough she runs out of the room. We took her along to
a therapist who specialises in NLP/phobias and it's got worse. To the point I'm scared to take her back because it has escalated so badly.

She is now terrified of food poisoning, won't eat meat, has safe foods like toast only, she has lost 5lbs in 4 weeks. She eats minuscule amounts and then is terrified she will be sick. She constantly has reflux symptoms ( which we think is anxiety) and a tummy ache. If she eats a substantial amount she then is in tears because she feels she may be sick.

Ironically she is is the healthiest kid ever and has only been sick once or twice her whole life. Dr has referred her for the usual tests, all came back clear, cahms useless in my area.

Has anyone got any advice on how to play this - more than happy to throw money at it even though the therapist hasn't made any difference !

fortifiedwithtea Thu 07-Dec-17 15:38:08

IMO Camhs are useless wherever you are. Keep pushing for help.

My fifteen year old is mentally ill and has stopped eating. Not the same condition as your daughter but we can get a small amount of food or drink in her if we first taste her food/ drink like a Beefeater. We eat a bit to prove its safe.

RestingGrinchFace Thu 07-Dec-17 15:39:47

You need to get her a good therapist fast.

Elvisola Thu 07-Dec-17 17:48:37

Thank you, we have found a local lady who is experienced with dealing with kids phobias and hopefully she can help.

Things have been a little better the past couple of days, more food going in and she's not looking so fragile.

Its so hard to not be able to fix your child

Itchytights Thu 14-Dec-17 06:28:50

flowers to you and your DD.

Persevere op as she needs your support.

Hopefully the local lady will be able to offer help.

I completely sympathise; I have had this fear since aged seven. Nobody helped me and it has now escalated ridiculously thirty years later. I reached out for the first time ever to my Dr a few weeks ago.

Good luck op flowers

JaneWonder Thu 14-Dec-17 06:41:25

OP I have suffered from emetophobia all my life and restricted food as a teen.

First it is almost always true that emetophbes are rarely sick. We don’t get exposed to vomit enough to realise it’s not the end of the world. Ironically my phobia has improved since I had children and regularly get exposed to bugs. I still hate them but I’ve had enough to know they aren’t worth wasting my life worrying over. Every bug I have had has reduced my fear levels.

It’s also normal to feel nauseated all the time. It’s part of the anxiety feedback loop. It’s awful and I feel for your daughter. They only way to tackle the nausea is to tackle the phobia.

You need a really good CBT therapist who will gradually expose your DD to her fears (eg starting with pictures of sick and moving up). It worked for me but I have to have top of CBT every few years and the phobia tends to reappear at times of stress.

And don’t let your DD dripnournof things like social events and school. She will want to but every step she takes away from normal life is a step further to have to work back and it’s harder and harder. My mum forced me to soldier on, at first I hated her for it, now I am eternally grateful.

JaneWonder Thu 14-Dec-17 06:42:58

dripnourof should have read “drop out of”. Sorry!

Elvisola Thu 14-Dec-17 12:23:17

Thank you, the local lady has worked with her doing some hypnosis but I think CBT may well be the way to go so thanks for that idea.

She will leave the room and get very angry if you mention trigger words like vomit, tummy bug etc so I think gradual exposure may help a lot to take away the fear.

I can see that the tummy aches are cyclical, but she sees it as that she feels ill all the time.

I'm going to research a good cbt therapist - I am determined to try and fix it for her!

BackAche21 Fri 15-Dec-17 03:44:58

I have a 9 yr old daughter recently diagnosed with emetophobia, but for her there is underlying separation anxiety and social anxiety. She has the same symptoms you describe - frequent nausea, hypervigilance about mentions of sickness, flees from anyone coughing etc. We have been referred to CAMHS and they seem excellent so far, though we are struggling with waiting 3 months for CBT to start. Unfortunately DD did refuse school in late September and getting her back is proving a nightmare.

One thing you said really chimed with me, which is about being determined to fix things. That’s how I feel too, but I’ve been advised that with my DD’s underlying anxiety it’s maybe more helpful to see that it can’t be fixed and indeed doesn’t need fixing. Instead about healthy coping strategies and non-judgemental understanding. These aren’t at all easy, but just a thought as of course we want to fix, but a child can experience that as being blamed and wrong, which makes it harder for them. Best of luck!

Emetaphobicteen Sat 09-Jun-18 20:26:27

Can anybody relate - my 15 year old son suffers from extreme emetaphobia and doesn’t eat due to constant nausea. I can’t cope as he needs me 24/7 and doesn’t allow me to eat and wants me with him. He started Camhs last week but am at the end of my tether and so upset all the time.

dotingnewmum Sat 09-Jun-18 20:41:49

I'm a long term lurked, rarely log in, but felt I had to as I've been in exactly your position 2 years ago. I was at my wits end and contacted my child's consultant I was so desperate but he was reluctant to refer. I found a post in Facebook for hypnosis and thought we had nothing to lose. It was the best £150 I have ever spent in my life. Three sessions and my child was like a different person, please, if camhs can't help try this. It really worked for us. Good luck. I really feel for you, it such an awful thing that people rarely understand. My child is pretty much cured. Still has the odd panic but can handle things so much better now.

Emetaphobicteen Sat 09-Jun-18 21:28:20

How old was your child? My son says he won’t try hypnosis as it involves him closing his eyes and relaxing which says makes him nauseous and anxious 👎 I don’t know what else to do....he says he just wants to die now, doesn’t live a normal life, out of school and relies on me constantly, it’s the hardest thing I have gone through in my life. Can you give me an insight of your story as need some hope in my life 😥

dotingnewmum Sat 09-Jun-18 22:29:33

She was 7/8 at the time, and stopped eating mostly. Massive tantrums, completely out of character. Separation anxiety, had to drag her into school, was so hard. She lost almost a stone in less than 6 months which was a lot considering she was so young. From being a confident social child she retreated into herself and became shy and clingy to me. She had surgery when she was 6 which we later found out after hypnosis was like a delayed post traumatic stress. She was having flashbacks of being so sick in hospital and had a fear that if she got sick again she would go back to the pain and suffering. She didnt want to go to school because someone had been sick in the classroom. She had panic attacks whenever she felt nauseous. I was distraught that I as her mother I couldn't work out what was wrong and how to help her. I couldn't believe that when she went into see the hypnotherapist within 10 minutes it all came out - to a complete stranger. The first session was just talking, no closing eyes or hypnosis, but once she gained my dd's trust, she was happy to listen to her and do what she said. Maybe I was lucky to find a good therapist and I'll be honest I am very cynical about these things but I was desparate. Any the results were almost instant. It wasn't until her next paediatric appt that I explained to the consultant what we went through. He was very concerned about her dramatic weight loss and questioned me intensely but I argued i had went to him first and he was unwilling to help so I had to do something. Thankfully everything has turned out well and she is a perfect normal child, she has even been sick in the past year and coped with it well. I hope you manage to get help soon. I think the longer it goes on the worse the long term effects.

ColdFeetAndHotCakes Sun 10-Jun-18 00:12:17

Might not be much help, but what helped me as an adult is people just not talking about being sick and being able to remove myself for situations where I felt anxious about vom. The more people forced the issue with me and tried to get me over the fear of anybody being sick and force me to do things where I might see people vomit (ie late bus home from work or cinema where I was trapped if somebody started being sick) then the more afraid I got. I'm slowly starting to get over it by myself but honestly that's just down to having a stomach bug and a few very bad hangovers; when it got to the point where nothing eased the overwhelming nausea, I just wanted it to stop so much that the idea of being sick was less daunting and less traumatic than not being sick iyswim.

When I get so hungry I feel sick, I get trapped in a vicious cycle or not wanting to eat in case I am sick and then the nausea getting worse. the best thing i find is having total control over what and how much you eat. Things like ice cold water, bread, and some fruit little and often when I feel able. Eventually I feel okay and build it back up to where I'm eating a normal amount. You could try putting food on a bigger plate so it seems like less overall, or perhaps use a smaller plates than everybody else for a while until you're serving the same amount just on a different plate? Also finding high calorie plain foods your child feels able to eat in small doses (a glass of protein milkshake maybe) and serving those could help curb the weight loss. Texture is important as well, things that I know could be lumpy on the way back up (like seeds) rather than smooth and liquidy make me feel very nervous.

Elzbells Sun 10-Jun-18 11:34:03

I'm the original poster. I'm sorry you are going through this too emetaphobicteen.

My daughter had 2 sessions with a hypnotist and is now leading a normal life - the results were almost instantaneous.

She has regained the weight she lost plus more and is healthy and enjoying her food.

Like the previous poster advised we are careful to allow her to remove herself from a situation quickly if she feels someone will be ill, school are also on board so she doesn't feel trapped. We allow her to make her own choices around food and don't force anything on her, she is back to eating everything with the exception of chicken which she feels she can't eat. However it is not defining her life and she rarely talks of it anymore - the hypnotist gave her some skills to help her manage the anxiety.

I was very sceptical about hypnotism but it worked for us and it's not all about lying down and closing your eyes.

I wish you and you son well

Emetaphobicteen Sun 10-Jun-18 12:16:34

Thank you for that information and I am definitely going to re-look into it and explain that to my son. He wont eat as said he will be sick and then feels so nauseous it’s a vicious circle 👎 appreciate your help.

Fenwickdream Sun 10-Jun-18 12:25:46

I've just realised my best friend has this. I've always just taken the piss out of her and said she's crazy shock Didn't realise it was a real thing, thought she was just a drama queen. We are polar opposites. I wouldn't care less if someone was sick right next to me and I wouldn't even think I'd catch it. She goes into shock if she finds out someone was sick a week ago and she's in the same room as them. I'm gonna phone her and tell her the name and I'll try and be a bit more sympathetic.

ShellsBells76 Sun 10-Jun-18 12:37:30

I'm Emetophobic too have a read of this site it's really useful
http://www.emetophobiahelp.org/fact-sheet.html

doris9034 Sun 10-Jun-18 12:48:13

I was emetophobic for over 35 years, to the point of have huge panic attacks if some one even mentioned the word vomit. Last year I went for hypnotherapy - I had 3 or 4 sessions using a technique called EMDR. It's completely changed my life!!!!

ColdFeetAndHotCakes Sun 10-Jun-18 18:28:25

So glad that things have improved for you and your family OP. I hope things continue to improve for you and your daughter. I'm going to have to see one of these hypnotists. I really hope it'll get me over that final hurdle.

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