12 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Emetophobia

The chances are, unless you have it or someone close to you does, you won’t know that emetophobia is the extreme and irrational fear of vomit. Let’s be clear, it’s not just an ‘aversion’ to throwing up, its far worse than that. A phobia has the ability to take over your life, to tinge nearly every thought you have with fear and anxiety. Sufferers often feel a lot of embarrassment about their illness and go to great lengths to conceal it. Over the years I’ve learned that actually, the more people who know about my problem, the safer, happier and calmer I am. The more I openly acknowledge and express that side of me, the more I am able to reconcile it with the funny, smart, outgoing and warm person that I am, instead of feeling like I’m just a ‘neurotic nutjob’ with a humiliating secret. I am a person with a mental illness, and there’s no shame in that.

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Anyway, I thought I would share a list of thoughts, experiences and behaviours that are typical for emetophobic people. Every emetophobic person is different, so please don’t assume that this is all true for all of us. I have experience with some, but not all of these examples, and have chosen not to specify which ones I have direct experience with, and which ones I have learned about through other sufferers. If you’re looking to understand this illness better, for a friend, partner or family member, I hope this list will help you. However, please be aware that I am a sufferer, not a professional, and this is a personal account. For information from a qualified professional, click here.

Content note to my emetophobic pals: For the sake of clear communication, I have used nearly every trigger word there is in this post, and obviously I am discussing our phobia in depth, which could also be triggering. There are images in this post, but none of them relate to illness. 

12 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Emetophobia

1. We probably had a traumatic event involving vomit at some point in our lives. This will be the trigger for the phobia, and it can influence exactly what it is about vomit that we fear.

2. Some people are made phenomenally anxious by hearing words and phrases like ‘vomit’, ‘puke’, ‘food poisoning’, ‘nausea’. This creates an added stress that makes social interactions even more anxiety inducing.

3. Different emetophobics fear different things. Some fear themselves throwing up, some fear other people throwing up. Some people are fine with other people being sick as long as they know they can’t catch it. Some people have an extraordinary amount of anxiety about vomit but when they’re exposed to it, they cope perfectly well (and many others do not react this way at all).

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4. We often restrict and closely control what, when and how we eat. This can range from starving ourselves when we fear being sick, to obsessively eating healthy foods to avoid it, and never eating out or at other people’s houses. Eating disorders or disordered eating are common misdiagnoses of emetophobia as the behaviours are so similar. Whether or not it’s helpful to be diagnosed with both has not been established.

5. We are also rarely heavy drinkers, and many emetophobic people are completely teetotal as well. Pressuring an emetophobic person to drink or do drugs can result in them experiencing a massive amount of anxiety too – yet another example of the evils of peer pressure.

6. During winter in particular, we can show symptoms similar to agoraphobia (the fear of leaving one’s safe space) because we are worried about catching bugs. The reason it’s worse in winter? Norovirus. For many emetophobes, the winter months are plagued by the relentless stories of vomiting outbreaks in schools, hospitals and local communities. It can be utterly unbearable.

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7. Rashes, dryness and even nerve damage are par for the course if you’re the skin on an emetophobic’s hands. Most emetophobes engage in excessive hand washing, overuse of hand gels, using too-hot water to wash with and even going so far as to pour surface cleaners over our skin in a bid to eliminate germs. This, combined with washing utensils, surfaces, door handles, phones, everything, is why emetophobics are also often misdiagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

7. Our anxiety can get pretty amazingly bad, and it goes from 0-60 in no time at all. Often, all you need to say is ‘I don’t feel good’ or ‘I think that milk I used in your tea was sour’ and we’re off. It’s a horrible feeling that frequently comes out of absolutely nowhere, and it’s really, really hard to come back from. Self-soothing techniques are incredibly hard to learn, especially since it’s a poorly understood illness, so it’ll often go on for a day or more, particularly if we aren’t lucky enough to have someone in our lives who knows what not to say, or how to comfort us.

8. Because of this and the lack of medical knowledge (and therefore poor access to help) about emetophobia, many people end up developing unhelpful coping techniques. I’ve already mentioned a lot of them above (food restrictions, hand washing etc) but other ones include drinking grape juice or taking activated charcoal when they feel they’ve been exposed to a sickness bug, or drinking alcoholic or extremely hot drinks to try and kill germs in our stomachs.

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9. We are also aware of the absurdity of many of the things we do – believe me, it never needs to be pointed out, unless you’re extremely close to the emetophobic person, you have a good understanding of mental health in general and you know what their triggers are.

10. Close encounters with vomit can actually leave emetophobics severely traumatised, so it’s important never to assume that we’ll be ‘cured’ if we throw up, or watch someone else throw up. Life happens of course, and most of us do accept that it’ll feature in our lives at some point. We just prefer not to talk, or think about it.

11. Some emetophobics are unable to live the life they want, be it not travelling, not having kids (for women especially due to the amount of vomit that tends to be involved in a typical pregnancy) or not having the social life they may have enjoyed otherwise.

12. This all being said, many of us do manage to develop amazing control over our panic attacks, tortuous anxiety and obsessive behaviours. Personally, I know that I am still very unwell, but I’ve overcome a lot of the things on this list through years of constant hard work. I know I have definitely not suffered as much as many other people with the disorder, but I have been through periods where I was really, really struggling to cope.

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I hope this list has been informative for you, and that you are able to understand how someone can live with this and still be a worthwhile, valued member of society, who is worthy of your patience, kindness and love.

If you want to learn more about emetophobia from a professional, click here, and if you need urgent help, click here to visit mind.org.uk.

 

 

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Yoga and cultural appropriation

It’s almost impossible to cope in our narcissistic, capitalist, violent and fragmented society without something to help. For an ever-increasing number of people, that thing is yoga. And that’s great. Yoga is a wonderful thing to do – it helps with anxiety, stress, poor posture, flexibility, joint health and muscle tone, which in turn can help support your immune, digestive and even endocrine systems, as well as improve your patience, sleep and mood. But yoga also has a long, dark history of cultural appropriation and class exclusion. No one is saying that westerners should stop doing yoga (although they certainly could) because of this, especially if it already forms a part of our self-care routine. However, it is extremely important that we are educated about it, and that we take steps to ensure that our yoga is inclusive and respectful.

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If you practice yoga, you have almost certainly engaged in cultural appropriation of some kind. This video is the ideal starting point for learning about cultural appropriation in yoga, as well as this article on Everyday Feminism. It’s pretty much a certainty that all western yoga students have done something disrespectful, ignorant or arrogant at some point. It’s frustrating to hear, of course, whether because you feel guilty or because it’s inconvenient for you to acknowledge it, but either way, lets move on to some practical ways for you to be a better yoga practitioner!

Call it what it is. It’s difficult to know exactly what to do when you realise just how deep the issues of colonialism, religious oppression and cultural appropriation go. If I’m not spiritual, but yoga is, should I just say to people that I’m going to a ‘meditative stretching’ class? Of course I shouldn’t. The stretches are yogic stretches and if I call it ‘lying on my back in the dark’ instead of savasana, I’m erasing the fact that it was invented in India thousands of years ago. Learn about the ever-developing history of yoga, and keep in mind that yoga is founded on religious teachings. There is nothing wrong with learning lessons from different religions. But there is a lot wrong with benefitting from something and not knowing about, or giving credit to, the culture that created it. And if you are only engaging in the physical aspects, perhaps you could consider clarifying that when talking to your teachers, to give them the choice about if, and how to engage with you.

Two things growin outchea…. Aloe… and the yoga booty #SquatsNotShots Photo cred: @glorychildproductions

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Step away from the skinny white rich people. Western yoga is notorious for classism, racism and fat-shaming, and really doesn’t do well when it comes to inclusivity and acceptance. The fact that the most popular yoga instructors on instagram and youtube are white, skinny and able-bodied is sickeningly reflective of our society, and it needs to change, because that is not what yoga is about. Please stop following that tidal wave of brand-endorsed whiteness, or at least cut down. Instead, why not follow some of my faves: @biggalyoga@yogaplegic@nolatrees,  @daughteroftheuniverse, @mynameisjessamyn, @curvygirlmeetsyoga@justferd. It’s so important to show diverse bodies participating in yoga, because everyone deserves to benefit from it, and how will people know that yoga is for them if no one like them does it?

Join, or support, a more physically and financially inclusive yoga group. The relationship between yoga and money is complex, and an unfortunate by product of capitalism. But there are some things you can do. Practise yoga somewhere that makes an effort to be actively inclusive. People on low incomes, children with learning difficulties and pregnant women are almost certainly in need of the healing properties of yoga more than you, so support a group that supports them (unless you belong to one of those groups, in which case, here are some places you can go!) My suggestions are all based in London because I’m only one woman, but do your own research and I’m sure you’ll find one where you live too! Most cities will have a pay-what-you-can Yoga group (so if you can’t afford Yoga you can donate a little, if you can afford yoga you can donate more). Donate to Special Yoga which is just about the most amazing idea I’ve ever seen. The West London Buddhist Centre does low cost and community classes. There’s pay-what-you-can yoga at the DIY Space for London, and St Margaret’s House in Bethnal Green does the same thing. Triyoga offers discounts to seniors, jobseekers and students, so if you are one you could sign up with the discount, and if you aren’t, sign up anyway so they can continue offering the discount to those that need it! And the Iyengar Yoga Institute is an incredible charity that offers free classes to pregnant women and kids, as well as being extraordinarily knowledgeable about the practise.

You're already stronger than you know, and it's not just about what it looks like. Photo by @mixtapedonthate

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Don’t perpetuate the show-off culture so prevalent in westernised yoga. Yoga is not a trend, it’s not cool and it’s not a sport. It is a culturally significant, physically challenging, deeply spiritual practice that should be approached responsibly and sombrely. Make sure that your attitude towards yoga is in line with the intentions of yoga. You aren’t better than someone else because you have expensive yoga pants, or because you pulled off a headstand on your first try. Be nice to everyone in your class, take steps to ensure you don’t make anyone feel embarrassed or self-conscious. In the UK for example, black women practicing yoga can often feel like outsiders. That’s not fair, or in line with the intentions of yoga. Obviously you shouldn’t be going up to women in your class saying ‘hey, you’re welcome here!’ but you could at least be nice to them and ensure that no one is being actively excluded.

Buy ethical or inexpensive yoga clothes/mats. You don’t actually need special yoga stuff (again, that’s not really in line with yogic intentions). But if you don’t have anything that can comfortably accommodate a warrior pose sequence, or the Lululemon yoga pants that you got when you didn’t know any better have sprouted an unfixable hole (hi, that would be me), then you need to get something from somewhere. It’s extremely difficult to find ethically made (or any, actually) yoga pants for less than £45, and most are £60-£70. This isn’t right, and if you’re financially unable to buy adapted yoga pants you shouldn’t feel like you can’t take part – all you need is a stretchy pair of leggings that you feel comfortable in, and a top that doesn’t ride up or fall down. You don’t need a £62 bra, £18 thong, £52 yoga mat or a £138 cardigan (yes, I just went on the Lululemon website to find all those…feel free to browse for a great lesson in white privilege…they sell a ‘namastay put’ thong. Seriously?) As for mats, well you don’t actually need one, but again the most ethical are the most expensive. If you can afford to spend £50 on a jute mat, get one, but if not, please don’t feel guilty about buying a £6.50 plastic one.

Yoga is not perfect, and neither is anyone who has been, or is, is involved in it. That’s kind of the point. No one is perfect and we’re always learning. You are benefitting from yoga, so you must take it seriously, treat it with respect and approach it with humility. Avoid explicitly capitalist behaviour like buying expensive clothes, or paying loads for classes in studios that only benefit themselves. There is a fantastic website called Decolonizing Yoga that you should definitely visit if you want to continue learning to be a better western yoga practitioner.

Sonic Chic Electric Travel Toothbrush Review

I’ve been an electric toothbrush user for ever. I’ve had periods of time where I’ve used normal toothbrushes, but nothing has ever made my teeth feel clean like an electric. However, I really struggle to cart my enormous everyday one around when I travel, and it’s SO annoying to find somewhere to put the heads. I always end up putting them in a plastic sandwich bag that is disgusting by the end of my trip (I’m super obsessive about germs so I can’t just put it in my washbag!) – this means that if I’m going somewhere for a long time, I bring a normal toothbrush and HELLO FURRY TEETH. Urgh. So when I had the chance to try an electric TRAVEL toothbrush, I jumped at the chance. Say hello to Sonic Chic!

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Sonic Chic’s Electric Toothbrushes are SO pretty, and I love the gold colour of the Deluxe model. It has everything going for it – USB charging, a hygienic ventilated lid, slim lightweight design and serious cleaning  power with up to 32k strokes per minute.

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I usually use a very heavy duty electric toothbrush which kind of feels like the dirt is being mechanically drilled off my teeth – not the most gentle sensation, so I was surprised by how little this seemed to be vibrating when I first used it. But that’s the beauty of sonic toothbrushes – they leave your teeth perfectly clean without shaking the hell out of your mouth. The Sonic Chic Toothbrush is also much quieter than a normal electric, another thing that makes it perfect for travelling! It has this really cool feature to help you get the most efficient clean as well – the toothbrush automatically turns off after two minutes, but it vibrates at thirty seconds, one minute and one minute thirty to tell you to move onto another quadrant of your mouth, making sure you don’t get distracted and spend five minutes scrubbing your left molars.

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The Sonic Chic Deluxe Travel Toothbrush is small enough to fit into even my most compact wash bag, and everything about it is innovative, well designed and incredibly effective at what it does! I am SO happy to have one, and a few stints in hotel rooms recently, I have found it to be absolutely perfect for the job. Get it from Look Fantastic for £29.99

 

Would I buy this if I hadn’t been gifted it? Oh my god, yes! If I had known toothbrushes like this existed, I would have been first in line to get one, it is amazing.