(I wanted to write a general description about what it’s like having a phobia, but I thought it lacked interest unless I cited a specific example: namely, me. Also, I apologize that my phobia is pretty grisly in nature. If you don’t like puke either, don’t read this.)


I don’t know what started it. Most people with phobias have a traumatic incident that gave rise to their condition, but I have no idea where mine came from. No one in my family has this particular phobia, although my mom describes herself as a “wimp” about the situation and my brother is autistic and has related social phobias.

I have Emetophobia, which is the fear of vomiting. The exact details of this disorder vary from person to person. Some people can’t watch other people puke but have no problem doing it themselves, others like myself have no problem with other people’s vomit unless they are in danger of vomiting themselves, and a very small population fears it but is aroused by it also. For me personally, it is an extension of the fear of losing control. The worst way to lose control is a way in which your body actively works against you. Also, I have this weird thing about throwing up on something priceless.

I don’t even remember when it started. I know I stayed home from school for a week in third grade because I was afraid of throwing up. I was never actually sick, and it was not a copout just to play video games. I had worked myself into a panic about it.

That’s how it usually is. The last time I actually threw up, it didn’t phase me at all because I wasn’t expecting it, but if I let myself worry about it, I have panic attacks. Even when I don’t have a reason to freak out (and this reason can be as small as hunger or hearing that someone I don’t know caught the stomach bug) it’s always on my mind. Until I realized that I had a problem, I would think about it and mentally feel my stomach every time I ate. Every single meal or snack was like a guessing game—will I? Won’t I? I know now how irrational it is, so I can try to control my thoughts and not let them spiral out of control, but there it still invades my life. I don’t like going out to eat because first, riding in the car with an empty stomach makes me nauseous (same for my mother and brother), and then once I get there I don’t eat much because I am afraid that if I overeat I will throw up during the ride home.

The thing about phobias is that unless the sufferer is very young, she knows it’s irrational. Contrary to popular belief, telling her so isn’t going to help. Shocker, I know. For example, right now, the whole thing seems rather silly to me, until I remember the day last week that I spent completely distracted because I discovered one of my friends had caught a stomach bug. It’s something that totally takes over your life. People will be able to tell if you’re an alcoholic, but people may never make the connection between your fear of roller-coasters, your “sick” days, and your aversion to drinking in excess, so they’ll never know about this monster that haunts you every second of your waking life. It’s an endless psychological balancing act. I have to delude myself about the subject to preserve my sanity: “She threw up! Am I going to throw up? I am going to pretend it was something she ate yesterday, not the dinner we shared.”

Basically, it’s not pleasant to have a phobia, and someone who does isn’t just going to snap out of it. Don’t accommodate them, but don’t puke on their shoes either.