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My life with panic attacks and emetophobia

Updated on May 8, 2014

I would like to start off by saying I no longer let panic attacks ruin my life.I have found my own ways in coping with them and dealing with anxiety. I hope this article helps others.

I've had anxiety problems for as long as I can remember. I am unsure what came first, the anxiety or my big phobia. It's hard to pinpoint it. All I know is I have emetophobia, which causes extreme panic attacks. But, did the panic attacks come first, or after I started developing that phobia? I may never know.

It was hard for me to go to school, stay in school all day, and to finish school. I remember in grade 4 I would go to the office nearly daily for them to call my mom to come pick me up because I was "sick". In truth, I was just suffering from panic attacks. I thought I was sick and going to throw up because the panic attacks make you feel very sick, and it's easy to become confused as to if you really are or not! If a kid coughed in class I was convinced he would throw up, and also convinced that if HE threw up *I* would also throw up! I would constantly leave class to go to the bathroom to have my panic attack in there, in private. I had it in my head that if someone was going to be sick around me, I would also get sick. How did that start? To this day I have no idea.

Unfortunately, I never told my family what was really going on, and it continued to be my secret until I was in my twenties!! School just got harder and harder for me as I grew up. I started developing agoraphobia and was deathly afraid to get on a bus. So I started making my mom drive me into school because her car was "safe". I struggled, oh did I struggle.. Just the thought of having to go to school put me into full blown panic mode.

At some point during my teen years I developed anorexia. I felt my life was out of control and just needed to have SOME control over it. I never realized at the time though that my anorexia was just a part of my emetophobia, and that I felt much better if I didn't have any food in my stomach, in case I got sick. If I happened to come down with a stomach virus, I wouldn't throw up because my stomach would be empty, that's how I thought.

I barely ate for many many years once this started. I was under 100 pounds and barely had any energy to walk. I cannot remember how it came to be that my mom was taking me to doctors, but eventually I was seeing dietitian's, a psychologist and a psychiatrist. I think I started off first by telling my mom that my stomach always felt sick. So I had stomach x-rays done in the 10th grade. Strangely enough we found out I had a hiatal hernia, meaning a part of my stomach was above my diaphragm when it was supposed to be under it. Well let me tell you, that just made my problems a million times worse!!! Knowing my stomach was not "in place", and thinking about that every day was NOT good for me.

The dieticians tried to help me with my anorexia but had no idea WHY I was witholding food. I never told anyone about my phobia. So I did not get help there.

The psychologist was good for some things, for helping with my panic attacks but still, they did not know the true reasons behind my panic attacks and so they couldn't help out 100% either..

The psychiatrist tried a lot of drugs with me, and I ended up being put on Paxil and I'm STILL on that today and I'm 33 at the time of writing this. I was also given xanax, and I finally had a way to stop the panic attacks when they started.. I would just pop a xanax!

Eventually I moved out and started a life on my own. I was still struggling with eating and panic attacks but I just kept taking my xanax. One day I realized something, I wasn't really anorexic when I was a teen because I wanted to be super skinny, I was just afraid to eat.. I had to start trying to force myself to eat every day.

It wasn't until I was beginning to start a family when I really realized things, and that I had to change things. Pregnancy was very good for me as it is one of the riskiest things you can do when you have emetophobia. I started to really let go. Yes I panicked like crazy when the nausea would hit, but it was making me stronger. I was doing something I was so scared of my whole life, going through morning sickness!! And I had made it very clear in my head that I was going to survive, no matter what happened.

I think at the time I was pregnant with my first baby I was really starting to realize that I cannot waste my life panicking, and I NEEDED to eat or else my baby would suffer, and that helped me so much. I really let go and concentrated on making a big healthy baby!! That's all I thought about.

When my baby was 1, my biggest fears came true. Keep in mind I had kept myself from vomiting for about 20 years by now!!! TWENTY YEARS. And I truly felt like I could go the rest of my life without getting sick! :( One night I found myself extremely hungry, so we went out to the food court at the mall and I chowed down on many different things. Bought some raw veggies and some ranch dip for home, and continued to chow down at home. I was STARVING! There was no reason for me to worry at this time. Until not too long after I had my veggies and dip, I began to have really bad reflux. With my stomach problems, I get reflux a lot, so I thought I had just ate too much and just needed to lay down. I turned the TV on in my room, after I got a bucket and put it beside my bed, unsure of what was going to happen. I told my husband to leave me alone and not come in no matter what! I got my spray bottle and started to spray myself silly trying to shock myself out of panic mode. Usually when I went into panic mode I'd take a xanax and try to distract myself, so I took some xanax, took some stomach medication to try to calm it down, and also took some gravol. Nothing was working and my stomach was getting worse. The dread that was coming over me!! THE DREAD! THE FEAR! It was UNBELIEVABLE. I was having the most MASSIVE panic attack that I've ever had. I just needed to run away, just go outside and run. I often feel like that during a bad attack, in all honesty your trying to run away from YOURSELF! Which is impossible lol. I lasted a good 2 and a half hours that night holding it in, and suffering in my dark bedroom freaking out alone. I finally got up, bent over the bucket and it just came out. My jaw dropped to the floor..I could NOT believe what I had just done! I was in so much shock I went right on my phone and called my brother, who also suffers from this, and my sister too! I was nearly screaming at my brother on the phone explaining how sick I just was, and how scared I was. He was great with it and made me feel better, until I realized I was going to do it again.. I thought maybe I just needed to do it once and I'd feel better. The veggies must have been bad.. But unfortunately, I was sick for the next 8 hours straight that night.

8 hours straight!

I had lost complete control over myself, and at 3 in the morning with no sleep yet it's easy to give up.. I still tried taking gravol and xanax and such, but my belly wanted nothing in it! By 6 the next morning I was so thirsty I couldn't believe it.. and once that hit I knew it was over. Up until this point I didn't feel good AT ALL after each time I got sick. I still felt horrible. I thought you were suppose to get some relief? lol. It wasn't happening. So once the thirst hit I celebrated inside and finally started to sip some Gatorade, being very careful though..because even though I had just been so sick for so long, I still had that fear of throwing up.

The next day, my husband, started throwing up as well, so we had gotten some really bad virus. But I was SO hungry beforehand, I would have never guessed I would have been so sick.

Since that night, I realized something very important. I may have some control over my body, but I do not and will never have 100% control over it. No matter what, I will just never know what is going to happen and I HAVE TO LET GO. Since then I've been eating more, and feeling more free. Mind you I still have the FEAR! But I will not let it take over my entire life. Once you do let go, and stop worrying, you feel free. But getting to that way of thinking can be tough. But I had that floaty light bulb above my head finally and just had so much realization.

The day after I got sick I did something gross. Remember it had been 20 years since I got sick, so I was in shock. I couldn't believe I had actually vomited. So I kept my barf bucket next to me for the entire next day, and I would look into it from time to time and be like WOA!! I DID THAT? Eventually I emptied it lol. But couldn't believe it...

I am 33 now, and think a whole different way than I did when I was growing up. I was able to survive two pregnancies, two labors and deliveries, a few car accidents, and surgery recently. These things make you so much stronger!

MY ADVICE! - Do NOT let anxiety, phobias, fears, panic attacks RULE YOUR LIFE. This is your ONLY life your going to get, work on making it awesome! TELL people you can trust about your problems, do not keep it all in, it will only make things worse! Having support and people you can relate with is the best thing! Joke! Laugh! Poke fun at it! Once you can start making jokes about your emetophobia you KNOW your on your way to recovery. Examine your life, and your goals, and how you want to live to the fullest. If your not doing much during the day, your going to have more time to find reasons to panic, keep your days busy and find lots of distractions. If your home and start to panic, start cleaning your house, do the dishes, do the laundry, do something physical to distract your mind and body from the attack. And some advice to myself, learn to barf if your body needs to! HAHA yea right lol. I have no idea if I'll ever get to that point, but I know that I'm done convincing myself that I'm sick every day, and can deal with a lot more now and can have a sense of humor about it all. And I'm much much happier!



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    • Tony Seger profile image

      Tony Seger 

      5 years ago from Elkhart, Indiana

      I just wanted to let you know about a new no spoiler movie site that gives with people with Emetophobia the ability to watch movies without fear. You can also conquer your fears by starting out with less graphic scenes and working your way up. My wife is emetophobic and is slowly figuring it out. So please take a look and if you enjoy it please spread the word and help up help others!

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama


      Wonderful piece. Loved every word of this helpful work. Voted up and away. I suffer from panic attacks which started in 2003 when I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and Neurothopy, both incurable. And play on the emotional and mental states.

      I had, for the most-part, 50 good years, I tell people, but in 2003, it all changed when my appendix ruptured and had been ruptured for some time the surgeon told me.

      But afterward, my right side began swelling and my family doctor was worried. She sent me to every doctor, specialist in my area and in the next state until a young doctor at a place in Birmingham, Al., Kirkland Clinic, rated as the best in our state said, "Mr. Avery, you have Fibromyalgia and that other is Neurothopy, both cannot be cured. But you can treat the symptoms."

      So I do. I take meds in the morning and at night. And get pain shots in my back at a nearby pain clinic every three months. But with all of this preventative, or coping-medications, I still get panic attacks in a crowd or when I am stressed . . .I just get alone and breathe slowly and visualize a calm lake and hear the sounds in the woods . . .this helps a lot.

      Anyway. I admire your talent.

      I left you some fan mail and now following you.

      I invite you to read one of my hubs and follow me. That would be great.


      Your friend, Kenneth/ from northwest Alabama

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      This article was very helpful..Not only for the particular phobia you describe,..but for myself,..just as an inspirational article to explain how holding onto your fears ,can be how fears get bigger..I have a phobia in another category,but it too gets bigger,the more I don't let go..Letting go,is so difficult,because of fearing the unknown..I think maybe the actual facing or going through what you are afraid,of is how you become free.I liked this article.Honest,& gives me hope,that I can face my fears..thank you .

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Just like everyone else, same story for me. I'm 21 and this has been going on since I was 7 or 8. Staying home because a sudden wave of nausea/panic coming over me. The crazy rituals and irrational ideas.

      I'm also feeling that I'm on my way to recovery though. I've thrown up twice from drinking alcohol and that's it. I survived it and I always have to remember that. I do everything in my power not to vomit when i feel sick and it seems to work. But when the time comes, my body's just going to do it and its over before I have time to think about it. Our minds seem to be our worst enemies, but they're also the only thing that can get us through the episodes. If you're ever faced with vomiting just remember it does NOT last forever, hell it's really only about 30 seconds of the grossness and discomfort. We can all get through it!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      This is me! Terrified! I wasn't as bad until after I have birth! I won't eat meat because I'm scared t isn't cooked right and ill get sick- I'm scared of beig too sick to care for my daughter or passing out or ending up in the hospital - I was so strong when I was pregnant and worse now (my daughter is 6months old) thanks for this story you really helped me believe this so actually something real and in not the only one! Xo hugs!!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Exact same story as me. Except I'm terrified of having kids , I am 27 and I am better than I used to be but still deathly afraid to vomit. Or hearing anyone vomitting. I take gravol and xanax and paxil too! thank you for your story. take care x

    • jennajen26 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Halifax, NS

      get stomach x-rays done. the stuff they make you drink beforehand isn't fun though and made me panic like CRAZY..or just tell your doctor what your suffering from and there are lots of great stomach meds out there!! they work wonders for me.

    • jennajen26 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Halifax, NS

      i'm pretty sure, for me, having my hiatal hernia really messed me up physically AND mentally.. not being able to eat a lot or drink a lot all in one sitting or it would just flow back up (reflux) especially if i bent over or tried to lay down soon after. i know my limits now and know what the prob is which is good..but up until i got my stomach x-rays i had no idea what was going on and started developing a phobia of throwing up because everything would just flow back up...argh... anxiety meds and stomach meds work well for me and KNOWING my limits with the food/drink intake! and knowing how to space everything out so i'm not going to be eating or drinking much before bed or a nap :p or if i do i will prop myself up so i'm pretty much sitting up to sleep.. i probably won't get surgery for that problem but medications like anything with ranitidine in it helps a ton..i don't ever let myself panic over reflux or heartburn anymore, i take ranitidine lol

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I have the same thing to just I am younger....I have acid reflex and that makes me feel like I am gonna throw up(because I feel warm stuff coming up my throat)

      Every day I am freaking out and my mind keeps telling me I am going to throw up but I am not!

      I told my parents and they said to just calm down...if you can't sleep at night buy some lavender spray to put on your pillow...

      But I just turned twelve and ever since 3rd grade(I am going into 7th)I have been freaking out and it has been stopping me from living my life!!!i need a cure!

      Wth is wrong with me!!!

    • LaurieDawn profile image


      8 years ago

      It is like I just read my life story. I suffer from the same thing and spent many, many years being sent home from school, work, and then it turned into a full blown panic disorder. I ended up in the hospital countless times, from anorexia, panic, PTSD, and I still carry bottles of hand santizer, all my little rituals!

      I keep praying that this will go away, and that someone will come up with a cure! *laughs* Maybe!

      Thanks for sharing that with us, it helps knowing that there are other people out there with the same phobias.



    • jennajen26 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Halifax, NS

      it sux huh.. i'm like you i dont let it run my life, but there are times where i just cannot control it from happening..usually during a stomach flu lol

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I suffer from this too !!! The things you felt and did are almost EXACTLY what I have done. It's crazy !! I hate being and emetophobiac, but I really do try to not let it run my life. But at those moments where I feel like I'm going to be sick, the panic is just so strong. :( I wish I could just get rid of the fear.


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