When I was 8 years old, I was sick all night long with a big stomach bug. Since then, I have been an emetophobe: I have a phobia of vomiting.
My life became complicated after this event because I quickly started to be afraid that it would happen again. I was very often anxious. At first it was every night before going to sleep, but also when my mother left the house so she couldn’t be there if something went wrong. I’m a very anxious person by nature and stress means a stomach ache and a lump in my throat. In my head I was thinking: you have a stomach ache, you don’t understand where your stomach ache is coming from so you’re probably going to throw up.
First we tried herbal medicines to calm me down before going to sleep but it didn’t work. I then tried to find small short-term solutions to calm me down during anxiety attacks:
- Knowing the different types of stomach sensations and their names to reassure myself (period, constipation, hunger..etc.)
- Asking myself if I was pale (this was a warning symptom for me)
- Mints (a habit I picked up from my mother as a child when I had heartburn in the car)
But it wasn’t ideal on a daily basis. My mother was there for me a lot and together we tried to find other solutions through specialists.
I saw a total of 2 psychologists, 2 child psychiatrists and a nutritionist during my last two years of primary and secondary school. We tried to find the source of this phobia in different ways, and I learned techniques to control my breathing and my anxiety. Some specialists helped me more than others but each time the anxiety came back. During this period, I also had problems with my diet because I was not eating enough for fear of overeating which could make me vomit. I was monitored every 2 weeks for 2 years because my weight was below the norm.
My anxiety increased in the third year of secondary school, the year of the brevet des collèges (assessment taken in year 10/ 9th grade). I was constantly stressed and had this stomach ache and lump in my throat that wouldn’t leave me and made me think I was going to throw up. On more than one occasion, I was so anxious in class that I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and I had to leave the class, and this became very common.
It was this year that a friend told me about hypnosis. I didn’t really believe in it at first but I was willing to try anything because it was too much of a burden in my daily life. I had 3 hypnosis sessions. One session on phobia, another on stress and the last one on self-confidence. At the end of the 3rd session the hypnotherapist told me that I could come back if I needed to before a big exam like the brevet or the bac (Baccalauréat exam – taken at the end of secondary school/ high school) if I had too much stress. I never went back and today I am better.
I am now able to be in the same room as someone who has vomited, not to have mints in my bag for fear of an attack, and above all I no longer have anxiety attacks. My phobia hasn’t disappeared and I’m still not very comfortable in certain situations, but I can now live with it.