Severe emetophobia. Need help.
September 16, 2011 7:21 PM Subscribe
I am posting this for my partner, who has severe emetophobia
. Details inside.
posted by tumid dahlia to health & fitness (41 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
My girlfriend of three and a bit years has a major psychological problem, which is emetophobia: an intense fear of vomiting, either her own or other people's.
At first I was like "Yeah, nobody really enjoys puking" but it's gotten to a point lately where it has become an intense and damaging issue, and isn't doing wonders for our relationship.
It manifests itself in many different ways, but a few of the more common examples are: severe obsessive compulsiveness when it comes to cleaning (she sweeps and mops and wipes pretty much the whole house a couple of times a day), extensive use of pharmaceuticals (such as Pramin, Buscopan and Somac) to combat the intense fear she feels whenever anything happens with her stomach, and an intense reluctance to attend gatherings where children might be present (because children are disgusting and covered in germs).
Sometimes I actually witness her worrying herself about being sick to the point that she is almost sick. She is afraid that just about every food is going to poison her and make her throw up (and I sometimes, though rarely, like to try and make something a little different, and get irrationally pissed off when she refuses to try any).
Nobody takes it seriously, and I fully admit that at first I didn't either. Whenever she tells anybody about her problem, the first thing they give her is their Great Vomit Story. Thankfully I've never done that. But my point is that I recognise that it is a very serious issue, and it is causing her health to deteriorate mightily. She has very low iron levels as well, as in dangerously low, but supplements aren't doing anything (the doc theorises that it may not be being absorbed through her stomach) and we are having difficulty getting IV/injection treatments. Her "movements", if we can call them that, are sporadic and basically Maltesers, and she gets a lot of constipation and bloating. She is always incredibly anxious about seeing puke (and I've watched her obsessively looking at the ground whenever we are out and about, looking for evidence of where people might have thrown up). Whenever we're watching a movie or a show I've got to keep one finger on the 'mute' button in case a character starts to look a bit queasy.
She was seeing a therapist for it some years ago but that fizzled out. Basically her only forms of self-medication at the moment are the cleaning and drugs listed above, and working the phobia forums and chatting to other sufferers. It's left her convinced that nothing will ever fix her ever, that nothing can ever be done, and has in fact told me that the only way she will ever be free of the problem is by killing herself.
I've tried to tell her that while I recognise it is a serious problem with no easy fix, and will require all sorts of different therapies and treatments, and that we need to try as many things as we possibly can, she is steadfast in her belief that nothing can ever be done.
So to that end...I have to say I don't really know what my question is. I guess I wanted to canvass Metafilter and hopefully get the advice of anybody else who has or had the same problem, or a similar problem (psychological which manifests as physiological), or anybody who has done any research into the matter, or any doctors or scientists or therapists, who might be able to give us some ideas. None of the MDs or psychiatrists she has been to have had any familiarity with the subject, and have more often than not taken it about as seriously as a lay person. One suggested exposure therapy. I think not.
Money is difficult for us at the moment as my girlfriend is out of work and I don't earn a great deal, but things can be done on that front. I just wanted to hear about things that we can try.
Does anybody have any ideas?