Woman's Severe Phobia Of Sickness Leaves Her Housebound
A woman says she lost friendships and almost her relationship after being housebound due to a sevre phobia of being sick.
Twenty-two-year old Sian Maclean developed an extreme phobia of vomit - known as emetophobia - when she was just six after seeing someone throw up at the airport as she was about to go on a family holiday.
Waitress Sian, from Reading, says her phobia became more severe after she ended up in hospital when she took too much medicine after falling ill. She lost control of her body and had symptoms similar to a heart attack while she was vomiting.
This traumatic hospital trip would then trigger a year-long 'downward spiral' for Sian, which resulted in her being too scared to go outside in fear of seeing someone be sick or falling ill herself.
She ended up losing friendships and even her job over the phobia.
However, remarkably, Sian has since managed to overcome her phobia using 'exposure therapy', in which she watched YouTube videos of people being sick until she became 'immune' to the images.
She said: "Emetophobia is more than just being afraid of being sick, it controls your life in so many ways.
"If someone around you feels unwell you go into panic mode, lock yourself away and get some bleach out - it feels like the end of the world and you shiver and shake.
"One time I ended up being sick a lot and I started having intense body movements, it was like I was having a heart attack because my heart felt like it was beating out of my chest.
"My mum rang an ambulance because I couldn't control my body and I knew something was wrong and I was taken to hospital.
"It turned out it that I had a panic attack because I'd taken too much medicine, making me sick, and my body didn't know how to react to it.
"My time in hospital was traumatic and afterwards I was terrified to get sick again, which sent me on a downward spiral.
"I spent the year after feeling awful and, looking back, it was shocking because it got to a point where I was terrified to leave the house in case I saw someone being sick or I felt sick.
"I hardly ate and it triggered a lot of anxiety, meaning I felt sick 24/7 and sometimes I'd go to my mum's house at 1am to sleep on her sofa or bathroom floor in case I was actually sick.
"I got fired from my job because I phoned in sick constantly but it was hard to tell if I was actually feeling sick or if it was all in my head.
"My house became a state, my parents were upset because I wasn't working, and I lost friends because I made up excuses not to go out with them.
"I had a lot of support from my boyfriend Max, but it did almost ruin my relationship with him because he was so worried that I wouldn't leave my house and he thought I was being lazy.
After spending almost a year too afraid to leave the house, Sian decided she wanted to fix her phobia in May this year.
Her phobia meant she was too scared to go outside to attend therapy sessions, so she began to look into exposure therapy she could do at home.
Over the next few months, Sian spent around five minutes every day looking at YouTube clips of people throwing up. Although it might sound bizarre - Sian says it worked for her and she is now 'a thousand times better'.
'Exposure therapy' works by exposing someone to their source of anxiety, in Sian's case sick, and, in theory, helps them overcome the phobia by making it normal to them.
"It was horrid at first," Sian admitted. "No normal person would even want to watch videos of people being sick.
"The big thing for me was the noise of people being sick, and the first few times I started watching the videos I would go into meltdown after about three seconds.
"I forced myself to watch them once a day, and the more I watched and got myself into a positive mindset, I became less terrified.
"The change I've noticed is amazing and I can leave the house now."
Sian hopes that in future she will be able to completely overcome her phobia.
She added: "I'm not cured, but I'm a thousand times better than I was before, and I want to work towards being ok if I'm sick.
"Last Christmas, my boyfriend was unwell and I managed to clean up his sick and look after him - I dealt with it quite well but still wore a mask and used bleach.
"My advice to others with the phobia is that you've got to take it day by day.
"People need to take time to talk to others about emetophobia because then it makes a lot more sense and they understand it better.
"Emetophobia is just like any other phobia and is valid whether you believe it or not - you wouldn't expect someone with a fear of heights to climb a mountain."
Featured Image Credit: Mercury Press