Travelling with Emetophobia

Travelling with emetophobia can be brutal, and since having hyperemesis gravidarum, emetophobia is a real problem for me.  When we travel in the US, it’s not so bad.  You don’t have to worry so much about drinking the water or not having the right enzymes to digest the cheese.  Stuff like that.  Japan was not an issue at all.  Japan is so clean you could probably eat off the street and not get sick.  It was so clean that we could do stuff like eat food from street vendors outside the temples without much concern.

Latin America, not so much.  You can’t drink the tap water, and they don’t have the same health regulations for food vendors.  I managed okay in Nicaragua.  That was before the emetophobia really settled in and got comfortable in my head.  Ecuador was pretty rough.

I started having major food aversions in Ecuador.  I think I would have been okay, had I not gone to the grocery store with my mother-in-law and seen the crate of frozen turkeys just sitting out by the big double-doors leading to the outside.  Having just given a presentation at work on food safety, I was horrified.  I could practically see the bacteria crawling across it.  I imagined puddles of turkey juice settling onto the floor.  I didn’t eat much that day.

I spent a lot of the trip fighting off panic.  It was pretty rough.  I was not able to enjoy several of my favorite foods.  I had to force down my mother-in-law’s phenomenal ceviche, which is ridiculous because the shrimp are grown and harvested by my father-in-law so I know exactly where these shrimp come from and I know that they’re unbelievably fresh and packaged and handled safely.  Safer even than the US.  It’s also ridiculous because they’re the cleanest people I know.  My mother-in-law’s nickname is Mrs. Clean.  She mops her floors daily.  She keeps the cleanest house I’ve ever been in.

I generally will eat just about anything.  I love trying new foods, as evidenced by my willingness to eat octopus stuffed doughnuts outside Asakusa temple in Tokyo.

Savory little pastries with octopus arms inside. NOM.
Savory little pastries with octopus arms inside. NOM.

This emetophobia, though, has put the kibosh on that.  Now, I see restaurants or food vendors and all I can imagine is warm refrigerators and putting cooked meat back on plates that held raw meat and chopping veggies on the raw chicken cutting board.  All I can imagine is salmonella hell.

The plane rides were rough too, particularly coming back.  I always get a little woozy on airplanes.  The air is stuffy, they move around a little.  No big deal though.  These days, when the smell of the plane hits my nostrils, I immediately have to start fighting the panic.

On the way back–Guayaquil to Miami–there was a baby a few seats in front of us who kept having coughing fits.  I kept imagining I was hearing retching noises.  That’s a new one on me.  Usually it’s just me throwing up that’s a problem.  I kept imagining that I felt nauseated.  When we were landing in LAX, I actually had to talk myself down from an actual panic attack.  You know, you start breathing fast and your brain starts going around in circles.  I felt like I would be sick.  I felt trapped.  I felt like I couldn’t breath or get out.  I had to close my eyes, clamp my mouth shut, consciously slow my breathing, and talk myself down.

I think the emetophobia is getting worse.  Maybe it is time to start dealing with it.  Frankly, though we don’t have any travel planned, the thought of getting onto an airplane makes me feel extraordinarily uncomfortable.

This is the place where I usually start giving tips and pointers on dealing with things.  I don’t have any tips for dealing with this.  I’m at the point where I need to suck it up, make some time, and call my doctor to get a recommendation on a good therapist.  From what I gather, emetophobia is pretty difficult to deal with.  I am absolutely not interested in doing any kind of exposure therapy.  Hopefully my doctor will have some good information for me.

Anyone know how to deal with this kind of thing when you travel?  I mean aside from travelling with a whole bunch of Zofran.

4 thoughts on “Travelling with Emetophobia

  1. Hey Molly, Kerri told me about your blog (this is her SIL) and I had to check it out. I can ABSOLUTELY relate to your emetophobia. I get scared whenever we travel, and pack tons of anti-nausea medicine with me. The moment I even think I might be feeling sick (which is usually entirely in my brain), I take something and go to sleep. I haven’t thrown up since 2008 when I was pregnant with Josiah. During the final trimester of my pregnancy, the nausea and dizziness was a never-ending roller coaster, but my doctor had finally put me on the perfect combination of Zofran and fluids to keep the actual vomiting away. I don’t want to drone on about throwing up, as we both know it’s AWFUL, so I don’t need to ramble about it.
    All of that to say, I completely understand your food aversions as well. As bizarre as it is, sometimes I even become averted to our tap water. (Needs Therapy, party of me?) This week I’ve gone through that. A county close to us was put on a boil water notice because of a busted water main. It has absolutely nothing to do with our town, and yet, I just couldn’t use tap water for the past four days. I sound nuts, I know. My husband looked at me like I was crazy when I poured out a sippy cup full of a tap water/juice combination he fixed for our son. I insisted he drink bottled water only. He complied, but probably judged his wife a little in the process. I can’t blame him.
    I’m like you in that I refuse to go through exposure therapy, although I’m thinking such a fear falls somewhere in the category along with other OCD/Anxiety disorders and is probably treated in that same vein.
    I look forward to reading your blog, and want to wish you all the best!


  2. I honestly haven’t traveled much, but I can relate to emetophobia big time. I think therapy is a wonderful idea and would probably help a lot. I think I am being forced to face “exposure therapy” with my kids. Both of them had some type of stomach flu this week while my husband was working and it was almost more than I could handle. Anyway — nothing positive to say here, sorry! Just wanted to let you know I feel your pain!


  3. There is no way I can or will travel in Latin America, and the various bugs are why. With my weak immune system, my doctor would never let me go there, or, probably, most parts of Africa. So, I have to live vicariously, lol.


  4. I can relate to phobias. I’ve never taken anything to deal with them, but my lady-doctor has pretty much promised that I don’t get examed again without valium. I’ve not been in since. I have to get over my fear of losing control by ingesting something first…

    That said, when I have a panic attack coming on, a half a xanax wards them off beautifully, and can sometimes even stop one in progress. I would ask a doctor about the possibility of some sort of anti-anxiety meds. What I like about xanax is that it cuts the panic without affecting my mood or focus – the main reason I’m hesitant to try the valium.


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