A woman says she has lost friendships and jobs thanks to her extreme phobia of vomit.
Sian Maclean, 22, developed a severe phobia to sickness at six-year-old when she saw a tourist vomit at an airport.
Sian, from Reading, explained how her extreme fear, known as emetophobia, became more severe when she ended up in hospital after taking too much medicine.
While in hospital, she experienced heart-attack symptoms while vomiting, which triggered a year-long “downward spiral”.
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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.
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“My time in hospital was traumatic and afterwards I was terrified to get sick again.
“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.”
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Sian explained how she got fired from her job shortly after as she was constantly phoning in sick, which led to problems in her relationship.
After spending almost a year locked inside her house for fear of the outside world, Sian decided in May this year it was time to overcome the phobia with exposure therapy.
Exposure therapy works by exposing someone to their source of anxiety or phobia, in this case, vomit.
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Sian spent the next few months watching video clips of people vomiting on YouTube, which made her “a thousand times better”.
She admitted: “It was horrid at first. 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.”
Sian advised Emetophobia sufferers to take life day-by-day and raise awareness by talking about and understanding the phobia.
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