In the 2016 study, Does ‘Fear Of Dying’ Indicate A More Severe Presentation Of Panic Disorder? Douglas Gazarian and researchers examine anxiety and panic disorder. The researchers write:
“Theory on anxiety sensitivity suggests that individuals with PD [panic disorder] have a heightened fear of anxiety symptoms (i.e., “fear of fear”).”
The last month has been brutal. My emetophobia spiralled out of control, like it does every few years. Every time I think I have finally defeated it, I am reminded it was just in remission.
Last year, I really thought my emetophobia was gone for good. My husband and I were faced with a very stressful living situation during the first year of our marriage, and I dealt with real depression for the first time in my life.
I began stress-eating, and for the first time in my life, was slightly overweight. My relationship with food has always been a complicated one, but this was the first time I was using food to SOOTHE myself rather than food as the source of my anxiety!
Almost immediately after we moved out of that living situation, I returned to normal. I began eating healthy again, and I actually had very few emetophobia-related panic attacks. I thought that my relationship with food would finally be in a healthy place.
Nope. I actually vomited in September after I ate waaaay too much dairy and then proceeded to have a panic attack. I vomited for the first time in 14 years. This was only the beginning. In December, during a bad bout of anxiety, I almost vomited again during a panic attack. And then this happened again in April. The one in April set me back 17 years.
I am in the same place I was when I was eight years old. When it all began.
Thankfully, I no longer have the brain of an eight year old, and no matter how bad it gets, I know it will never be that bad because I have age, experience, and logic (well, sometimes) on my side.
Still, I am struggling. I have not eaten a real meal for dinner in over a month. I wake up starving every day but can barely eat because my stomach hurts so much. I try my best to fill myself up with healthy, protein-filled foods during the day, like peanuts and almonds, eggs, and fish. I eat plenty of snacks when I can. But as soon as 5:00 PM hits, it’s all over. My blood sugar is all over the place because I haven’t eaten properly in a month. I have low blood sugar and it scares me what I’m doing to my body, but I just can’t will myself to go through another panic attack.
Because I have become afraid of fear itself. I fear my panic attacks. Nothing on earth is as bad as an emetophobia-induced panic attack. I have had depression, health anxiety, regular old random panic attacks, and because of my GAD, have been anxious for days on end without any explanation. But nothing can compare to the earth shattering experience that is my emetophobia and the panic attacks that go along with it.
The sweating. The shaking. The picking and scratching at my skin. The nausea and the crying and the hyperventilating for hours and hours before I finally pass out or fall asleep. And when I say hours, I mean non-stop hours. Last week I had a terrible panic attack that lasted from 7:30 PM until 1 in the morning, with only a brief break in between when I fell asleep.
Now, it is the evening and I haven’t eaten anything in almost 4 hours, and yet I feel the panic attack coming along – not because I am nauseous, but because I am terrified of the “what if.” What if my stomach begins hurting or my acid reflux acts up and I cannot stop myself from having a panic attack?
I have come full circle it seems. I am having panic attacks about having panic attacks. The only bright side I can see right now is that at least I am actually aware. As a child, I would have equally terrible panic attacks but felt I had no control over them. Now, I actually have been able to stop a panic attack before it gets to the “there’s no going back” zone.
I have a fear of fear. And just like all my other fears, I’m going to fight this one too.
Gazarian, D. et al. (2016) Does ‘fear of dying’ indicate a more severe presentation of panic disorder? Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 40, 52-57.