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I’ve been suffering with anxiety and panic attacks for about twelve years. They started in my early twenties because of a childhood phobia I had related to vomiting. I have since found out that this phobia is called emetophobia, the fourth most common phobia. It left me unable to eat properly and leave the house, and caused severe panic attacks on a daily basis.

With help from my Mum I was gradually able to get a little better, but it was hard. I've been through counseling, CBT, and hypnotherapy. While I probably appear very normal to other people, I am constantly tormented internally with worry and fear because of my phobia. Some days are better than others, and fortunately, I'm having more good days than bad days right now.

However, I dislike being around people who have been sick for fear of getting sick myself, and I wash my hands so frequently that I have developed dermatitis. I often worry about the cleanliness of utensils or surfaces in the kitchen, and therefore take longer to make food for fear of contamination. I rarely enjoy eating out as I worry about dirty restaurants. I will only put food in my mouth if I've been able to wash my hands first, and I hate when people touch my food, or even go near it.

I often suffer in silence, making excuses to go to the bathroom where I can try to breathe calmly.
I can't remember now how I was before all of this. I sometimes try to remember what it was like to be carefree, without worry, without constant stress associated with going out for the day and needing to eat somewhere.

I don't really talk about my anxiety. I don't tell work colleagues or bosses for fear of them seeing me as weak, or someone that may be unreliable. I often suffer in silence, making excuses to go to the bathroom where I can try to breathe calmly.

I wish I wasn't like this, that I could go back to being who I used to be; the one that didn't need to hide behind a mask. I don't think I will ever be completely free of the torment of this phobia, but I have learned to manage it. It's been tough, but I'm okay. It could be a lot worse.