Young boy with crippling fear of being sick developed neurotic obsession with checking sell-by dates
A schoolboy with a crippling fear of being sick developed such a neurotic obsession with checking sell-by dates that he would end up rummaging through BINS before eating anything.
Harvey Bird, from Coventry, West Mids was so fixated by checking food packaging and sell-by dates that he would make his mum rifle through piles of smelly rubbish just to double check his food was safe to eat – despite her already showing him the packaging before dinner.
Harvey, 12, developed emetophobia – a fear of being sick – around 18 months ago, after he got a bad tummy bug after a night of trick or treating at Halloween.
When Harvey discovered an out-of-date treat in his swag bag, he became convinced that it caused his projectile puking – and he refused to let anything pass his lips without obsessively checking the packaging first.
Mum Sue, 41, and dad Martin, 46, became more and more exasperated as their son’s obsession spiralled out of control.
The family stopped going to restaurants as Harvey would endlessly quiz baffled waiters, and he was so concerned about getting sick that he would make Sue rummage through bags of rubbish just to check dates on old packaging on food and drinks.
But after months of hell, Harvey has finally been cured of his bizarre obsession – thanks to the help of hypnotherapist David Kilmurry.
Sue, a nurse, said: “Harvey was a completely normal child, but after a sickness bug at Halloween he just changed overnight.
“Since that day, before anything passed his lips he would always ask, ‘will it make me sick?’
“It was repetitive, it was almost compulsive – it was absolute hell.
“If I’d thrown something in the bin, or we were at my sister-in-law’s for something to eat, Harvey would make me go through the bins to find the packaging so he could see it was all in date.
“There was constant checking and relentless questioning – if we ever went out for dinner it was embarrassing for us.
“In the end we just stopped going out.
“Mealtimes became an uphill battle, it was always so upsetting and frustrating for all three of us.
“Harvey stopped snacking, because he didn’t like seeing how upset the situation made us – but then we worried he might stop eating all together, and develop an eating disorder.
“He’s a slim boy anyway, but I could see he was losing weight and becoming very pale.
“Martin and I just felt useless.
“It might have driven any other couple apart – we’d argue over dinner, and go to bed in tears – we’d create arguments out of sheer frustration. But we’re a strong couple and we stuck together.
“Being a nurse, I’m used to trying to help people and knowing what to do – but nothing we tried seemed to work.
“There was a stressful morning mission of preparing his lunch so he could check all the dates, and he’d always have to come to the supermarket with me.
“Every single thing that went into the trolley would need checking, and then checking again as it was unpacked, and again before it was cooked.
“He’d ask to check sell-by dates hundreds of times a day – it never stopped, it was just a nightmare.”
Sue and Martin, a warehouse manager, tried to reassure Harvey – but nothing could calm him.
They looked into different professionals who might be able to help Harvey, including a dietician, as his obsession spiralled out of control.
Sue said: “We started to get really concerned.
“It was just heart-breaking, knowing there was nothing I could do for him – I felt helpless.
“As a parent the one thing you want to do is help your child no matter what – we thought the constant reassurance would work but it didn’t.
“We just hit a wall of despair – the constant questions and checking were just exhausting.
“But we didn’t know what to do or how to help.
“It was escalating rapidly and we couldn’t control it anymore.”
When Harvey’s older sister got pregnant and started suffering from morning sickness, Harvey’s obsession took a turn for the worse and he started going rapidly downhill.
As the worried parents were waiting for a referral for Harvey, they came across hypnotherapist David Kilmurry – and with nothing to lose they decided to book an appointment.
Incredibly, David was able to cure Harvey in just two sessions – and the whole family are thrilled with his remarkable progress.
Sue said: “We went for an initial session with David, and he diagnosed Harvey with emetophobia and OCD.
“The term emetophobia was completely new to us – in my 15 years of being a nurse I’d never heard of it.
“After his first session, there was a noticeable difference in Harvey – we came home and I started making dinner. He asked if it was in date and just accepted it when I said yes.
“He checked the packaging once, then sat down and ate the whole thing without another word – it was unbelievable.
“We saw David for a second time, and after that Harvey was fully cured – since that session he hasn’t checked a single sell-by date.
“It’s just incredible – Martin and I are over-the-moon.
“To sit down and have a family dinner with no questions is just perfect.
“It’s a proper family mealtime now – we sit down and talk about our days, there are no tears, arguments or frustrations.
“I’m just so happy we’ve all finally got our lives back.”
Harvey added: “I hated having to check labels all the time – if affected me a lot, everyone else could just eat what they wanted but I couldn’t because I thought it would make me sick.
“Watching all my friends eating without having to worry about the dates made me feel jealous of them. I was scared and embarrassed about telling them because I thought they would laugh at me.
“It made me sad that I couldn’t eat or drink my favourite things like biscuits, crisps and fruit without asking and checking the sell-by date loads of times.
“I feel a lot better since David helped me – I was so afraid of eating foods that weren’t in date before, but now I can eat with my friends, buy food in the school canteen and enjoy eating out with my family without worrying.”
Hypnotherapist David Kilmurry said: “Harvey came in with his loving family, desperate for help with his incessant questioning and checking sell-by dates.
“Fear of being sick is quite common in children, and can last well into their twenties.
“But it is a learned behaviour, and can be treated swiftly and simply with an intelligent approach like cognitive behavioural therapy.
“I am truly honoured to be part of Harvey;s recovery, and to see him now completely free of the somatic condition warms my heart.”