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Bia - From Personal Project to Recovery Tool

William, September 16th 2023

How Bia came to be.

The Motivation. Bia began as a personal project during my first attempt to overcome emetophobia. After a few weeks of in-person exposure therapy I had two realizations. First, I dreaded it. Second, I knew it was working. I dreaded it because each week my therapist pushed me further along in a hierarchy of exposure, and they were moving faster than I felt comfortable. It was working because each therapy session I conquered things I never imagined doing and I felt this growth positively impacting my life outside of therapy. This led me to start my own library of exposure content. I wanted a way to practice exposure and make progress on my own terms.

Conquer Emetophobia. The original version of Bia was called Conquer Emetophobia. It was a list of exposures (words, sentences, and images) in a set order. I could load up this list on my phone or computer and practice moving through from start to finish. For a little while, this was enough, and I had taken a few things in my life back from emetophobia - like watching movies without fear of vomit scenes, or, hear words like vomit without having to leave the room. I shared this small site with a few other people who were also recovering from emetophobia and we shared in celebration when we conquered things we thought we never would.

Tracking Progress. Conquer Emetophobia sat unchanged for a few years. Meanwhile emetophobia slowly crept back and it felt like I 'lost' my progress. I was motivated to gain the freedom I knew I could have. I added the ability for Conquer Emetophobia to record history over time. I wanted to know how uncomfortable each bit of content made me and then I wanted to track that over time as I repeated exposure. I knew that once I had this number it would motivate me to practice regularly.

Research Based. I went back to therapy for emetophobia more motivated than ever. I truly believed exposure could work and I wanted someone to help me make progress. My second therapist was fantastic and for the first time in my life I could picture a life without emetophobia. I worked on Conquer Emetophobia every day and on every weekend. I bought a small library worth of books on phobia, OCD, and exposure. I reached out to therapists who specialize in emetophobia. All of this information went into the website as I expanded the capabilities to track progress, added more content, and ensured the exposure approach was based on research.

Responsive, Personalized, Effective. Research of effective exposure led to a customizable hierarchy with enforced milestones. The site adapts to high or low levels of discomfort based on the same guidance given to therapists, and interactive component like typing, describing, and speaking, were added to increase content engagement. I received positive feedback from therapists and fellow emetophobes. I was using the site every morning. It was a massive confidence boost to start my day conquering my phobia. I started to believe this could help other people.

The Ah-Ha Moment. I continued to conquer my own phobia in steps and as I did so I expanded the content available on Conquer Emetophobia. Cartoon images, cartoon videos, real images, real videos, activities, building out the website became my therapy. Every weekend I added new content, and during the week I conquered it through repeated exposure on my phone. This incremental approach was working for me - but I kept seeing comments on youtube, reddit, and elsewhere, people saying that emetophobia was ruining their life. They tried to watch this video but couldn't. The same struggle I experienced during my first attempt at exposure therapy, it was too much too fast. So I knew, this tool had the potential to help people conquer their phobia in incremental, safe steps.

I knew this tool could help someone start recovery by offering the lowest level of exposure and letting them control the pace. I knew this tool could help someone conquer specific goals. And I knew this tool could help someone build confidence for daily life. I knew all this because I was using it for that exact purpose.

Bia. My wife said I needed a better name. She suggested Bia, coming from the end of phobia. I loved it. The site is about taking life back from phobia and the name even takes Bia back from phobia. I renamed the site and started sharing it around to positive feedback and growth ever since.

For those following along, thank you for your support. I am now working on Bia full time. I'm always interested in your stories and feedback, please contact us anytime. Also, check out this related blog post about the evolution of the Bia's design.