Help available for button phobia

Fear of buttons is not unusual    >  A distressed caller yesterday reminded us of one of the more unusual but sadly common phobias – koumpounophobia. If you are none the wiser, you certainly need to be a good at spelling to suffer from what is the fear of buttons.

It sounds harmless and strange that such a small and harmless object could cause fear, but suffers have an uncontrolled brain response to buttons in the same way dangerous stimuli are perceived in others. The phobia can be aroused from any type of button, or only by specific types or sizes.  Indeed, we even have omphalophobiacs among our clients (fear of belly buttons). Button phobias also cause different reactions, with some suffers not want to touch or be near people wearing buttons, while others choose just not to wear buttons themselves.

There are many cases where people with Koumpounophobia have a fear of inhaling and choking on buttons and in serious cases this can cause extreme fear such as sweating, shaking, vomiting, increased heart rate, and hyperventilating.

Fortunately, though most people with this condition – like yesterday’s caller – do not know when they began to fear buttons or understand the cause of their fear, it is easily treated using hypnotherapy in the same way as other phobias.  (N.B. To be fair there are other therapies though we are not an advocate of aversion therapy that involves exposing subuttonsfferers to their fears in order to teach the body to respond differently. An example of this approach is Bristol Zoo, which claims to help people who are scared of spiders by allowing them to crawl over suffers hands).

Though treatment is easy, sadly most suffers never seek help as they are convinced that they are the only ones in the world to suffer from such a strange fear. They are often teased or taunted by people who do not believe that they are telling the truth. Only when the phobia becomes uncontrollable is help sought, and, indeed Tonic helped one sufferer who vomited at the very sight of a button.

So today’s Posting is simply to bring the problem into the open so that sufferers know they are not alone and that treatment is available. With this objective in mind it would be helpful if sufferers use this Forum to share their experiences. Please tell us how your life has been affected by button phobia and what, if anything, you have done about it

37 thoughts on “Help available for button phobia

  1. How refreshing to know that other people suffer from this phobia. I’ve been scared of them since I was young but cannot explain why. I used to have to wash my hands after doing up my school shirt because I could not bear to touch them. Even now I’m older I still can’t bear to touch them and have to dress my kids in clothes that use zips and valcrow and so on.
    None of my own clothes have buttons, which make shopping difficult. Just looking at buttons can make me feel physically sick, but strangely enough the metal buttons you get on jeans don’t bother me. The whole thing is so bizarre that I have never sought help as I thought people would laugh at me. Maybe now – if I am brave enough.

    • Basel says:

      U don’t have to be brave
      Accept ur self as u are
      There are many. people in this world who are like u
      So that makes u a normal person
      Am one of them

  2. John Hudson (Jersey) says:

    I think you are rather unfair in only recommending hypnotherapy as a treatment.
    Behavioral therapy utilises relaxation techniques and gradual exposure to the fear stimuli in order to teach the body to respond differently. Cognitive behavioural therapy helps the patient learn what causes their fears and to learn to change their behavior and thought patterns when confronted with fear stimuli.
    Some cases can even benefit from Virtual Reality Exposure, which is a fake desensitising programme where the person does not have to come into contact with fear stimuli directly. Anti-depressants may also help if the phobia interferes with the person’s daily life.
    However, I agree with Tonic the most important part of beginning treatment for button phobias is to realise that you are not alone and that this type of phobia is a serious but treatable condition. Look for a support group in your area.

  3. A concerned mum says:

    My 13 yeard old daughter has a real fear of buttons. Of course she can’t express why she hates them, but she has a physical adversion to them. She even tells me she doesn’t love me if I am wearing them. Since I don’t know how this fear started, I feel at a loss how to advise her. She’s now already savvy at scoping out a crowd to see who is wearing buttons and will avoid them. How sad.

  4. I have this disgust with the b word. It’s not as bad as when I was small, but I still just don’t like them. I’m not really sure what caused this but my mother was rather mean and impatient and my sibblings say when she dressed me in shirts she’d get frustrated and just pull them over my head and they’d scrape over my face – so maybe that’s what started it all.
    I don’t know but I was so shocked to see that other people are the same way.It makes me sad.

    • Anonymous says:

      Both me and my daughter have this phobia mine is not as bad as hers she cannot wear anything with buttons she as just got a job and the uniform is a shirt with buttons on and I don’t know what to do.In the past I have removed them from polo shirts but I can’t remove them from a shirt .

      • Anonymous says:

        I too have a phobia of well…you know the things that should all be destroyed and blasted off the face of the earth. I think they have a distinctive smell and they do not apeal to me. I don’t mind metal studs on jeans but any other button yuck. I am lucky because I get to wear a white t shirt to school but i am dreading senior school…

      • Dawn says:

        My son has a phobia of buttons, he will wear a school shirt only because he HAS to but I have to do up and undo the buttons. He didn’t want to join his brothers baseball team because the shirt had buttons so I unpicked the buttons and put velcro in their place. No one even noticed and he now loves the game! We even recently played in a rep tournament where you ‘borrow’ the shirt for the weekend so I couldn’t take the buttons off but he wore it with them!! Good luck!

  5. Sam (client 176) says:

    Like Kel I will not use the “b” word as I do not even like to read the word. I have hated them for as long as I’ve been alive, and I don’t know why.
    It is the plastic ones that bother me, like on shirts. I don’t have to wash my hands after touching them, but I absolutely cannot wear them.
    All of my life people have found this most peculiar & amusing & I have been taunted with buttons throughout my childhood.

  6. I have a phobia of people with stupid phobias. Its a rare condition called common sense and I do not require therapy for it.

    • ruth says:

      Shame on you, there is absolutely no need to be so nasty just because you don’t understand something. You should count yourself lucky if you don’t have a phobia and learn to be more compassionate to towards others. Anyway why are you even reading this page and making comments on it if you don’t have any phobias!!!! By the way I don’t have a phobia myself, but everyone has something they don’t like and probably can’t rationally explain why they don’t. The more I think about this – the more arrogant you seem to me!

  7. George J. Osbourne says:

    Medications – especially anti-depressants – can be used in cases where a phobia is stopping the suffer’s ability to function. Many people with anxiety disorders also benefit from joining a self-help group. As stated by the earlier bloggers, the key is to realise you’re not alone.
    Medical science is also coming to suffer’s aid. Using brain imaging technologies and neurochemical techniques, scientists are finding that a network of interacting structures is responsible for these emotions. Much research centres on the amygdala, which serves as a communications hub between the parts of the brain that process incoming sensory signals and the parts that interpret them. It can signal that a threat is present, and trigger a fear response or anxiety. It appears that emotional memories stored in the central part of the amygdala may play a role in disorders involving very distinct fears, like phobias, while different parts may be involved in other forms of anxiety.
    Other research focuses on the hippocampus – another brain structure that is responsible for processing threatening or traumatic stimuli. The hippocampus plays a key role in the brain by helping to encode information into memories. Resreach shows that the hippocampus appears to be smaller in people who have undergone severe stress because of child abuse or military combat. This reduced size could help explain why individuals with PTSD have flashbacks, deficits in explicit memory, and fragmented memory for details of the traumatic event.
    Also, research indicates that other brain parts called the basal ganglia and striatum are involved in obsessive-compulsive disorder.
    By learning more about brain circuitry involved in fear and anxiety, scientists may be able to devise new and more specific treatments for anxiety disorders.

  8. John Howarth says:

    Thought I was the only one who is disgusted by buttons. Ever since I was a child, I detested those awkward disgusting little plastic creatures. I don’t know when or why it started. I think I was simply born with it.
    Looking at someone wearing buttons makes me want to hold up my palm in front of my eyes to cover the disgusting view. I even agree with the early comments that even the word b- makes me want to be sick.
    Bless all button-phobiacs. I thanks God I am not alone.

  9. An ordinary mum says:

    I too have koumpounophobia….I am so pleased there is a latin word for it as I struggle to even say the word! Just thinking about picking up a button makes my hands itch!! I did feel like I was probably the only person in the world with this.
    I am pleased to know I am not alone xx

  10. Fran (Liverpool) says:

    Until I read this blog I always thought that I was just crazy. I idn’t believe I had a real phobia and would never have dared phone Tonic. . I’m 30 years old and I can not remember a time when I was able to touch buttons. Like an earlier replier, I strangely don’t a problem with buttons on my jeans – it is just those small plastic ones! I can’t even stand to think about them, when I do my skin crawls and I feel an overwhelming desire to wash my hands. I can’t even hug people if they are wearing buttons. I really thought that I was insane, but I’m comforted knowing that I’m not the only one. Thank you.

  11. Simon Wright says:

    I’m so pleased to find this site. I am 40 years old and my phobias are still as bad as when I was a toddler. Plastic buttons make my very skin crawl. My girl friend thinks it is funny, but she does not understand what I go through every day.
    As for your ‘Anon’ blogger … all I can say I’m also allergic to unsympathetic people who have no feelings for those less strong than them.

    • Anonymous says:

      I really had a tough time trying to mingle with people who consider buttons a normal thing
      But that I found so many that hate them just as I do I thought to my self that I don’t have to anymore

  12. Patricia Ford says:

    I cannot bear buttons, especially the one’s that only have one thred in it and I never wear them. I think they look horrible and as I read the other’s stories, I am delighted that I have finally found other people just like myself.
    I’m almost unable to do anything if I see one around or close by. If I do happen to touch one by accident, I have to immediately wash my hands.
    Indeed, any object that comes in contact with a button, will have to be washed or just thrown away.

  13. Paula says:

    For me touching a button would be like touching a rat – it feels dirty and nasty and wrong. Button phobia is ruining my life.
    I am amazed that so many people have equally crippled lives. If I touch a button I scratch myself so hard I bleed.
    I’ll use Velcro and zips to hide my fear from friends as I don’t want to be considered a freak.
    Thanks for the Facebook Link which certainly looks helpful.

  14. Su-su says:

    I am middle aged and have had a button phobia all my life. My parents knew about it but thought it was just a phase I would grow out of.
    I cannot understand how people can let their hands touch buttons and wear buttoned clothing.I thought I was the only one. I thought I was mad. People laugh at me all the time and i get asked why I am so scared of them. I have no answers.

  15. A Lancashire spinster (sadly!) says:

    I’m so reassured to find fellow sufferers. I am sick and tired of being called a liar, and I have been tormented and bullied over this all my life.
    Yet even the thought of plastic buttons makes me want to be sick.
    I’m afraid – I just want to be normal. I just want to be able to wear clothes with buttons.
    It is so hard to have this secret, I’m ashamed.

  16. Victoria says:

    i am 16 and i have had a fear of buttons for as long as i can remember. Looking at them, touching them, wearing them, thinking about them and the word button puts me on edge. I dont know why I have this fear and i dont really tell anyone about it because it is such a strange fear. It annoys me to have it because being around them makes me feel uncomfortable and i am always feeling uneasy when i am wearing my school uniform too. I would like to get rid of this fear that makes me cringe so i am able to not feel as stressed at such a little thing

  17. Lauren says:

    No one ever believed me when I told them about my button phobia. It started when I was about 2 Years old. The sight of plastic four hole buttons make me cringe- it’s unexplainable. I was forced to wear a button down shirt when I was about 10 and got 102 degree fever and nearly passed out from shaking too much. Never thought I wasn’t the only one, its funny to know theirs even a name for it!

  18. Fortunately, I know I am not alone as my niece and a close friend also suffer with this phobia. I particularly cannot stand buttons near food, buttons that are loose or in a place they shouldn’t be such as on the floor or in a pocket. I can cope with buttons that are well secured and absolutely necessary.
    I recently brought a beautiful old armchair, when I got it home the button on the back had become loose in transit and now I cannot bring it in the house as I vomit if I look at it. I am fortunate to have people that understand and can laugh about it. I know it is a serious problem but laughing and de-briefing helps me a lot.
    I must say I refer to it as ‘my button phobia’ but it is also tiny things like screws, coins, paper clips. These things bother me immensely if they are not where they are meant to be. I just try to be organised so I don’t encounter these things in my local area?

  19. Leticia says:

    I too have this phobia and it always frustrates me when I see buttons. If one of my friends is wearing a polo shirt or smth that has buttons on it I don’t hug them and try to stay away, or just to not look at them. I remember once a friend of mine brought some small chocolates. They looked good and I was about to eat one when another friend told us out loud that the chocolates looked just like buttons, and that made me almost throw out. I always thought that my fear was funny and that I never told anybody because they would just laugh at me and so. I remember when I was a child, I used to hate buttons, but my mom would still make me wear them. Now I avoid looking at buttons whenever I go shopping for clothes, and I never touch them. I stay away from them, and when I told my mom for the first time about this fear she thought I was sick, but seeing my reaction to them, she now understands this is normal and serious, not a joke to get rid of polo shirts. And yes I hate polo shirts so much, I can’t look at my mom and dad, when they wear them. The funny thing is that I will be a fashion designer, and will have to face this fear many more times.

  20. Anonymous says:

    My darling little grandson has had a fear of buttons ever since he could speak. Everyone thought he was being ridiculous and my daughter finally gave up & bought clothing without buttons. I noticed that if I am wearing buttons he will not kiss me or hug me. Once he went under his bed & locked his door in a stand off to rebel against buttons.

    Today my sister finally said I am going to look this up. Low & be hold there it was. Koumpounophobia!!!!! Yeah!!!!!!! Now what are we going to do for my older grandson’s communion. He is supposed to wear a button down shirt!! Wish us luck!! The strangest thing from the time he was two he could tell you, I am afraid the buttons are going to roll off and eat me. Or the buttons are going to roll off & attack me. He could always express exactly what he was feeling. Thank you for reading what I had to say.

  21. Alex Thompson says:

    I have had a button phobia all my life as well. I have to wear a polo shirt for work and it makes me feel completely sick. I dont mind buttons on jeans as well. Its so strange. Polo shirts are the worst for me, I may only have a minor case, but I am slowly pushing myself to get better everyday. I dont know if its just me, but does anyone else find it hard to eat the same food (such as a sharing bowl) as people wearing buttons? I almost feel like the food gets tainted. It’s misery, but we have places like this to support each other!

  22. Stacey says:

    My 5year son has a huge dislike for buttons and has had since he was about 2. I have an inkling that it started after i had forgotten to unbutton a top far enough so it got stuck as I undressed him??? This also extends tho to trousers. He also won’t go near to anybody else if they are wearing them. I have managed to persuade him that he has to wear them for school but beside this i cannot get him to try wearing something even for a few minutes. It is becoming quite frustrating so thank you for highlighting that it is far more common than I knew.

  23. Iain says:

    I don’t want to be ‘cured’- buttons are just wrong! Fortunately I do not have it so bad that it prevents me from getting on with things, except that to look ‘neat’ you are expected to wear a shirt or jacket with buttons.. maybe it’s easier for women?

  24. Anonymous says:

    My 4 yr old son has been afraid of buttons since before he could even talk. I knew something was wrong when he would refuse to come to me when I was wearing buttons and it just became more and more obvious over the years. Of course now he can express his fears and he has a complete melt down if he finds one on his clothes. This fear is real and I feel bad for him. He has never swallowed one or anything like that and no other issues experienced with them. I think he was born this way. It is a real challenge for me to find clothes with no buttons, so I am hoping we can find a cure for him some day soon. I am looking into help now and I have briefly discussed this with his doctor. I believe she was a bit shocked when I first told her even though she is very well informed and educated. Certainly not that common or talked about. Wishing you all much luck.

  25. I have thought buttons (the ones found on shirts, slacks, and other related items… you know, with the holes) were disgusting ever since I can remember. This disgust used to be a strong fear, but now it is more of a hatred with a little bit of fear mixed in. Looking at pictures of myself as a very young child (around two and earlier), I would wear buttons and be fine. Sometime after that I developed a huge phobia of them. My family thought it was hilarious and made fun of me every chance they got. Every Christmas, one of my grandmas would get me something with buttons, and I cried whenever someone tried to make me touch them or wear it. One year when I was around eight my father got so fed up that he sent me out to the garage and told me I couldn’t go inside until I agreed to try on a shirt which had buttons on it. I stayed in the garage for hours crying until my grandma let me come inside. Over the past few years, I have stopped crying over coming in contact with them, and can even put up with wearing slacks that have a single button on the inside, provided my shirt is tucked in so the button isn’t touching my skin and I only wear them for the duration of whatever concert I have that requires slacks to be worn. If I had my way, I would remove the button, but my mother has forbidden me from doing so. I do not wear them for any reason other than that, and I do not touch them other than putting on those slacks. I can look at them, but prefer not to. I am fine with the word though. In order to keep my family and friends from making fun of me, I have started to try to hide my phobia. I make snowmen with my family using walnuts for the eyes and pebbles for the mouths, and hug people wearing buttons quickly, making sure not to let my skin touch the buttons. I am now trying to find a job (I recently turned sixteen), but am having issues because most require you to wear buttons and I cannot bring myself to do so, no matter how much I need money. It feels so good to know I’m not alone.

  26. chris says:

    My 3 year old grandson hates buttons. He will not wear anything with buttons on them. One day I had a button down shirt under my sweater and he was fine until the shirt pulled out a bit and he said “Oh Grandma, you have buttons” as if it was the most horrible thing or I had some kind of disease. I said “What’s wrong with buttons? They don’t cause any harm. They help keep your clothes together that’s all. They are not alive or anything.” I don’t know where the trauma occurred or if there was even a trauma. He may just be programmed that way. If I have something on with buttons, he makes sure he does not come in contact with them and looks at me as if there is something wrong with ME for wearing clothes with buttons!! It is a strange phobia.

  27. Gina Lockard says:

    So sorry that there is so many people with the same phobia that I have but so happy that I am not the only one. My family is completely used to my phobia of the “b” word. Some of them are sympathetic while others are belligerent. I remember crying of relief the day my daughter found on an internet site that listed phobias and there mine was. I hate to think of them. When someone wears them especially the small plastic ones…..it makes me so sick that I can hardly look at the person. Why do some people insist upon playing with one that is on their shirt!!!!??????? Ridiculous!!!! My family calls them clothes fasteners which I have asked them to do and there are some of my friends that do the same thing for me. One of my friends was on his way to my house and realized he had on a polo shirt with clothes fasteners on it and not giving it a second thought, tore all of them off. I love him now. Although I feel really bad that I am affecting others by such a stupid phobia. Good luck fellow clothes fastener haters.

  28. Finn says:

    I am 10 years old and I used to have a bad fear of buttons. Buttons would make me feel queasy and I wouldn’t want to go near them let alone wear anything with them on. No one really understood my worry but my parents got me clothes that were button free and this helped. I feel just recently I have overcome this problem by having a goal and a reward. I now realise that buttons aren’t so bad. Getting rid of this phobia is hard but once you have defeated the problem you will feel much, much, much better.

    It is easier to get rid of button phobia when you are young but hopefully those who have it as adults can fix the problem one small step at a time.. like a ladder going up. Good luck and be brave, you won’t regret it

  29. Roxii Love says:

    I’ve had a fear of buttons since I can remember. I’m OK with pins or buttons without holes… Like buttons on jeans or if they are flat without holes. I get physically sick and very dizzy and uncomfortable near buttons. If I accidentally touch one I get goosebumps (like someone might get heebie jeebies in a haunted house). I can gag or start to panic if I can get one off of me. No idea why. None. I’ve always bought clothes for myself and my son without these types of buttons. Hah!! Nauseous just thinking about this right now.

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