Button Phobia

The term phobia refers to fearfulness due to a certain anxiety disorder in which the individual is in dread of a situation, a living creature, a place, or a thing. “Button phobia,” as the name indicates, is a fear of buttons, and is classified as an irrational phobia. It is also known as koumpounophobia, a fear closely related to the fear of circular or void objects. Apparently, koumpounophobia affects 1 in 75,000 people.

Image Credit: Verkhozina Ekaterina / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Verkhozina Ekaterina / Shutterstock

Koumpounophobia Etymology

The words “koumpouno” and “phobia” are derived from Greek. Koumpouno means “beans” as the ancient Greeks used beans in the place of buttons and the term “phobia” means fear.

Symptoms of Button Phobia

People with button phobia may be affected by the following signs and symptoms:  

  • Unable to stand the sight, sounds, or the texture of buttons.
  • Feeling of panic, dread, or terror while seeing or thinking about buttons.
  • Acknowledgment that the fear goes beyond normal limits and is superfluous.

Koumpounophobia reactions are usually automatic, uncontrollable, and can seem to take over a person’s thoughts.

The physical reactions to the phobia of buttons may include rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, trembling, excessive sweating, nausea, dry mouth, inability to speak or think clearly, tightening of stomach muscles, and an overwhelming desire to escape from button-related situations. For example, any argument or vision of buttons can induce a full-blown anxiety intrusion.

Diversity of Fears in Button Phobia

The National Phobic Society has pronounced that button phobia often affects children, and the problem can persist in adulthood. People suffering from button phobia have dramatic variations of fear such as:

  • buttons with a typical texture;
  • unclean buttons;
  • fear of touching or fastening the buttons on their clothes;
  • fear of seeing buttons worn by others.

Issues related to button texture: Many people state that they feel sick at the sight of buttons instead of fear. Studies have hypothesized that fear and disgust are tightly linked to each other. Therefore, when an individual starts to dislike a certain texture in buttons, they may eventually feel physically sick when handling them. This dread could further aggravate to include buttons with different textures. This dislike of buttons will certainly turn to fear. Many individuals with a pattern-linked fear of buttons appear to have a phobia of predominantly plastic buttons and not of metal buttons.

Dirty buttons: Some people are scared of old buttons, as they might be unclean due to several years of lying around. This kind of fear is accompanied with mysophobia, which is commonly known as germ phobia. They dislike old buttons because they may be contaminated with germs. A minor percentage of people who are afraid of old buttons could also be afraid of new buttons.

Inhaled or swallowed buttons: Many individuals may not fear seeing buttons but are more frightened of their accidental ingestion. Studies have revealed that a person who has swallowed a button in his childhood has an increased risk of developing button phobia if any present circumstance triggers his past experience with buttons. The trigger aspect might be witnessing a distressed child due to a deviant button.

Gadget buttons: Some people dislike buttons on mobile phones and keyboards. Apple CEO Steve Jobs was often called koumpounophobic, as he strongly hated buttons. He is more popularly known for wearing turtlenecks (which are buttonless). He also insisted to his product designers to do away with buttons on handheld computer devices, as much as possible. In the year 2007, his phobia paved the way to touch screen mobile phones.

Plastic buttons: A few people have a horrible feeling when touching buttons, especially those made of plastic. The plastic button could be for example a shirt button, the timer on the cooker, on and off buttons on stereos, etc. There appears to be an obvious plastic connection here, being shiny, smooth, and round, which of course resembles most appearances of buttons.

Lifestyle of People with Button Phobia

People with button phobia usually avoid clothing with buttons and prefer to wear clothes with zippers and Velcro instead. Many people with koumpounophobia prefer metallic buttons to plastic ones. Most people avoid attending formal events such as ceremonial occasions and balls because many people wear clothes with buttons there.

A few individuals with the phobia avoid objects that resemble the shape of buttons like pearls, small coins, and other circular objects. Quite possibly, they tend to use square shapes instead of circular ones.

Psychologists believe that the cause of this phobia is a genetic susceptibility as well as environmental and social factors. In many cases, button phobia may become worse over time and more sophisticated avoidance strategies and routines are developed. However, a vast majority of people who suffer from koumpounophobia will find a course of psychotherapy and hypnotherapy that can help them enormously.

Further Reading

Last Updated: Aug 15, 2017

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