The fear of buttons on clothing, known as button phobia or koumpounophobia, is - like all phobia - an irrational fear. It is also, perhaps surprisingly, a fairly common fear.
Most people who suffer from this phobia are convinced that they are the only ones in the world to suffer from such a strange fear, and they are often teased or taunted by others who do not understand or believe that they are telling the truth, however, when I wrote an article on my website about this particular fear, it caused a particularly surprising response... So far, over 150 people have come forward, explaining how afraid they have been to be ridiculed for their fear.
So where does it come from?
Irrational fears may be evoked due to traumatic happenings in early childhood, however, most people who do suffer from button phobia seem to admit that they have been afraid of buttons for as long as they can remember. For some people, the fear can also extend to all button-like objects, such as small coins, sequins and other small discs.
There is a difference between different type of buttons as well - some people find that plastic buttons are worse than metal ones (like the ones on jeans) or that buttons with four holes are more fear or panic-inducing than those with two.
There are several degrees of severity to the phobia, ranging from cringing when others wear buttons and choosing not to wear buttons yourself to not wanting to breathe next to buttons in fear of inhaling one or washing your hands with soap for an extended period of time after any (accidental) contact with buttons. In some people, the sight of buttons may induce vomiting.
Some accounts of koumpounophobia
"I have never liked buttons since I was very little in school. I thought I would grow out of it but I never have.I don’t mind metal buttons or buttons covered in fabric (although I would never wear fabric ones myself). I hate the small plastic ones the shinier they are the worse they are." - Helen
"The 4 holes is the worst i mean can u imagine someone putting a button in a shallow puddle of water and u can see the water come thought the holes im shivering just thinking about it." - Laura
"Maybe someone can provide a reason for why a perfectly functional item of clothing should then be split down the front when it can just as easily be pulled over one’s head. Then let’s shove a totally functionless band of cloth round our neck to cover the unnecessary prissy little nuisances. Then let’s dip that in some soup or get it caught in some machinery." - Malky
"Some people misunderstand it as “fear”. It has nothing to do with being afraid. It is more like feeling severe nausea and illness in the soul itself. Even the word “phobia” is incorrect, because this goes deeper inside." -Steve
"I am normal functioning person, I have no mental issues whatsoever, it is just the b....... thing and I know that it is obviously totallly irrational. Does anyone know why we have this phobia and how to overcome it (besides by desensitizing), which I don’t think I could go through. I would literally throw up." - Jutta
"I’m a 51 yr old college lecturer in maths & English, so fairly sane. I have been disgusted by the sight of buttons since I was a young child and agree with most of the other comments about the worst & better types of buttons. I found that the very worst were the large-ish milky white types found on old fashioned men’s pyjamas (could never eat breakfast with my dad around) and the ones that were attached to the waistbands of trousers to attach old style leather braces. Also - why on earth do people wear buttons as a fashion/design accessory? I can understand their function but as a decoration!" - Pam
Find out more
For well over 150 accounts of people suffering from this particular phobia, see the article on my website - http://kamps.org/g/?rxdt
This article was originally published on my website, but has been expanded and edited for E2