Koumpounophobia (fear of buttons) can affect people in many different ways. For some, buttons used on clothing trigger their phobia, whilst others are more fearful of the buttons used on electrical products.
Koumpounophobia (fear of buttons) is a surprisingly common phobia. Estimated to affect at least 1 in 75,000 people, the condition causes an intense fear of buttons and can have a debilitating effect on sufferers.
Individuals with Koumpounophobia share a fear of buttons but the reason behind their fear may vary. Common reasons for Koumpounophobia include:
Similarly, some people have a fear of buttons if they are on other people’s clothing but are able to wear clothing with buttons themselves. Conversely, other patients with Koumpounophobia are unable to wear clothing with buttons but are not triggered by other people’s clothing.
For many people, the fear of buttons is limited to clothing but other sufferers have an intense fear of all types of buttons. Many electrical and technological items feature buttons, for example, and these can be problematic for individuals with Koumpounophobia.
Like many phobias, a previous trauma involving the stimulus can cause Koumpounophobia. If a child had a negative experience with buttons, for example, it may develop into a fear or phobia in later life. Young children often put inanimate and inappropriate objects in their mouths. Due to their size, buttons are clearly a choking hazard. If a child chokes on or swallows a button, this can cause an intense fear of the stimulus and may lead to them developing Koumpounophobia.
Alternatively, Koumpounophobia can be linked to Mysophobia (fear of germs). Many people perceive buttons as dirty and fear they will become ill if they come into contact with buttons. This may be particularly common in relation to buttons which are worn or used by other people. For people with this type of Koumpounophobia, using an ATM or public telephone may be extremely triggering.
In some cases, people with Koumpounophobia also suffer from a fear of other objects. Similar sized coins may also trigger their fear response, although the causes of this type of phobia are less well-documented.
Many sufferers of Koumpounophobia are able to recall a previous negative experience involving buttons and are aware of what caused their phobia. For others, the origins of their condition are unknown and they are unable to remember when their fear started. Even if the patient is aware of the cause of their phobia, they remain unable to control their fear response.
In order to prevent increased anxiety, people with Koumpounophobia will try to avoid buttons wherever possible. Many patients will refuse to wear clothing with buttons, for example. In addition to this, people with Koumpounophobia may choose technological and electrical items which do not feature buttons, such as touchscreen phones and tablets.
In extreme cases, patients may isolate themselves so that they do not come into contact with anyone wearing buttons on their clothing. As buttons are an extremely common item, the fear can be extremely difficult for sufferers to cope with.
If confronted with their feared stimulus, patients are likely to experience increased anxiety and many will try to flee and escape from the situation. If they are unable to do so, their increased anxiety is likely to develop into a panic attack. When suffering from a panic attack, patients report common symptoms, including:
Although panic attacks are not normally dangerous, they are extremely distressing. If people are unfamiliar with the sensation of a panic attack, they may misinterpret the symptoms as a more serious medical emergency, such as a heart attack.
Once the feared stimulus is removed, the patient may notice a reduction in their anxiety. However, it can take some time to recover from the effects of a panic attack and patients may feel unwell, panicky or anxious for some time.
As phobias are complex conditions, it can be difficult for patients to prevent them from occurring. Often, patients are not aware that they are suffering from a condition until the phobia begins to have an impact on their day-to-day activities.
However, if patients are aware that their fear of buttons is increasing, they may be able to take steps in order to prevent full-blown Koumpounophobia from occurring. They may choose to gradually expose themselves to the feared stimulus before their anxiety increases, for example.
Similarly, if someone has a negative or traumatic experience involving buttons, they may want to seek help before they develop a phobia as a result of the incident. By overcoming the trauma, the individual may be able to ensure that there is no residual fear resulting from the event and a phobia can, therefore, be avoided.
Many phobias respond well to treatment and Koumpounophobia is no exception. Termed a specific phobia, there are a number of treatments which can be used to reduce the patient’s fear response. The most common forms of treatment include:
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been deemed effective in the treatment of Koumpounophobia and helps patients to rationalize their fears and their fear response. By changing the way individuals think about buttons, therapists aim to alter the response the patient has to the feared stimulus.
Hypnotherapy is also a valid form of treatment and is routinely used to treat phobias. In some cases, therapists will use hypnosis to uncover previously repressed memories regarding the feared stimulus. If an individual is unsure why they are afraid of buttons, unlocking these memories can help to alleviate their fears.
Alternatively, hypnotherapy can be used to build the patient’s confidence and reduce their fear, without the need for identifying previously traumatic experiences. Both forms of hypnotherapy have been effective in treating Koumpounophobia and many patients report great success with this form of treatment.
Exposure therapy can also be helpful for patients with Koumpounophobia. Typically, exposure therapy involves graded exposure to the feared stimulus. Patients may begin by looking at a picture of a button, for example. If this provokes their fear response, they will continue to look at pictures until the fear response is no longer eliciting. Following this, patients may view pictures of people wearing clothing with buttons and continue to do so until their anxiety is not increased by the image.
Over time, the patient’s exposure to buttons is increased and their fear response is not triggered. Although this form of therapy can be extremely effective, many patients are too fearful to engage in exposure therapy immediately and may require other forms of treatment until they are able to do so.
If the patient’s condition is affecting their everyday life, anti-anxiety medication may be prescribed. Although medication cannot target Koumpounophobia, it can be used to reduce the patient’s anxiety and may enable them to engage in other forms of treatment.