Omphalophobia (Fear Of Belly Buttons)

Omphalophobia is the fear of belly buttons. The root word “omphalo” stems from the Greek language and means “navel”. This fear isn’t well known as it is one of the least documented phobias to have been diagnosed. While amusing to those who do not suffer from this fear, those gripped by it have the same symptoms as those with more common fears like aviophobia (fear of flying), aquaphobia (fear of swimming) and acrophobia (fear of heights).

Overview of Omphalophobia

The fear of belly buttons is very rare. It is considered in many circles to be the rarest phobia. Today, many people still don’t know what this phobia is and not many are diagnosed with it. A couple of famous people that suffer from this fear include singer Jenny Frost and reality star Khloe Kardashian.

Symptoms of Omphalophobia

  • Extreme anxiety
  • Pupil dilation
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of dread
  • Loss of focus
  • Avoidance behavior
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Feeling of choking
  • Increased muscle tension
  • Excessive sweating
  • Stomach and/or headache
  • Feelings of powerlessness
  • Palpitations and/or tachycardia
  • Confusion and inability to speak clearly
  • Dry mouth, dizziness, nausea or vomiting
  • Obsession with the subject of the phobia, the navel

Those affected by Omphalophobia typically take measures to avoid being reminded of their fear. They won’t look at themselves in the mirror, they will avoid the beach or other activities that will put them in the vicinity and eyesight of belly buttons and they never want anyone to touch theirs. Another way people with this fear try to avoid it is by not washing their body or even touching their stomach for any reason.

Characteristics of Omphalophobia

As omphalophobia is an anxiety disorder, people suffering from it have irrational, unsupported and uncontrollable fear regarding navels. Because of this fear, a person’s relationship with that area of the body usually falls within one of the following categories:

  • Excessive – Intense fear that has no bearing on the actual situation the person is dealing with at the time.
  • Irrational – There is no way a person would ever be harmed by a navel. Yet, those who have this fear are very threatened by them and validate their fear with irrational thoughts.
  • Uncontrollable – Those who have this fear tend to be embarrassed and feel silly about it but cannot do anything to stop it.
  • Permanent – This fear does not go away over time and is not affected by vital situations or moments in the person’s life.

Causes of Omphalophobia

As this phobia is so uncommon, the reasons for its onset have not been researched. Many authors on phobias believe that this fear could have its root in other specific phobias, but nothing conclusive has developed. It has been considered that during childhood or even childbirth, there is a traumatic memory involving the umbilical cord that could be the reason for this fear’s onset. As with the entire list of phobias, external experiences and/or news stories can further build or cultivate the fear, for instance, seeing a member of your family or a friend who is affected. In extreme occurrences, indirect exposures can be as remote as overhearing a reference in conversation or seeing something on the news or on TV and in movies.

Treatment for Omphalophobia

As the phobia is limited, so are the number of treatments. But, there are some options for people with this fear. The first is psychotherapy. More defined, cognitive behavioral treatment to help change the negative thought patterns that developed from this fear. Cognitive behavior therapy is designed for short-term, goal-focused treatments aimed at achieving practical results. This type of therapy tends to last only five to ten months. Below are some additional steps used to help sufferers of Omphalophobia.

  • Journaling – Collecting data about your moods and how you respond to them.
  • Unraveling cognitive distortions – Uncovering the cognitive distortions you are most vulnerable to.
  • Cognitive restructuring – Challenging thoughts and beliefs that are harmful and restructuring them.
  • Exposure and response prevention – Subjecting yourself to the thing you normally react fearfully to and changing how you react.
  • Interoceptive Exposure – Subjecting yourself to sensations and feelings you are afraid about and telling yourself that you are not in any danger.
  • Nightmare exposure and rescripting – Give a name to the emotion the nightmare generated and replace it with a different emotion.
  • Play the script until the end – Think about the worst situation you could find yourself in and play it out in your mind to the conclusion. You will find that the biggest part of the fear comes because you haven’t thought about the ending.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation – Relax the muscles of your body individually until your whole body is relaxed.
  • Relaxed breathing – Slow your breathing pattern until you feel mentally balanced.

Prevention of Omphalophobia

Unlike other more common phobias, like aquaphobia, there really is not a true preventative method for omphalophobia. This fear can be inherited by the actions of the child’s parents in their treatment of the belly button at an early age. Something as innocent as tickling the child may generate uncomfortable feelings regarding this area of the body even though the child is laughing at the same time. Another reason for this phobia may come from the fear a person might have with their own humanity. Fearing their mortality, they might come to believe that the belly button would be a source of disease or a weak entry point for a major challenge to their health.

Again, while this fear might cause those who hear about it to chuckle, it is no laughing matter. While it might seem ridiculous and a misplaced use of fear, the effects of it are very real. Imagine how a person feels knowing something is not to be feared but still petrified of it anyway. That is a sad and dark place to be trapped. As more is learned about this phobia, more sufferers will be able to find peace and, hopefully, overcome this fear.