As far as the rarest and least documented phobias are concerned, Omphalophobia – the fear of belly buttons, perhaps tops the list. The word is derived from Greek Omphalo meaning navel and phobos meaning deep dread or fear.
People suffering from Omphalophobia are terrified of belly buttons- their own or, in some cases, those of the others. They do not like touching their navel (or even other people touching it). Sometimes the mere sight of the belly button is enough to make them feel disgusted or terrified.
The fear of belly buttons phobia affects men and women equally. Singer Jenny Frost is one of the famous celebrities with this phobia. She always warns people to “never touch her belly button”. She claims that her fear of belly buttons is persistent and “no joking matter”. Another famous individual with Omphalophobia is Khloe Kardashian who reports feeling “disgusted just touching her belly because of the presence of belly button”.
Causes of Omphalophobia
As with other specific phobias, Omphalophobia also begins in one’s childhood, particularly stemming from a negative or traumatic experience associated with this body part.
- Most phobics recount, as a child, being fascinated with their belly button. They then poke around it which ends up hurting them. Many claim to see something “dark or dirty” in their navel which they try removing using sharp objects. This “dirt” makes them feel unhygienic and causes them to become nauseated each time they see or think of the belly button.
- A baby is connected via the umbilical cord to the mother’s womb. This knowledge sometimes makes a phobic presume that the “doctors accidentally left a part of the cord behind in their navel”. For nervous and ‘high strung’ patients already suffering from other anxiety disorders, this knowledge is enough to trigger fear/ disgust response each time they have a thought about belly buttons.
- Some children might have been inappropriately poked or touched/sexually abused at the navel as a child. Their brain then triggers a phobic response as a defense/protective mechanism.
- Some phobics recall fearing that their “guts will spill out” if someone pulls at or probes around their navel.
Symptoms of fear of belly buttons phobia
Omphalophobia is a specific phobia which gives rise to a variety of physical and mental symptoms particularly when the phobic (or someone else) accidentally touches his/her belly button, or even by watching someone else touch their own belly. These symptoms include:
- Trembling, shaking
- Crying, curling up in a ball, running away and hiding
- Having thoughts of death or dying
- Feeling nauseated, vomiting
- Having an accelerated heart beat or shallow rapid breathing
Naturally, this persistent fear of belly buttons can be quite debilitating and can negatively affect one’s daily life.
Overcoming the fear of belly buttons
Omphalophobia can be quite a serious phobia, since constant thoughts about belly buttons can make one cry or feel anxious or nauseated all the time. Unfortunately, many people refuse to seek help for it, though; it is a highly treatable phobia.
Several therapies including Hypnotherapy, psychotherapy and Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) can help get to the bottom of the phobia. Naturally, these must be done only under the guidance of a trained and experienced therapist. Sometimes, anti-anxiety medications may also be prescribed, particularly in case the phobic response is very severe or is affecting the day-to-day life of the sufferer. However, such drugs should not be taken for long term as they tend to have side effects and only provide symptomatic relief and not cure the phobia.
Apart from these therapies, few self help techniques may also be implemented at home with the love and support of friends and family. These include meditation, positive visualization, and gradual desensitization to overcome the fear of belly buttons. The latter includes gradually exposing the phobic to his object of fear. Thus, one can start by looking at a photo of belly button, touching it or letting a family member touch it. Deep breathing when performing these steps can greatly aid the phobic in overcoming Omphalophobia.