Koumpounophobia is a relatively rare phobia, but one that does exist. It is, simply explained, an irrational and persistent fear of buttons (standalone ones or those on clothing). People suffering from Koumpounophobia tend to avoid clothes with buttons. Just the thought, discussion or sight of buttons can trigger a full blown anxiety attack. Nearly 1 in 75,000 people are known to experience this phobia.
The word Koumpounophobia is derived from Latin Koumpouno meaning buttons and Greek phobos meaning fear. It is closely related to the fear of round or circular objects or the fear of holes (trypophobia).
Causes of fear of buttons
There are many factors that can trigger the fear of buttons phobia.
- Neil Gaiman’s horror novel ‘Coraline’ (which was later adapted in a movie of the same name), had the lead character discover a parallel world with sinister characters resembling her own parents but having buttons instead of eyes. The lead character then develops Koumpounophobia because, eyes, which are otherwise gateways to the soul, in this case, become black, blank and soulless pools.
- As is the case with other irrational fears and phobias, the fear of buttons may also be related to a traumatic or negative experience in the childhood. Certain incidents or events might have triggered the phobia early in one’s childhood; an event that one might not even remember. A British bartender, for example, remembers a bucket of buttons falling on his head at the age of two. Another phobic reports fearing buttons due to his inability to do them up on his own clothes as a result of which he was teased and bullied by kids in school. Some kids might have inhaled or choked on buttons leading to a lifelong fear of buttons.
- Childhood abuse or neglect by someone wearing clothes with buttons might also trigger the phobia.
- The phobia may be evolutionary just as the fear of all circular objects is. Scientists believe that man has always been afraid of circular objects like holes as they resemble skin rashes or pits containing the unknown.
Symptoms of Koumpounophobia
People with this phobia are unable to stand the sight, sound or texture of buttons. Some are afraid of all types of buttons, while some prefer metallic buttons to plastic ones. There are different signs and symptoms displayed by Koumpounophobic individuals:
- Many refuse to attend formal events like weddings or proms as there are other guests wearing tuxedos or coats with buttons.
- They tend to freak out, or lose control at the sight of even a single button.
- Many report feeling nauseated, disgusted or sick due to an encounter with buttons.
- Some people are even afraid of pearls or, in general, all kinds of circular objects. Not only do they avoid clothing having these, they prefer square shapes as far as possible. Many dread shopping for clothes since it is difficult to get ones without buttons.
- Some individuals wash their hands repeatedly upon touching buttons unknowingly.
- In extreme cases, individuals are afraid of even writing down the word ‘buttons’ or saying it out loud. Discussion on buttons can make them hysterical or send them into a crying or screaming fit.
Overcoming the fear of buttons phobia
The sad part is that many Koumpounophobics are too embarrassed to discuss their phobia. However, there are many effective ways to overcome it:
- Talk therapy is an important part of dealing with Koumpounophobia. It can help one rationalize one’s fearful thoughts and change them positively to confront the objects of their fear. Family members and friends must be supportive to the patient instead of bullying or teasing him/her about it.
- CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) and behavior therapy are other effective means of changing negative responses to positive ones.
- Virtual reality exposure can help patients get desensitized to the objects of their fear, in this case buttons, to overcome Koumpounophobia for good.
- It is important to join self help groups (available online and offline) as these can help one realize that s/he is not alone.
- Hypnotherapy is another powerful therapy to get to the bottom of Koumpounophobia.
If Koumpounophobia is affecting your daily life, then you must consider anti depressant medication as per the guidance of a psychotherapist.
I always thought I was the only one who felt this way until I decided to google for it after seeing a youtube video of someone wearing a dress that had buttons that went from her neck all the way down to the bottom of the dress, each button about an inch apart. I shuddered and quickly clicked away from the video in disgust. I decided to check and see if anyone else felt this way about buttons, and sure enough, here I am. However, my button phobia is mild compared to my trypophobia, which is quite severe. I don’t know if I spelled that right and will never know because I won’t dare google it.
I had this phobia all of my 50+ years of life. As a male, society expects me to wear a button shirt. Or at least a polo shirt. It is difficult for me to wear either. I have accepted employment requiring the compulsory wearing of a button shirt. I disliked wearing shirts for the whole two years I did that job. Koumpounophobia is made worse by society’s compulsory requirement for you to wear buttons. I hate the damn things. I have excluded myself from society because of it. No girlfriend/boyfriend, wife, or kids. Fortunately, I currently have a job where a button shirt is not compulsory.
Tawny Biggs says
Just because of that fear? I lick my eyelashes out. Everyone has something.
“Normal” society for a Man. Expects you to wear a button shirt or suit. Even if occasionally. Not doing so makes you odd or weird. Fine. If society expects that, I won’t bother with society.
I’ve always been very interested in this particular phobia, but I don’t have it. What intrigues me is that people seem more repulsed by them than afraid. I wonder if it’s a primal fear stemming from perhaps the memory of an ancient insect or creature that was disgusting and repulsive and resembles what we know today as buttons—the white plastic ones in particular. The thought came to me when I read several posts about people feeling that the buttonholes were “looking at them.” Maybe the ancient creature had similar eyes? Just a theory.
Until today, I didn’t know this was a real thing that other people go through. I’m not afraid of them, but you are right. I’m more infuriated by them and disgusted by them. I can’t stand wearing a button-up shirt, and I can’t stand looking at other people wearing them. I will really be mad for no reason just because a friend is wearing a button-up.
It is bizarre this phobia exists. But there we are and it has common attributes amongst us.
Oh goodness! I thought I was the only person on earth who felt this way! I recently went to a quilt show that used button boxes to identify attendees’ locations. I started having a panic attack. All pieces of fabric displaying buttons in the show intensified my anxiety. Back in my early school days, we girls were required to wear dresses that buttoned up the back. A boy in my grade loved to lurk about the playground equipment digging up buttons from the dirt below and popping them into his mouth. Buttons, dirt, bits of thread. Thinking about it sixty years later nauseates me. My family loves to torture me by leaving bits of thread and buttons around. Yes, it is bizarre, but I am not alone in this fear!
I’m 53 and never tackled my phobia of buttons. Like you, my family thinks I’m a bit mad and have left buttons around the house to tease me. I feel very nervous until I hopefully have found them.
Reading your experience at school made me feel sick.
I have never told anyone but my children. I wouldn’t have told them, but one of them found out. I suppose it’s cause I would think I’m mad!
It’s surprising how much it can affect you. I go to a craft club, and the lady that runs it started talking about buttons, and I desperately wanted her to stop.
I have had therapy as I’m not good in situations where there are many people. I get very anxious, but I’m okay 1-to-1, perhaps 2 to one. The therapist talked to me a lot and discovered that when I was a child, my parents were very strict, and I was told to be seen and not heard, and she thinks that’s why I can’t mix so well. So I have been racking my brains, and I remember my mum used to wear a button-up apron. It had different buttons, textures, and sizes, and I hated it. I didn’t want to go near her or cuddle her, and I avoided it at all costs.
This is a very strange condition, isn’t it?
The thought of touching a button, especially clear ones, makes me feel creepy, dirty, sick, and dread.
I wish I weren’t like this. Have you ever tried curing the problem?
Leonor Mudzinganyama says
I agree. Most times, I think my aversion to buttons is based on a traumatic incident because for as long as I can remember, I have always disliked all buttons from elementary school. Primary school and high school were particularly difficult as the shirt and dress had different shapes of buttons. Currently, I’m trying to find a way to overcome the phobia. I wish society did not dictate dressing according to buttons. It makes having a relationship difficult as men’s clothes are usually buttoned, which I can’t stand the sight of.
I’m 66 and have feared and hated buttons as long as I can remember. Not just the sight but the feel of them, and also the sound of clothing buttons as they collide with something and make a clattering noise. Buttons encrusted with dried spilt food are the worst. But I cannot bear the word ‘button’ either, or the word ‘cardigan’. I would never wear a cardigan at school, where it was part of our summer uniform. I would rather freeze in my short-sleeved summer dress (I’m from the UK, where summers are often chilly).
I think my phobia receded a little when my kids were small, though I never dressed them in buttons if I could help it. In recent years it has become even stronger. I’m relieved and very surprised to hear that others suffer the same thing.
I can’t bear the thought of ever being cured, because then I might actually wear buttons – ugh.
here we are says
So interesting to read this and yours, the first comment, and to see that it’s recent, too. I am a few years older, but close to your age, and it’s the same. It’s a very embarrassing phobia to have. Besides the “slimy” texture, there is the idea that your clothes will open up very easily in the front. I always have to have things that go over my head and soft fabrics, cottons, whatever yoga pants or sweatpants are made of.. “cuddly” textures.
I sometimes wonder if it had anything to do with being raised by a domineering and manipulative (narcissistic) mother who continued to run (and ruin) my live until she died. And, of course, she always, always wore long dresses that opened (yes, sensitive to the word!) down the front, from chin to shin. It seems odd now that I think about it, but she never varied in dress.
I agree with you down to the last sentence – and oh, those Brownie uniforms.. Interesting to find out it’s real and that Jobs had it.. and to personally, to start to link it to sensory disorders (very sensitive to sounds, like paper rustling and crunching, too)
I have had this phobia since I can remember. I don’t know how it started. My mom said I just went crazy one day when my dad put me on his lap and he had a button up shirt on. I suffer the same as some of you and get sick to my stomach and sweaty. I have 3 children and would never put them in clothes that had buttons. My daughter now experiences some form of it. My family knows about it and my close friends. They all say the same thing when it gets brought up. “Why are you afraid of them”? It sounds insane to them. I get it. That’s the way it sounds to me when someone says they’re afraid of spiders. Crazy! I will use a paper towel to pick one up if I see one laying around and throw it away. I wish I didn’t have this. I’m glad I found this article. It helped just reading your stories and knowing I’m not the only one.
Helen Palmer-Hardinges says
Oh Blimey – I though I was the only person in the world being unable to tolerate these vile things. I wont say or write the word either. It has got easier as I’ve got older and I can tolerate some types of metal ones – but other than that I avoid at all costs. Nice to know I’m not alone.
My mother has this phobia since little and cannot recall the reason. She can fasten buttons on her clothing but can never stare at buttons for long time or stitch buttons. She is in her late 50s. She knows this phobia as rare but never knows it’s 1/75000. Thank you for your information!
I had this fear when I was a kid. I almost never wore shirts, except a few birthdays. My duvet used to have buttons instead of a zipper and it used to feel terrible when my feet used to touch to the buttons. I had to wear a buttoned shirt for school and that was okay. I slowly got rid of the fear, but I’ve just learnt about this phobia today. I suppose I’ll never know why I had it in the first place but I had it since I was 5-6 years old.
I was 5 and was gifted a cute outfit but it had 3 decorative buttons on a skirt. I remember how sickly and queasy I felt. Cold sweats and utter disgust. I remember I hid and ripped one button off but then I was scared my mum would be cross with me. Later I revealed I didn’t like buttons. My mum took the rest out, thinking I had a peculiar fashion statement to make.
But I really was puzzled why I felt so disgusted. I never thought of this until one day I saw a meme to look up koumpounophobia and was like hey! Others feel the same, that’s a real thing!
I never feared a button, but as a kid I was utterly upset, sick and had cold, sweaty, prickly palms when I saw some. But also curious. My mum had a massive tub of buttons of ALL shapes, textures and sizes.
Some I was fine with and some not so much. Looking at them and knowing they were near me felt like literally something was sucking my soul out of me.
But the absolutely worst was eating breakfast with my sister, when she was wearing a white buttoned shirt with those small, clear plastic things. Every time I noticed a button I had this sensation and thought in my head that those buttons were in my breakfast and in my mouth. It got to a point where if my sister had that shirt (school shirt 5 days a week) I was not able to eat my breakfast, especially if it was milk and cornflakes.
Now my reaction is like looking at a piece of a garment you just don’t like or find unattractive.
I could wear every button possible, but because I can does not mean I desire more buttons in my life. And also the word “button” in my native language is the only remaining trigger to make me feel like gagging again.
Phobias are so weird and mesmerizing. Is it in our dna? Some collective memory? Effect of programming? Bug in our brain? Demons tormenting humans?
I have two theories on when my condition began. Either my mum stopping breastfeeding and therefore time up started it. Or a couple of years later and not wanting to start school as I don’t recall it before then. Either way I don’t like them and especially hate women wearing shirts. I am 50 years old and don’t think I can be cured. Does anybody have any cure techniques and I also don’t like touching others reading glasses (sunglasses no problems!).
I have hated buttons ever since I could remember. They just don’t look good. I reckon a shirt without buttons looks way better than ones with. Clear ones are ugly because they shine the most in light. I hate polo shirts. They don’t make anyone look smart, especially when people button them all the way up. It is a constant struggle to conform to as buttons are used everyday by millions and billions of people that don’t even think twice about the thought of it. High school was hell for me, always getting written up for incorrect uniform. I would always try to wear my school jumper and purposely avoid having to button up the school shirt. At some point, we are forced to touch them as this phobia is unknown to many people and how would you even begin to explain why you hate them while trying not to make the other person confused? I told my boyfriend a month ago that I didn’t like buttons and he asked why. He started making little jokes though, he does not take it serious. I just don’t like the texture or sight of them, in my opinion they fail to make a shirt look good but overall I have learned since high school to adapt to the presence of them. With almost every profession out there requiring you to wear uniform that unfortunately has buttons on it, we are trapped. I considered doing nursing so all I could do was wear trainers and scrubs to work, but not sure if nursing is for me. In the meantime, my mum has assisted in removing the buttons of a polo shirt including the sneaky spare one inside the shirt, so I don’t get complaints at work again regarding uniform.
Just checking in, pretty much the same story as the rest of you. Plastic ones are the worst, jeans are fine, no trauma just hate them etc. Luckily I’m pretty moderate, I CAN wear shirts but I try not to. I guess the interesting part of my story is that when I was young I found them repulsive but not in a disgusting way, just in an extremely visually ugly way.
Until I was an adult I thought that everyone knew buttons were ugly and we only used them because we HAD to. I thought the reason men wore ties was as a way to cover buttons (because they were ugly). Even when I realized that everyone else didn’t find buttons repulsive, I didn’t think there was something odd about me. I just thought that I was more aesthetically enlightened than everyone else. Or like, everyone was colorblind except me, and only I could see this ugly thing for what it truly was. It wasn’t until I recently searched “does anyone else find buttons really ugly” that I realized I had this phobia.
The funny thing is that I LOVE fashion. I love clothes, I love pattern making, I love sewing, I even love the look of a button down shirt, except for.. that part. A button down shirt without buttons is actually perfect, and I’m actually studying fashion right now. So.. fun stuff! It’s such a relief to see so many logical and sane people here.
I’m so glad to hear that I don’t have to deal with this alone! This is very hard for me considering I’m 12 and go to a private school and my little brother says the word repeatedly around me. My dad doesn’t even believe me. Luckily my mom customizes my uniforms so I don’t have to deal with it. But still, I just bury myself in jackets and hoodies as much as possible. I constantly tell my friends it’s “heatstroke training” to hide my embarrassment.
I have had this phobia since a small child, my worst thought is dirty cracked buttons floating in milk – goodness knows where this thought came from! I have to use all my strength to go through my tin to select some when I am sewing and have to spread them out on clean paper to pick some, but I hate the feel of them, especially old plastic ones. I get this weird nervy feeling in my fingertips and my hands feel very dry and dusty. However I have no problem with clean ones on clothes that I am wearing. I am 65 and have reared three children and have just forced myself to deal with the button issue.
Oh my god! So happy to know I am not alone. I hate them. If I have to touch one, I can feel the texture and fear for a long time after. If I see one on the floor somewhere, I can’t get it out of my mind. I’m really struggling to stop thinking about it. Glad I’m not alone.
I thought I was the only one! I can’t believe so many others have this same phobia. I can’t write the word and I can’t recall ever saying the word because it makes me feel nauseous. My family will say ‘b-word’ around me because they know how much it bothers me. I’m fine with toggles and the metal ones on jeans, but the plastic ones are awful. I don’t own any clothes that can’t be fastened with a zip, and my partner won’t wear them around me.
My daughter is exactly the same, she calls them ‘rude things’ and can’t talk about it at all. This has been from forever and she is 12 now. I fear it won’t ever improve.
I have hated buttons since I was a child and I have no memory of how it started. I would refuse to wear clothing with buttons if I could avoid it. I wouldn’t say I am afraid of buttons. I just find them repulsive and they appear dirty and disgusting to me. As an adult I still avoid clothing with buttons and so does my husband because he knows how it upsets me. My worst fear is a jar of old used buttons. Just looking at old buttons makes me feel sick. If I do have to touch buttons I can force myself to but I will wash my hands thoroughly afterwards. They are just yuck in my mind even though I know it makes no sense.
This is EXACTLY how they make me feel! It is so nice to know I’m not a freak. Thank you for posting. The article was correct. It’s not something we talk about because people think we’re strange.
George (not rly) says
Very true! I never tell people about my fear because I am afraid of someone using it against me. In my case, the symptoms are very serious as not only the sight of these trigger anxiety attacks but they also increase my aggression towards people. I don’t go to therapy because I do not trust therapists with some secret I’ve been guarding my whole life.
Wow – I had no idea so many people shared my feelings about buttons! I have a very mild problem as I can wear clothes with buttons (shirts are generally OK as long as I don’t look at the buttons for too long or have to touch them much, apart from to do them up or undo them) although I prefer to stay well away. Cardigans? – no thank you! Like many others here, metal buttons (even on a trouser fly) are just fine. Zips, poppers – yep, fine too. It’s those horrible little plastic ones that are so awful. Huge ones are the worst, especially if they are simply ‘decorative’ . Pearly Kings and Queens in the old East End of London make me feel physically sick. I have got quite good at looking away from buttons or pictures of buttons so I generally cope quite well. Can’t look at a box of buttons for more than a couple of seconds without wanting to be sick! Distractions I find good – a pretty lady in a fully buttoned trench coat makes me ignore the buttons as I find trench coats strangely attractive – weird I know! Thanks for allowing us to share on this site.
I did not know someone else felt like this! Thanks for sharing this I would have felt like a freak if I didn’t look through this!
This is very interesting, I recently found out some friends of mine have/had this phobia. I’ve never really suffered from it myself (I find them annoying sometimes but apart from that). I’m curious, is this limited to clothing only or also the type you press, like on an elevator?
John P. says
I recently had to refuse a great work opportunity because of this phobia, I just can’t wear them and the shirt was mandatory, pity
I feel you. The only thing that has helped me cope is needing a shirt for work. Other than that, I feel disgusted by them, but I realize it’s related to childhood trauma.
Hazel Dawn B. Patica says
Thank you for this article. I thought I was alone in this world. My entire life I keep it hidden and surviving on my own.
I felt like this for years until I looked it up online. I often don’t talk about it because people ridicule you.
My buttons-fear is a mild one. Or at least it has greatly improved with time. As a child I couldn’t touch them, see them, hearing people talking about it. Still today, tho, I find the word “button”, in Italians “bottone” simply disgusting. I feel a certain irritation to even write it.
Anyways, now I can deal with it. But I still find so unattractive and “dirty” people who would wear them – I know it’s horrible, and rationally thinking about it, I know it’s wrong, but I still get these thoughts.
I am 25 years old and I never wore a single cloth with buttons. And I never will. (Neither I will understand people who like them).
Silver Forest says
Exactly! None of my wardrobe has buttons. Im just fine with zippers and metal snaps on jackets or jeans. I also refuse to say “cute as a button”. What a horrible thing to say to a person….lol.
Omg I agree! When I was a little girl, I had been molested a lot and was afraid of men. My mother’s friend was a seamstress and always had buttons, zippers, etc. But when she babysitted me for my mom, she had no toys for me but a box of buttons. She would say “Go watch TV with Stanley”, her one-eyed and harmless husband. I didn’t know. He was always watching Perry Mason on a tiny black and white TV in a side room. Thinking back, he WAS harmless, but I was afraid of being molested. It was a tiny room and I constantly feared he was going to sexually molest me when his wife wasn’t looking. The only toy I had to play with were her buttons, and I remember letting them filter through my fingers and feeling sick and scared. They even developed a smell to me. Some people think it’s odd or hilarious. Now in my 40s it’s ok. I’ve learned how to deal. But it makes sense to me and others when I explain it, and not many people know. My daughter and fiancé know, and don’t judge. Sometimes my fiancé has to button my shirts for my restaurant job, but he doesn’t seem to mind. I just don’t like those f-era of my clothing. I went replace a button, I’ll replace the shirt, and if I see one I have to flush it like a spider and wash my hands. I deal with spiders better, but that’s ok. I understand why my brain reacts that way and my life isn’t encumbered by it. It’s just odd to other people, and I’m fine with that. I like being rare!
Marilyn Mahabir says
I have only just seen this and realise I am probably too late to participate. I have had this phobia since I was a child. I can just manage metal or fabric covered buttons but not plastic ones. I’m fine with wooden ones. If someone has a tin filled with spare buttons I have to run out of the room. It is very embarrassing as it feels so silly.
I get so teased, if I tell anyone they think I am making it up or crazy. Buttons are sooooo disgusting. I have no clothes with buttons. I have 3 kids I don’t get them clothes with them either. I can not touch them. They make me feel so grossed out especially with stupid thread stuck in the hole. This page was great. Thank you. I feel so much happiness and relief reading everyone’s posts.
Yes, I have a daughter and will not buy clothes with them. I don’t think they’re cute or accents! I think they’re gross! The metal ones are ok, like on jeans, though I still don’t like the word.
I ONLY have clothes with them if its absolutely necessary, like for work, and I still have a pair of work pants that bug me because they have 3 of them on the front.
But once I realized the origin of my phobia, I quit being as ashamed. Only traumatic events cause phobias, and there are people with fear of grass, air, breathing, food… we’re all going to be ok.
Hi everybody who also dislike b…… ! Thank you ever so much for sharing your feelings towards these disgusting little objects.
Judy I so laughed when I read your comments, I feel exactly the same way. I also find the picture gross, and I could not eat or at least enjoy my food if there was to be a loose button on the table or the floor. It would be removed, hopefully by another person and if me, with a tissue and I certainly had to wash my hands! Ha ha…
I am a Danish female, and my family loves me, But I am also the weird left handed artist with a b….- fear. Until I found your guys comments, I thought I was a very strange case. It strikes me that some of us, feel in the same way in many aspects.
I can tolerate fabric covered ones and the ones of metal, even like some of them, But if there are holes in them.. gosh! I first “told” my parents about it in the age of two, when my brother and I was being dressed up for photography, and my skirt had two horrible red shiny plastic b…… . I cried and refused to wear that skirt. They asked me why! My response was: “They smell”. So In that photo I sit smiling with my little brother, in just stockings and NO skirt with b……
To me it is not so much fear, as a huge GROSS feeling by the sight, special plastic ones, old ones, clear plastic ones, I so dislike. And my english boyfriend does not get it. He would have posted a parcel with his POLO shirts, I hate them. I said, do you expect ME to handle your horrible polo shirts? He did not send the parcel. But This summer he wore polo shirts, and I preferred to sit next to him and not opposite, as I would be disturbed by the look of that disgusting sight. He does not get it! Thank God he does not sleep in those terrifying pajamas that has huge clear plastic b……
Thats it folks… I explain to my friends, to make Them understand, that if someone would pay me 10.000kr I would still not put a single button in my mouth. Then they seem to get it… a bit!
I am also dealing with koumpounophobia, it is of my knowledge that there are also others alike but I have never truly met one with the same phobia. I have had this phobia for as long as I remember, when I was a kid my mother used to buy clothes for me but it was always with buttons which made me refuse to ever wear any such clothing. In the end she gave up buying me anymore clothes as all that she bought were of no use. As a child it wasn’t really clear to me that I had ANY phobia, the fear and disgust of buttons, I thought, was only me being completely weird.
My reaction towards any interaction with buttons are always changing, possibly affected by the changes I undergo from different schools. There are times when I vomit, shed tears of disgust?sadness?, scream, get headaches, and become completely speechless at the sight, feel and anything to do with it. Moreover being a student, I am forced to wear uniforms and I can only tolerate it if the buttons are well, buttoned-up to its best. I absolutely despise hanging collars that are unbuttoned. And like most facing this phobia, I tend to wash any part of my body that interacts with buttons almost immediately and with the utmost detail– as my closest family members and friends usually say “it’s like you just touched dung” but again it is of no laughing matter. Gratefully I am now slowly recovering it but I still will not buy any clothing with buttons and even if there are I will be happy enough to remove it from so.
To all those facing this phobia I wish the best for you in overcoming it. Let’s not allow this phobia to burden us anymore. Love lots from me :)
Judy Florance says
Yes that photo is SO GROSS! I just had to look away and try to not see it. I bet there are a lot of other bizarre things that people are repulsed by.. so glad that I’m not alone hating the b-word. The worst for me are loose ones on the floor with (God forbid) a thread in it. I have to use a tissue to pick it up, then wash my hands.
I am a student in Clinical Psychology and Film/Media Studies. I am interested in mental health representations in the media. For my senior project, I am writing and directing a short 20-minute film on a woman who develops a phobia of buttons. Although I have my own personal story with mental illness, I do not have koumpounophobia. I will prepare substantial research in order to bring dignity to the subject and one of the ways in which I will be conducting research is through semi-structured interviews. These interviews will remain confidential and personal details will not be in the film itself. My hope with these interviews is to further my understanding of what it is like to live with a koumpounophobia and to not misrepresent someone’s experience. Please let me know if you are interested in participating or if you have any other questions. Confidentiality is ensured.
I have it. Please contact me
Hi I am from South America, so sorry for my bad english. I have had this phobia as long as I have memory. I thought I was the only one in the world with this until I saw the biography of Nicolai Tesla: he couldn´t touch rounded things like pearls. So do I. I don´t like tiny rounded things. If I touch a button I have to wash my hands. I learned to live with this as I grew up but I never feel comfortable with buttons. The tiny ones are worse for me, and this phobia is worse on rainy days too. I really don´t know why. I feel sad for those who has anxiety because of this phobia. It would be great if someone who can manage or could overcome this phobia share his successful case with us.
Well I thought I was alone too. At times some of my relatives thinks I’m being too selective when it comes to dresses.
My phobia mostly mild because im fine with cloth covered, pearly shaped, and metallic ones (as long as the metallic ones doesnt have holes on it). I dont think my fear of buttons caused by a traumatic event, i just find them disgusting and nauseating for as long as i can remember. In my childhood my phobia is kinda major, i gag whenever i see them, esp loose buttons and buttons laying on the ground covered in dirt, they were extremely disgusting (still are). And even if i have to wear clothes with buttons on it (like my school uniform), my mom used to do the buttons as i dont even want to touch it, and i always wear jumper or jacket over my shirt no matter how hot the weather is.
Now i dont immediately gag or throw up just by the sight of them, eventhough i still find them disgusting, but its better than before. And surely i still wouldnt wear clothes with buttons on it. And now that i dont have to wear uniforms, i dont even own a single shirt.
Surprised to see so many people share this phobia – I guess I’m not as weird as I thought. In my case, I believe it comes from getting my hair painfully stuck in an adult’s buttons as a kid and the sensation of being caught pressed up against those cold horrible things on a warm body. Shudder. I pretty specifically hate round plastic/bone buttons with holes – metal or fabric-covered is completely fine – which is probably connected to that cold sensation . Hotel duvets is the worst because there’s no way to be sure that they aren’t closed with buttons, and I jerk and shriek every time I brush against them accidentally. I could never date someone who wears clothes with buttons on a regular basis either. Thankfully I’ve never had to wear a uniform myself and one of the few clear advantages of being female is that that formalwear can be completely button-free without anyone noticing, so I’m mostly able to snake around the disadvantages of this phobia. Probably should get therapy though.
On a related note, I used to be terrified of Moon jellyfish (but not any other type of jellyfish, even the actually dangerous ones) though I’m mostly over that today. In retrospect, that was probably about the circular shape with four gonads looking like a button more than the jelly-ness. I wonder if other koumpounophobics have the same issue?
At first I thought I am a very weird person who is not a big fan of (but not severly afraid) of clothes buttons, but when I just search “fear of buttons” in random, I cannot believe I have landed on this page. And I cannot believe even Steve Jobs has the same phobia as me.
Even some people even has it!
You see, this phobia that I have could be very rare, but it’s surreal, but at the same time, interesting that Steve Jobs have koumpounophobia, because of his fear;
1. The Apple Pro Mouse and the Magic Mouse doesn’t have an actual looking button
2. iOS devices didn’t came with many buttons like traditional phones.
I just cannot believe that the success of touchscreen and button-less deisgn products is because of the fear I am having.
This proves that people’s weakness aren’t meant to be joke about, but sometimes they could made things change! (in this case, mobile phones and tablets)
Alex Mitlehner says
I had button phobia as a child (luckily this was in the seventies when polo-neck tops were all the rage, plus I went to a school where uniform wasn’t compulsory which helped!), then grew out of it though I’m still not a massive fan of them (I wear short-sleeved shirts in the summer months at work with a tie that covers them up, and a jumper in winter) but have never tried to make an issue of it. My phobia probably arose as my grandfather was a button merchant (!) and there were bags of buttons all over my grandparents’ house, especially in and around his office upstairs. It may be that as a small child I might have tried to swallow some and choked, though my Mum doesn’t recall this happening. I remember my grandfather telling me about the Pearly Kings and Queens of the East End of London and thought he was joking (he had a wicked sense of humour!) till I saw some mannequins dressed in Pearly costumes, resplendent with every type of button, in the Museum of London on a school trip there. I was horrified! The most amazing thing about my story is that my four-year old daughter has also developed button phobia completely independently (I have never mentioned my own phobia to her) and she says they are smelly and hates them! So perhaps there is a button phobia gene…
I am suffering from this phobia.
And i am 14.
Its really weird but i used to think i am alone but happy im not alone anymore.
Thanks for the information.
But the picture of the article is really disturbing.
Anyways I liked your article.
Thank you bye.
Wow hello I also thought I was the only weirdo that was disgusted by buttons in the world. I’m happy to see there’s many of us. I won’t wear a shirt or anything with buttons to this day but since I’m in my 30s now I can deal with a formal dress code for very special occasions. I remember it being much much worse as a child.
For a long time I thought I was alone :) Thank goodness I only have a mild phobia. It was a little worse when I was a child, though maybe I am just thinking clearly and understanding that there is nothing to be afraid of. It is not too hard to manage so I will not seek help from therapists. But maybe anyone has some advice to manage it better on a daily basis. Like keeping some buttons nearby and getting used to them? Or maybe that will just make everything worse?
I always hated having to wear clothes with buttons as a child, and then when old enough to buy my own clothes, I simply avoided them. My son is nearly 10 and has the same phobia, although he dislikes a lot of types of materials and fixings and therefore lives in joggers and soft T shirts. We’ve learned to deal with it now and amazingly he copes ok with school uniform. Maybe because he has no choice. It’s been a struggle though!!!
My 6 year old son has this problem, it’s becoming a major cause for concern for me as he is going to school next year and will have to wear a shirt with buttons on it. I would love some suggestions on how to get him to wear the shirt – please help 🙏🏻😲
Hey. From my experience what I can tell you my phobia was really bad at that age and the amount of panic attacks I would get from being forced to wear buttons as a child would devastate me. Idk if you’re child is as bad as I was when I was 6 but I would suggest to you either see if they can make an exception or get him therapy
Both my dad & my nephew both have this phobia,. They have both gotten better over the years. Maybe go velcro on the school uniforms.. ?..
I can help you. If you cut off the buttons and add velcro to the shirts like my mum does then you’ll be fine
My fear of these things is mostly mild, I’m not too bad with cloth covered ones but others just make me uneasy and sometimes do make me feel nauseous. I’m a cross dresser, for some reason when I do cross dress the phobia isn’t quite so bad but I do replace all the ones I can with shanked cloth covered ones and things like button through skirts and dresses, those I just can not bear, or purely decorative ones.
I have hated buttons my whole life. I also hate the word. The worst for me is when they are decorative. There is no childhood trauma with buttons that I can think of. I cannot believe that I am not alone.
Up until about two years ago I never knew anyone else hated buttons as much as I do. I cannot even pick one up off the floor.
All my life I have had to wear school blouses and work shirts with buttons and have just had to deal with it. But apart from that I will never buy or wear anything with buttons. Photos of mixed buttons make me physically sick in my stomach..
The bigger the button, the worse it is. All I see on TV is people wearing buttons. My eyes go straight to them. I hate it.
The older I get the worse it is getting. It was not this bad when I was younger.
I find small pale ones the worst, and large or cloth covered ones more manageable. As a teen, my uniform had the little ones on my blouse right up almost to my chin. It was traumatic. These days the only clothing I wear with them are the occasional jacket, and only if it’s the aforementioned large plus if it’s a stylish piece and is necessary. Otherwise they get chopped off. (By someone else, I am not going to have the bloody things zinging all around the room!)
I HATE these things and that picture gave me shivers all over my body. I want to take a shower now just because of that picture. I understand why it needs to be there, but it just looks so gross haha.
My four year old son won’t wear, or go near anyone else wearing clothing with buttons. It started when he was about 18 months old and hasn’t gotten any better. We have no clue what may have triggered this, but it’s a real issue for him. I once tried to make him wear a pair of pants with a button on the back pocket and he got so upset he made himself vomit. I have never tried that again. I had been hoping it was just a sensory thing, something he might outgrow..
I’m afraid that your son will continue developing this phobia. I’ve had it since I was two years old, and it just keeps getting worse. I hold my breath when in an area with buttons.
I have had a dislike of buttons for as long as I can remember. I prefer to buy clothes without them, however the worse thing for me is loose buttons. I positively loath them and they can make me feel like retching.
I am a seamstress and removed all buttons from all the clothes of both a brother and sister. I also make clothing for children and after being pleased with one of my reversible pink dresses with a circular skirt, I had to take off the buttons which were only on the dress to make it pretty, and replace them with bows. The 3 year old sister has picked up her brothers button phobia – such a shame. Tho both children love to play with my buttons and I have drawers full of them and they both tell me that mummy doesn’t like buttons. Both children have very small hands and I wonder if it’s more the fact that patience has not been used to help the children learn to do up buttons and undo them, so being bright they have just said no buttons, no pressure and no hassle. I have replaced buttons on a school uniform with Velcro which is not as easy to do as you may at first think, a very expensive phobia allowed to persist in two very bright young minds.
Oh my GOD me too :O I thought I was the only person with this fear in the world! I’m glad I’m not alone :D
My 13 year old son has this phobia, it is so major he can’t say the word. He physically heaves on trying to say it!
He has had the phobia since he was 2, it is so bad he is on strong anxiety medication because of attempted suicide because of buttons. I wish I had a magic wand :(
I was born with it. I know it seems very unlikely but my mom had it and never told me about it and as soon as I could talk I told her about how I hated them. It can be genetic.
I have a strange case of this. My grandmother had it, my mom had it, and I have it. Also, sometimes it can just be an extreme disgust. My mom never got anxiety attacks and just hates them. With me I can’t even touch them. I gag whenever I see button down shirts. I know people are already giving you a lot of hate for this, but could you at least put a warning that says there would be a picture instead of just putting it there?
Grace Kirkbright says
OMG! That picture, I made a slight screeching noise and had to completely scroll past so I never got to read the beginning.
I never even knew there was a word for how I feel about buttons, feels good to know I’m not alone.
That is a horrible pic of those irritating & dreaded buttons, there is no amount of therapy that can solve this, like marmite, you either like it or don’t!!! The shirt buttons are the worst, who on earth invented those??
Why on earth head up this article with a photo of the dreaded buttons? I am a lifelong koumpounophone and that photograph deterred me from reading any further, as I felt physically sick at the sight of that photo. Please use some common sense.
I’m sorry you feel that way but actually the photos help people find the articles when searching for help online, so they have to be here. What would you rather – find great information that explains the specific phobia in detail or find little to no information at all? I apologise for the inconvenience and hope you can see past this. I believe you will find this article useful if you do.