By June Kosier of East Greenbush, NY
Do you know what koumpounophobia is? I bet you don’t and until recently, neither did I. I was amazed to find out what it is and even more stunned to know that there is such a fear especially since I collect the objects that are feared and belong to a club that centers around the objects—–buttons.
The word Koumpounophobia is derived from the Latin Koumpouno, meaning buttons, and Greek, phobos, meaning fear. This phobia is experienced by almost one in every 75,000 people. 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. A traumatic event in childhood may trigger this fear. Choking on a button, having grandma’s button box fall from a closet shelf spilling on one’s head, or having difficulty fastening buttons on one’s clothes leading to bullying are examples of such incidences. Childhood abuse by someone wearing buttons can also trigger this phobia. Some people may have koumpounophobia triggered by an event they cannot even remember.
There is a novel, Coraline, by Neil Gaiman, which was also made into a movie in which the lead character, Coraline, develops koumpounophobia. Coraline discovers a parallel universe with sinister characters resembling her parents but having buttons for eyes.
There are different signs and symptoms of people with koumpounophobia. Some are afraid of all types of buttons. Some are afraid of buttons made of a certain material, such as plastic. In extreme cases, saying the word “buttons” or writing it down can send a koumpounophobic into hysteria. Some become nauseated with a button encounter. Some won’t attend formal events because there will be participants wearing clothing with buttons. Some individuals wash their hands repeatedly upon touching buttons unknowingly.
A famous person with this phobia was Steve Jobs. Do you ever remember seeing Mr. Jobs in a shirt with buttons? No, he always wore turtlenecks. Because of his koumpounophobia, the Apple Pro Mouse and the Magic Mouse don’t have an actual looking button, and iOS devices didn’t come with many buttons like traditional phones.
Fortunately, I don’t know anyone with this phobia. My home is filled with knickknacks made with buttons and I often put buttons on my needlework. At Christmas time, I have a tree decorated with ornaments made with buttons. I also make and wear jewelry made out of buttons. I have earrings, rings, bracelets and pins made with buttons. Coming to my home would be a nightmare for a koumpounophobic.
There are two button sayings which are: “Button, button who’s got the button?” and “Cute as a button.” I guess a koumpounophobic would not have a button nor consider any button cute.