Posted on | January 3, 2007 at 11:17 pm | 15 Comments
For years I suffered in silence, thinking there was something dreadfully wrong with me. Only my family and a few close friends knew of my affliction, but they all laughed it off and were not very supportive. In fact, I was ridiculed by those closest to me and told to just deal with it. But now I know I’m not alone. There are many people out there with the exact same issue. My problem is real, debilitating, and is not easily dealt with. And since I no longer feel stigmatized or shamed by it, I can finally reveal it to the public at large. I do this in the hope of furthering understanding of this issue and unburdening my traumatized mind.
I have a fear of buttons.
(For reasons which will become clear, from here on out I will mostly refer to these objects of revulsion as “b’s”.)
After finally researching this issue on the web, this phobia appears to be more common than I would’ve imagined (look here, here and here, for example). However, it does not appear to be common enough to warrant a cool -phobia designation like “agoraphobia”. It seems to be known only as “button phobia”. I was astounded at how much I had in common with the other people who shared my aversion. To whit:
- It’s pretty much only plastic b’s that I fear. Metal ones, especially if they are attached by “rivets” like on jeans, do not bother me. Wooden ones are somewhere in-between. The threads and thread holes seem to have something to do with the phobia.
- Unattached b’s are the worst. Many people report wanting to vomit when coming across unattached b’s on a surface. That situation does produce an intense revulsion in me – far worse than seeing something most “normal” people are revulsed by, like a spider or snake. But it doesn’t make me feel nauseous.
- I hate the sound b’s make when the shirts roll around in the dryer, or when tossing them from the washer into the dryer. It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard.
- Even the word “button” produces a shudder in me. For example, I have a very difficult time listening to the Church song Ancient History (from the Sing-Songs EP) because of the way Steve Kilbey emphasizes the word in the line “convinced down to his BUTTONS this was how it was planned”, which makes me cringe. I really like the song other than that, but I can’t listen to it because I know that line is coming. Some people cannot even see the word written down (or typed) without experiencing revulsion. I don’t have it quite that bad, but in deference to those that do, I’ve minimized the use of the B word in this post.
- I have had this phobia as far back as I can remember. I have this memory, possibly false, of having swallowed one when I was very young (like two years old), and I always thought that was at the root of this phobia. However, now after reading the experiences of others, I think that there was no particular cause of this fear. My memory is probably of just being revulsed at the thought of accidentally eating one or touching it with my mouth.
As a kid, I used to get shirts with b’s as birthday and Christmas gifts from aunts and such who knew not (or didn’t understand) my phobia. They would just lie in my closet unused forever. They would have to be at the back of the closet, because if I happened to see them, there would be trouble. After awhile, my immediate family knew better than to give me those sorts of gifts, because they knew I wouldn’t ever wear them.
Formal events were always extremely problematic. I would often avoid going if possible, chiefly because of the fear of having to wear something with b’s. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s why I didn’t go my prom… yeah, that must’ve been it. No other phobias involved there.
Oh, I’m dealing with this phobia much better than I used to. About 9 years ago I started working for a company that has a business casual dress code, and I have to wear a button-down shirt or a polo to work. That went some ways towards acclimating me to them and overcoming my fear somewhat. (In the beginning, I thought only button-downs were allowed. When I found out that polos were okay, it was a vast relief. They are so much easier to deal with, both because there are fewer b’s and because I generally don’t have to touch them.) And let’s face it, there are formal occasions when you just have to wear a button-down. It helps if I wear a t-shirt under the shirt, because then the b’s are further away from my skin. It also helps knowing that I generally cannot see the b’s when I am wearing them. Hence, it’s almost worse for me to be around someone else who is wearing b’s than to have them on myself. And even though touching them is the worst, I have learned to suppress my revulsion long enough to button up a shirt. I’ve come a long way, baby. But still, the sight of a b sitting there unattached puts me in a tizzy.
At our family Christmas celebration this year, my sister had a decoration up on her wall which was the face of Santa. His beard was comprised of all white b’s. Even knowing about my phobia, my family couldn’t understand why that disturbed me so much and how I had to face away from it when eating. I called it “Evil Santa”.
I am so lucky to have found a caring, understanding girlfriend who tolerates my phobia.
So, that’s my Deep Dark Secret, of which I am no longer ashamed. Anyone else have any unusual intense phobias to confess?