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We All Have Our Quirks – Rare Phobia

By Sylvia Wells

The road to recovery is not always apparent, especially when you don’t realize there is something that requires recovering from. It wasn’t until about a year after my son developed a rare phobia that I finally realized he had a real and serious issue. My son has a fear, or should I say a hatred, of buttons. Yes, you read correct: buttons. The proper term in Koumpounophobia and he’s not alone. There are others and thank goodness for that. Otherwise I never would have known.

For a full year his odd quirk was driving me absolutely mad. It made no sense to me whatsoever that my son would refuse to sit at my side if I was wearing any clothing sporting buttons. Sometimes I didn’t even realize I was wearing buttons until he started acting strange and then I would have to change my clothes before he would come near me. His own mother! He was always refusing to hug his Grandmother (a big fan of button-up blouses) good-bye after a visit and treating people with resentment in general who wore buttons on their clothes. It became difficult to correct and cope with his behaviour without becoming extremely frustrated with him. Any buttons on his clothing had to be cut off, and without his knowledge, or else they simply would never get worn. He was livid with his Uncle and Aunt one Christmas for buying him a shirt with buttons on it from the GAP. I think he still holds a grudge against them to this day, four years later! It was as though they had betrayed him or played a cruel and hurtful joke on him.

A year had passed and the problem had not gone away. Frustrated, I decided there must be something more to it other than an attitude problem. Lo and behold there were others like him out there. Button Haters. It is a phobia but the poor soles suffering from it do not fear buttons, they hate them and regard them as we would a cockroach or a spider, as a disgusting nuisance. As soon as I sat down with my son and let him know that I finally understood his pain, he breathed a sigh of relief and we began a new chapter in our lives. One in which we spoke openly about his issue and tried home-made cognitive therapies to help him to get used to having buttons around. I so feared how this phobias would affect him later on in life – he can’t exactly go to a job interview in a sweat shirt can he? Will he get married in a track suit? Not my son. With the help of professionals and a wonderful treatment called Neuralistic Programming we are finally on the right path to recovery.

Teachers tried to label my son with ADD, completely ignoring the fact that he has a phobia that distracts him from concentrating in class. In fact, one teacher actually rolled her eyes when I told her he had this phobia. There is no kind of general awareness about this phobia and I do admit that it sounds ridiculous to be afraid of buttons. But there are also people out there with other very odd phobias such as a fear of cotton, or of polka dots. I wonder how they are holding up?

In researching this phobia I realized that many of its sufferers have been alone in their misery, not knowing that there were others like them. In almost every case, they claim that they hate buttons, they make them want to vomit and that it is only a specific type of button that bothers them. That being the small plastic variety such as the ones found on men’s dress shirts and on so many other articles of clothing.

At the end of the day I look upon this journey of ours as something that will bond my son and me forever. I am his hero for allowing him to have his phobia, know that he is not alone, and for helping him find help. My goal is to educate as many people as I can about Koumpounophobia so that the button haters out there will find relief in knowing too that they are not alone.

About the Author: Sylvia Wells is an Oakville mother learning to deal with parental curve balls as they come.

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