Fear of Belly Buttons – Omphalophobia


Belly Button Fear, Real but Rare

Do you wake up feeling disgust when thinking about belly buttons?

Does going to the beach worry you or being in places where there are exposed belly buttons?

Do you show disgust or anxiety when someone wears risqué clothing showing the belly button? If the answer to any of these questions is a yes, then you are most likely suffering from omphalophobia.

Omphalophobia is the fear of what body part? It is the fear of belly buttons or navels.

Not everyone likes to look at belly buttons or human navels. However, some people face dread while seeing or even thinking about looking at a belly button. If you have omphalophobia, it is quite likely that you feel overwhelmed when you look at a navel. Shivering, sweating profusely, dry mouth, shortness of breath, and tightness in the chest are common symptoms faced by those who have omphalophobia.

Is omphalophobia common? Unlike many phobias, omphalophobia is not common among people. Hence, you might feel that you cannot discuss your phobia with anyone. This might further lead to social isolation and in some cases, depression.

Did you know the medical name for a belly button is: Umbilicus

How to Address Omphalophobia?

Although omphalophobia can be considered an irrational fear, there are ways to treat it. One can easily overcome this phobia. The first step towards handling this fear is to understand why you have it.

Let us explore what omphalophobia is, its symptoms, and the various treatments available to cure it.

What is Omphalophobia All About?

The word ‘omphalophobia’ is a combination of the Greek words ‘omphalo’ meaning ‘navel’ and ‘phobos’, meaning ‘fear’. Hence, omphalophobia is defined as the ‘fear of navels’. Omphalophobia is considered to be a kind of specific phobia, implying that these phobias cause extreme and persistent fear in people when they are faced with a particular situation or thing.

What causes omphalophobia? Why do I feel sick when I touch my belly button? There are various reasons why you might have omphalophobia and others may not. Let us take a look at some of the possible causes of omphalophobia:

Childhood injury
Children are fascinated with the different parts of their bodies and want to know more about them. The navel is no exception. Some children might poke their belly buttons while playing with them, which in turn, can hurt them. Hence, they might dread looking at or touching their navel again, for the fear of injuring themselves.

Its delicate nature
Some people may see that their belly buttons are dark or have dirt in them. They might then try to clean it using sharp objects, hurting themselves in the process. The fact that there was dirt in their navels or that they hurt themselves may then create feelings of fear and disgust in the minds of such people, who would not want to look at their navel again.

Presence of umbilical cord in the navel
For some people, omphalophobia might be triggered by the fact that doctors accidentally left a part of the umbilical cord in the navel during childhood. Hence, even thinking about belly buttons can trigger feelings of anxiety and disgust in such people.

Physical/Sexual Abuse
Those who might have been inappropriately touched at the navel in the past may have symptoms of omphalophobia. Thus, seeing or thinking about belly buttons brings forth a lot of unpleasant memories. Such people might deliberately find ways to avoid thinking or looking at belly buttons or avoid going to places where they believe they might chance upon other people’s navels.

Vicarious Conditioning
In some cases, vicar conditioning may also trigger omphalophobia. Vicarious conditioning implies a type of learning where an individual develops fear or dread of something after looking at someone else suffering from a problem. In the case of omphalophobia, phobia of the belly buttons can develop after looking at other people suffering from problems such as navel deformity,
injuries, or navel pain.

Similar to other phobias, the onset of omphalophobia begins in childhood, particularly after a negative or traumatic experience. However, some people might also develop omphalophobia due to a predisposition to anxiety, or family history, where members of a family have suffered from omphalophobia.

Symptoms of Omphalophobia

Upon the onset of omphalophobia, its symptoms last for at least six months. Let us take a look at the psychological and physical symptoms of omphalophobia.

Psychological Symptoms
● Panic attacks
● Difficulty concentrating
● Inability to relax or calm down
● Becoming easily triggered or irritated at small things
● Avoidance
● Interference with daily activities

Physical Symptoms
● Trembling
● Excessive sweating
● Dry mouth
● Shortness of breath
● Tightness in chest
● Increase in heartbeat
● Upset stomach
● Nausea

Not all those who suffer from omphalophobia experience all the symptoms listed here. Some people may only have a few symptoms while others may experience all the symptoms depending upon their past experiences and exposure to belly buttons.

Self Help- What Can I Do to Help Myself?

Omphalophobia or the fear of belly buttons doesn’t affect many people. As a result, those who have been diagnosed with a phobia may be unable to openly discuss or seek help.
However, even if you prefer to undertake omphalophobia treatment on your own over seeking professional help, several relaxation techniques that can help you overcome this phobia:

● Deep breathing
● Muscle relaxation techniques to help you relax your body and mind. One of the most effective techniques is Jacobson’s relaxation technique that focuses on tightening and relaxing specific muscle groups in sequence.
● Mindfulness techniques such as yoga, guided meditation, or pursuing creative hobbies.
● Seeking out support groups of people with phobias
● You can also try to expose yourself more to belly buttons to see if you can tolerate their sight. If this does not work, then it might be best to seek therapy.

Professional Help for Omphalophobia

If self-help techniques are not effective, you should seek professional help. Two techniques can help one overcome omphalophobia: cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy. Let us understand what these techniques are and what they entail.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
Under CBT, a therapist can help you overcome your phobia of belly buttons by helping you perceive or think about belly buttons differently. This technique will help you react differently towards navels than you would do normally. CBT is a short-term technique that will focus on your omphalophobia by equipping you with certain tools to help you manage it better.

Exposure Therapy
Exposure therapy, also known as systematic desensitization, is a specific type of CBT in which your therapist will deliberately expose you to your phobia of belly buttons while helping you take control of your fear. In this technique, the therapist will repeatedly show you photos of belly buttons, in the hope that it will reduce your fear and increase your confidence in how you manage it.

How to Avoid Omphalophobia Altogether?
If you want to avoid confronting your fear of belly buttons altogether, then you should find ways to avoid thinking about or seeing belly buttons. Avoid creating thoughts of belly buttons by distracting yourself with positive thoughts. You should also avoid watching TV shows or movies where you believe you would have to see people’s navels or stop reading magazines that have images of belly buttons.
Lastly, if you can, avoid going to places such as the beach or gatherings, where it is likely that people would be wearing clothes that reveal their belly buttons.

In Conclusion
While omphalophobia might not be common, it is certainly not incurable. With the right help and treatment, you can surely overcome your fear of belly buttons and lead a normal, happy life.

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