‘They make me feel physically and mentally sick’: fresher plagued by button phobia

You think your life is tough? Imagine not being able to do up that top button like all the other indie kids

buttons carnatic fear fresher Phobia Rankin scare scary

Meet James, a first year Chemical Sciences student who’s terrified of buttons.

He doesn’t own a single shirt and says just looking at them makes him feel “physically and mentally sick”.

James, who suffers from Koumpounaophobia (yes, that is a thing) is even considering skipping the Rankin formal dinner because he just can’t face touching buttons on a shirt.

His life consuming fear started when he was just 10 years old.

He told The Tab: “I had to dress up as an old man for my year six play.

“That was the first time I had to do up a shirt and I had to get my mum to do it for me.

“The buttons on the shirt were disgusting, I couldn’t even look at myself. It was horrible.”

Cute as a button

Cute as a button

Things only got worse when he started secondary school, and was forced to wear a shirt every, single day.

“It got worse when I got to secondary school though – I had to wear shirts every day. It was tough.

“I never used to fully unbutton my shirt. I’d only undo the top button and slide out.

“It was quite good though, because after P.E I’d always know which shirt was mine because it was the one with only one button undone.”


Those little demons

Because of his disease, James faces the daily struggle of choosing which t-shirt to wear, because that’s all he owns.

He added: “I don’t own a single buttoned shirt. Literally my whole wardrobe is t-shirts.

“My mum bought me a swanky new shirt to bring with me to uni but I didn’t bother.

“She rang me the next day telling me I’d forgotten it and I just did the whole ‘silly me’ response.”

The poor fresher hasn’t got the confidence to tell his friends, so he’s forced to lie and put on a front.

“Not many friends know. When asked why my top button is undone I just say ‘because it’s easier’.

“I have a coat at the moment, it makes me feel physically and mentally sick.

“It’s a really nice coat but one of the buttons has been pulled a bit, so it’s like half on, hanging from the thread.

“Honestly, it’s disgusting.”


He continued: “Threaded buttons are the worst.

“Oh my god, the thread is the worst part. The way it just weaves in and out of the little holes makes me feel fucking sick.

“Pop buttons are fine, so are jean buttons. I was bought a pair of £30 chinos from River Island.

“They’re really nice trousers but they had a massive white threaded button on them. Straight to the bottom of the wardrobe.

“They make me feel physically sick.”

James worries what the future has in store for him. Grad life and job interviews could see him facing his phobia on a frequent basis, more than he’d like.

“If I was forced to wear a shirt, like absolutely forced to, I’d have to bite the bullet.

“It wouldn’t be too bad though, because when you buy a new shirt it already comes buttoned. So I’d undo the top button and just put it on that way.

“I would switch back to a t-shirt after the first two months of being there though.”