Omphalophobia is the irrational fear of belly buttons. Someone experiencing this disorder may endure very intense bouts of anxiety when merely thinking of belly buttons. They may in fact realize that their fear is very irrational, but when they are in the presence of a belly button, they are typically unable to realize this. In extreme cases, they may experience anxiety that is so intense that they will have a full blown panic attack which will require them to be hospitalized.
Someone suffering with omphalophobia may not only fear other people’s belly buttons, but they may also fear their own belly button as well. This may give them even more anxiety as they may go to great lengths to ensure that they never lay eyes on their own belly button. They may not have any sort of logical reasoning for their fear either.
They may simply find belly buttons to be grotesque looking. Be that as it may, it is also not implausible for someone with omphalophobia to fear belly buttons based solely on irrational reasons such as a superstition of some sort.
Someone with omphalophobia may also suffer from other phobias or anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). If this is the case, then their omphalophobia may be exacerbated. This can clearly be seen when we look at OCD. Someone with omphalophobia and OCD can expect to spend a great deal of their time obsessing about belly buttons.
Symptoms of Omphalophobia
As is the case with virtually all other phobias, anxiety will be the main symptom experienced in people suffering with omphalophobia. As previously mentioned, their anxiety may be so intrusive that they may even have full blown panic attacks that will require them to be hospitalized. Though this may not be the norm, it is very possible for someone’s omphalophobia to be this severe insofar as they have the proper genetics.
Someone with this condition may find it extremely difficult to virtually impossible to go to beaches, public pools, or other areas where people’s belly buttons may be overtly exposed. This may greatly lower their self-esteem and confidence. Depending on their particular circumstance, they may even experience symptoms of depression.
If someone with omphalophobia is also fearful of their own belly button, then they may go to drastic measures to ensure that they almost never see their own belly button. This may mean wearing a shirt when it is not purposeful or effective to wear one, such as in the shower for example. Every mental disorder has a spectrum of intensity, so the foregoing example may only apply to those with an extreme case of omphalophobia.
Below, you will see some more common symptoms of omphalophobia:
Intense anxiety when seeing other people’s belly button
Anxiety when merely thinking of belly buttons
Intense anxiety when seeing their own belly button
Unable to cope with very strong emotions
May experience panic attacks
Muscle tension, shakiness, and sweating
Causes of Omphalophobia
The exact cause of omphalophobia is not known. However, genetics and one’s environment are likely to play very significant roles. For instance, someone with a family history of mental illness, especially with anxiety disorders may have a higher chance of developing omphalophobia. This will be mainly due to their increased risk of being genetically predisposed to developing mental illness in the first place.
However, omphalophobia is such a specific phobia that it is more likely that there is also an environmental factor included. For instance, someone may have developed an irrational fear of belly buttons due to them having a traumatic experience of some sort that was severe enough to leave them with a permanent “mental scar.” This, along with having the proper genetic makeup may be enough for someone to develop the omphalophobia.
Though we do not definitively know what causes someone to develop omphalophobia, there is a consensus among many mental health professionals that genetics and environmental factors likely play very significant roles in the development of any given mental disorder. In addition, if someone were to already be suffering with a mental disorder, especially an anxiety disorder such as GAD or OCD, then this may open the door for them to develop omphalophobia insofar as their genetics and environment were aligned correctly.
Omphalophobia Treatments (abridged)
Just as there is no known cause of omphalophobia, there is also no treatment that is specifically designed for people with an irrational fear of belly buttons. Be that as it may, exposure therapy may be very advantageous for treating this disorder. In fact, exposure therapy is one of the most common and effective methods for treating people suffering with phobias.
Just as the name implies, exposure therapy works by the therapist slowly exposing the patient to their fear over time. Though this will inevitably give the patient an intense amount of anxiety during each session, it will also help to desensitize the patient from their fear. This is one of the main goals with exposure therapy. Theoretically, the more someone with omphalophobia is exposed to belly buttons, the less it will bother them over time.
Exposure therapy is not for everyone and it should be implemented by a very adept therapist who has a lot of experience with treating people suffering with phobias. This is very important due to the fact that if someone with omphalophobia is exposed to too much too soon, then it may have an opposite affect on them by exacerbating their disorder and worsening it in the long run.
Besides exposure therapy, anti-anxiety medication may also be able to help minimize some of the symptoms associated with omphalophobia. However, merely taking medication by itself may not be enough to truly improve the symptoms of this disorder in the long run. This is likely due to the fact that the patient will need to learn how to think differently about their fear of belly buttons, as well as learn how to cope with their strong emotions. This is something that will need to be practiced over time.
Exercise for Omphalophobia
Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including omphalophobia. Specifically, cardiovascular exercise can significantly help to relieve one’s stress. This is not to say that weight-resistance training would not benefit someone with anxiety, but rather that aerobic exercise is has been shown to be more effective at releasing those feel good chemicals in the brain, such as endorphins.
According to the American Psychology Association, exercise can help to condition the mind to better cope with stressful situations. This makes sense when we take into consideration the high amount of stress that the body is put under during strenuous exercise. So, if you yourself are sedentary, then engaging in some form of aerobic exercise may be able to significantly help reduce your symptoms of omphalophobia by making it much easier for you to cope with the anxiety and stress that’s associated with this condition.
There are many different aerobic modalities that you can partake in to help reduce your symptoms of omphalophobia, such as swimming, biking, skiing, walking, and jogging. You can also acquire the many benefits of exercise by playing sports such as tennis, soccer, basketball, and racquetball, among many other sports. Engaging in some form of exercise consistently may be able to help relieve some of the pain associated with omphalophobia over time.
Practicing Yoga for Omphalophobia
There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from omphalophobia. In part, this is due to the meditative state of mind that yoga tends to emit in those who practice it on a consistent basis. Yoga can be thought of as meditation in motion. It can help to relieve some of the anxiety associated with omphalophobia due to the mere fact that by engaging in yoga, your attention will be redirected to something more productive.
There are many different types of yoga that someone with omphalophobia can benefit from, such as hatha yoga or hot yoga, among many others. Nevertheless, regardless of the many different forms of yoga that exist, virtually all of them can help to relieve some of the stress and anxiety that is associated with omphalophobia.
If you have never practiced yoga before, then it may be in your best interest to take a class or watch some guided videos that can help you through each pose. Just like with meditation, the more you practice yoga, the more adept you will become at it. Besides helping you to reduce your symptoms of omphalophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.
Reducing Caffeine for Omphalophobia
It is no secret that consuming large amounts of caffeine throughout the day can aid in making you more anxious. This makes sense when we look closely at how caffeine affects our body’s physiology. When we consume a high dose of caffeine, our heart will start to beat faster and we become more tense. Essentially, our body will begin to go into a “fight or flight” state of mind. Such a frame of mind is often a precursor for someone with omphalophobia to experience panic attacks.
So, consuming little to no caffeine throughout the day may be able to significantly help reduce your day to day anxiety. Although doing so will likely not make all of your anxiety go away, it will indeed help you to reduce any unnecessary suffering that you would have otherwise experienced if you were to consume a large amount of caffeine.
Beverages like coffee and tea are often high in caffeine, as well as some energy drinks. In fact, even some foods have caffeine in them as well, such as dark chocolate. Being more conscious of your daily caffeine consumption may help you to reduce some of the symptoms associated with omphalophobia.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Omphalophobia
DBT is a very effective form of treatment for people struggling with emotion regulation. It is often used to treat people suffering from borderline personality disorder. Nevertheless, it can also be very advantageous for someone suffering from anxiety disorders like omphalophobia too. This is due to the numerous amount of coping skills you can expect to learn in a DBT group. These groups typically last about 6 months long and can have anywhere from two people to several people depending on how many join the group.
One very effective DBT skill for helping someone with omphalophobia is half-smiling. This technique works by having you think about that which you fear or upsets you all while slightly raising the corners of your mouth by lightly smiling, thus the term “half-smiling.” Although, it isn’t enough to just think about your fear while half-smiling, you also have to try and refrain from entertaining those painful emotions that your specific fear may evoke.
Mindfulness meditation is also heavily used in DBT and can greatly benefit someone with omphalophobia as it is done in a group setting, which helps to put the patient out of their comfort zone. These group mindfulness practices may include drinking warm tea to hone in on the sense of taste and tactile senses or simply focusing on the breath.
Coping ahead is another very useful DBT skill that can help someone with omphalophobia. With coping ahead, you will want to find a place where you can sit down quietly without distraction. Close your eyes and then think about the many different possible scenarios where you would face your specific fear and overcome it or cope with it. Doing so will help you to be much better adept at coping with your omphalophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.
Psychiatric Medications for Omphalophobia
These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe omphalophobia due to the fact that people with phobias often experience panic attacks as well. Some common anti-anxiety medications include Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin, among many others.
These types of drugs are not typically taken on a daily basis, but they may be insofar as their omphalophobia is severe enough. However, this is something that you should first discuss with your doctor before you decide to do so to ensure that it is safe and effective.
These types of medications aren’t only for people who suffer from depression as they can also help people suffering from anxiety disorders as well, such as omphalophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of omphalophobia.
These types of drugs are typically taken on a daily basis. They can indeed help prevent panic attacks from occurring, but they are more so used to help reduce people’s daily anxiety. Talk to your doctor to see if taking antidepressants can help to reduce your symptoms of omphalophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Omphalophobia
CBT is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve one’s mental health. It is a modality that is often used to treat people suffering from anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. Someone with omphalophobia may also be able to benefit from CBT as well seeing as how it would allow them to have a much better understanding as to why they think and behave the way they do in relation to their irrational fears.
CBT can be immensely helpful for someone with omphalophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with omphalophobia is exposed to their fear, they will almost always have an instantaneous subconscious reaction to their fear. Such a lack of introspection is likely a large part of why someone with this condition will suffer to the extent that they will. CBT can help you to take a step back and analyze your fears more deeply than you typically would.
Besides learning to be more fastidious with regards to understanding one’s specific fears, someone with omphalophobia engaging in CBT can also expect to learn various other skills aimed at helping to relieve the anxiety caused by their condition.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Omphalophobia
MBSR is an 8-week evidence-based program that offers secular, intensive mindfulness training to help people who are suffering from anxiety, stress, depression, and other sorts of mental anguish. MBSR may be able to significantly help someone who is suffering from omphalophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with omphalophobia can expect to learn a plethora of different skills that can help them to relieve the intense anxiety that’s associated with their specific phobia.
Talk to your doctor or therapist to see if MBSR can help you to reduce the intensity of your symptoms of omphalophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.
Practicing Meditation for Omphalophobia
There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from omphalophobia. Specifically, mindfulness meditation has been shown to be quite beneficial for helping people to enter into a more equanimeous state. There are many different ways with which you can implement mindfulness meditation and there are also many different meditation apps which are designed to make things as easy as possible for you.
Mindfulness has the potential to significantly help those suffering from omphalophobia due to how it will help one to distract themselves from their fear by refocusing their attention onto something else that does not have any sort of emotional baggage attached to it, such as by focusing on the breath for example. This is one of the most basic ways that one can meditate and be present.
For someone with omphalophobia in the midst of a panic attack, redirecting one’s attention to the various sensations felt when breathing can actually help to reduce the amount of mental anguish experienced during such an influx of anxiety.
To implement mindfulness meditation to help relieve one’s symptoms of omphalophobia, you can do so by paying close attention to the way the muscles in your abdomen and chest contract and relax with every inhale and exhale. You can spend time dwelling on how it feels as your chest expands during each inhale and how it sinks in with every exhale.
Besides focusing on your breathing, you can also focus on the sounds around you, the way your skin feels as you touch certain objects, the way foods taste, as well as the way certain aromas smell. Essentially, honing into your 5 senses can significantly help you to reduce some of the anxiety that is associated with omphalophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.
Exposure Therapy for Omphalophobia
As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as omphalophobia. It can be an efficient way to help desensitize the patient to their specific fears. Be that as it may, it is imperative that the therapist implementing it on their patient is very adept at doing so. For example, if the therapist were to slightly expose someone with omphalophobia to their fear, then it may not be very effective as they may need a higher amount of exposure to truly trigger any sort of worthwhile change in the patient.
The same can be said for the antithesis of this scenario. If the therapist were to excessively expose someone with omphalophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their omphalophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with omphalophobia has a very strong sense of just how severe their symptoms are so that they can know the level of exposure that the patient will likely be able to handle.
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