Unusual phobia of mother, 30, who is paralysed by fear when she sees… BUTTONS
Meet mother-of-one Louisa Francis, whose bizarre phobia means she is terrified of buttons.
The 30-year-old panics if faced with one, and is forced to flee if they are placed too near to her.
To most people they are harmless but for Louisa they are a source of fear – because she has koumpounophobia.
Button it: Louisa Francis, from Newcastle, suffers from koumpounophobia – the fear of buttons
Her odd phobia developed at the age of seven, after a childhood game involving buttons terrified her so much she had to run away.
Ever since then even the thought of the round, plastic objects has made her squirm.
She said: 'The worst incident was when I was in Asda, and the checkout woman was wearing a blouse with a cardigan on over the top, and she was also wearing bracelets made of buttons.
'Her button bracelets were coming closer towards me every time she scanned my shopping, and I couldn't stay calm.
'Everyone was looking at me and I just panicked and had to run out without my shopping.'
The mother, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, refuses to buy any clothes for her and her daughter Bobby if they have buttons on, opting for zips instead.
Agghhh! The 30-year-old panics if faced with buttons, and is forced to flee if they are placed too near to her
Watch out! Miss Francis vacuuming with her daughter Bobbie, 11, who isn't scared of buttons
Apart from her fear of buttons, Louisa Francis is an otherwise perfectly normal mother-of-one from Newcastle
If family or friends buy Bobby clothes she insists plastic buttons are removed because she struggles to wash or iron her daughter's clothes otherwise.
She said: 'I know it's irrational, and I obviously know a button can't hurt me, or even move, but there's just something about the shape and texture that really freaks me out.'
If she somehow accidentally touches a smooth plastic button she obsessively scratches her fingers, in a bid to rub the button's texture off her skin.
Buttons on jeans are acceptable however, because they don't have the same feel or appearance as the shiny plastic version.
Miss Francis recalls another time she opened the door to her daughter after school, only to be confronted with a larger-than-normal button in her daughter's hand.
She said: 'I just shrieked, and ran away. She had me trapped in the corner of the living room for a while, until my sister told her that was enough.
'Bobby finds it hilarious. I used to find it embarrassing but I've learnt to joke about it too now.'
Miss Francis hopes to help others overcome their unusual phobias and she is now training to become a counsellor.
Since starting her part-time foundation degree in counselling she is able to deal with the condition more through coping mechanisms taught to her, but is still unable to touch them or allow them too near to her.
She said: 'It really used to affect my chances in job interviews, but I know more about self-control techniques now, so if someone is wearing buttons I try really hard to control my reaction.'
'It still makes me feel uncomfortable but I can now distract myself if it's just on someone's shirt, however if it starts coming towards me I still panic.'
Dr Dawn Harper, who hosts Channel 4 show Embarrassing Bodies, said: 'It is possible to develop a
phobia to about just about anything and whilst this is an unusual phobia,
Louisa's story of being able to identify the trigger as an unpleasant childhood
event associated with buttons is typical.
'It is easy to mock her phobia and
Louisa herself admits that it is an irrational behaviour but the physical
symptoms of panic are very real to her and she has done the right thing in
seeking psychological help.'