| Why some people freak out about belly buttons

Our belly buttons serve as a reminder of how life started in our mother’s womb.

The umbilical cord attached to our belly button and delivered nutrients and oxygen to us until we made the journey out the birth canal.

But for some people, belly buttons can cause paralysing, irrational fear – much like someone with arachnophobia feels when they see a spider.

What is a phobia?

Phobias are an irrational fear of something – heights, spiders, tight spaces, patterns, or belly buttons. Although you know your fear is irrational, you still feel panicked or anxious when faced with (or even just thinking about) the thing you’re scared of.

Scientists still haven’t figured out why some people have phobias or what parts of the brain are responsible for the reaction.

However, they believe phobias are caused by a combination of biological factors and life events – similar to the way in which other disorders (for example, diabetes or heart disease) can be influenced by your genes and lifestyle.

phobias, infographic

People are freaking out over belly buttons

For Lauren Jones, a 26-year-old woman from Birmingham in the UK, belly buttons make her physically sick – seeing one can trigger a panic attack.

“I know it is irrational but I cannot touch them or have mine touched. I get really freaked out and it makes me feel so uncomfortable. If someone touches mine, it feels like they are touching my insides and I can feel it all through me,” she told the Daily Mail.

“I haven’t liked them for as long as I can remember. As a child someone told me to touch their belly button and then smell my finger. I just remember this overpowering smell of belly button and that’s where it all started, but day-to-day I never had to cope with it.”

TV personality Khloe Kardashian also hates belly buttons. She tweeted:

Varying degrees of fear

Omphalophobia exists in three categories.

A person who suffers from the mildest form of omphalophobia is scared of touching their belly button. They also don’t want anyone else to touch it – and they won’t touch another person’s belly button. They can, however, look at belly buttons or watch someone touching their own.

The second category is more severe – seeing someone touch their belly button or the sight of a belly button gives you the creeps and make you feel anxious.

The third category is the worst – just looking at a belly button (whether it’s your own or someone else’s) will make you feel anxious and terrified.

Treating phobias

If you’re able to avoid the thing you fear, you may not need treatment. However,  if you have a phobia that causes debilitating fear and affects your life, you need to see a medical expert who can help you manage it.

Treatment usually includes cognitive behavioural techniques, where you are slowly exposed to the object that terrifies you until your fear begins to disappear.

Relaxation and breathing exercises can also help reduce symptoms of anxiety. Sometimes medication is prescribed to help treat anxiety.

If you know that someone has a phobia of belly buttons (or any phobia for that matter), don’t tease them by showing them your belly button. Although phobias are irrational, they are quite real and very terrifying to the person who experiences them.

Image credits: iStock

NEXT ON HEALTH24X | ‘Dead’ man snores back to life right before his autopsy

A Spanish man, who was declared dead by three medical professionals, began snoring as his autopsy was about to begin.

LiveScience reports that the 29-year-old prisoner, found unconscious in his cell, was believed to be dead.

A few hours later, Gonzalo Montoya Jiménez was lying on the autopsy table with guide marks on his body to show forensic doctors where to cut. Fortunately, however, Jiménez started to snore, which ultimately saved him.

Three doctors signed death certificate

Jiménez’s family cannot believe that he had been declared dead by three doctors. Family representatives told Spanish publication La Voz de Asturias they think one doctor had made the declaration and that the two other doctors just signed the certificate without doing an examination.

The representatives add that there were several errors on the part of the authorities involved and that they plan to seek advice from a lawyer.

However, a prison official also told La Voz that all the signs pointed to Jiménez being clinically dead. The official told the publication that Jiménez had missed roll call and when they found him in his prison cell, he was blue.

Snoring saved his life

Jiménez’s body was authorised to be transferred to a forensic institution where the guard on duty began hearing snoring sounds and discovered that Jiménez was moving.

Jiménez was subsequently admitted to the Universal Central Hospital of Asturias and his family told La Voz that he suffered from epileptic attacks and that it’s possible that he had not been taking his medication regularly.

While in hospital, doctors thought that Jiménez may have lacked oxygen in the brain, but since the incident, he’s been talking and it seems his memory isn’t affected, which are all good signs.

No certain answers

It isn’t easy for doctors and other health professionals to declare whether someone is dead. When declaring death, health professionals check if it’s cardiac death – when the heart stops beating, or if it’s brain death – when the electric or neurological activity in the brain stops.

At this point, there has been much speculation around how this could have happened, but there are no certain answers. LiveScience shared a possibility: occasionally people with epilepsy suffer from a condition known as catalepsy.

When suffering from catalepsy, the person goes into a trance-like state, their muscles become rigid and they do not respond to any stimuli.

There have been several other cases where people have “risen” from the dead. The Independent recently reported on a 28-year-old Peruvian man who was declared dead after having a dental procedure.

Share your experience

At his wake, people thought they could see his rib-cage moving, as if he were breathing, and after the doctor was called, they discovered that he was showing vital signs and was taken to hospital.

Another case was 79-year-old American man, who woke up in a body bag just before he was meant to be embalmed. The man was thought dead because his pacemaker had stopped working.

Do you have a harrowing health experience that you would like to share? Send you emails to and we may publish your story. Should you wish to remain anonymous, please let us know.

Image credit: iStock | 5 reasons you shouldn’t exercise with headphones

Are you about to hit the road for a jog or go to the gym for a much-needed workout after the festive season?

Your favourite tunes might help motivate you, but be careful of those earphones – they might not be the best thing for your workout.

While studies have shown that listening to music can increase your motivation and performance during a workout, using headphones can compromise your hearing and safety by:

1. Affecting your balance and hearing

Headphones as such won’t affect your balance but, over time, loud music can cause problems with the vestibular system in your inner ear, which is responsible for your balance.

With compromised balance, exercise such as running (on the road or a treadmill) or cycling can become dangerous, especially if you exercise in areas congested with traffic, as you can fall and injure yourself. You may also damage your hearing if you regularly listen to music through earphones for a prolonged time.

2. Drowning out sounds around you

Hitting the road for a run? Listening to music while you run drowns out the sounds of oncoming vehicles or pedestrians and puts you at risk for accidents. If you absolutely cannot run without music, keep the volume low and be aware of your surroundings, especially when crossing busy roads or running on crowded pavements.

Looking to take part in road races this year? Take note: according to the Athletics South Africa (ASA) rules and regulations, the use of CD players, radio transmitters, iPods, cellphones or similar devices is strictly prohibited during a road race as they impair the safety of runners. You can actually be disqualified if the officials catch you doing this.

So If you are thinking of running more road races this year, you might want to train yourself to run on thoughts, not Nicki Minaj.

woman running in traffic

3. Restricting your movement

If you exercise with a pair of earphones that are uncomfortable or if the cord is not the right length, you can strain your neck when you perform weight or core exercises. Consider getting a pair of wireless headphones or make sure the cord is the right length if you cannot exercise without music.

women lifting weights at gym

4. Distracting you

Not only do earphones drown out the surrounding sounds and put us in danger of being knocked over on the road, but you might not be properly focusing on your workout if you drown out your thoughts with music. You can also be distracted while you fiddle with your phone or device to find the right song.

While music can be a helpful distraction for repetitive cardio on the treadmill or stationary bike, it can break your focus during weight-lifting sessions.

Do you often crank up the music to maximum volume? You might distract your fellow gym-goers if they can hear the sound blasting through your earphones. Be considerate.

woman on cellphone at gym

5. Putting you at risk for ear infections

When last did you clean your earphones? And how often do you just chuck them into your gym bag? Earphones can be a breeding ground for bacteria. According to research published in the Malaysian Journal of Medical Science, the use of headphones and earphones can create aural hygiene problems as earwax build-up and bacteria can lead to infections.

Clean your earphones often, store them in their own case, not inside your sweaty pair of shoes, and don’t share them with anyone. 

gym equipment

Image credits: iStock