Omphalophobia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

The Omphalophobia is extreme, irrational and uncontrollable fear toward navels. People suffering from omphalophobia experience elevated feelings of anxiety and discomfort whenever they are exposed to their phobic stimulus, that is, to an umbilicus.

The navels feared by the subjects with omphalophobia can be both the navel itself and the navel of other people.

Despite being one of the strangest and least prevalent phobias, this alteration can generate a high level of discomfort in the person and significantly deteriorate their quality of life and functioning.

Everyday activities such as taking off clothes, showering or grooming can be very complicated tasks for a person with omphatophobia, since they involve exposing (seeing or touching) the navel.

Likewise, individuals with omphatophobia can present high difficulties when attending places where people go without shirts (and their navels can be seen), such as beaches, swimming pools, changing rooms, etc.


At present, despite being an uncommon psychopathology, omphalophobia  has a good delimitation of its symptoms and its clinical characteristics. Also, today there are treatments capable of overcoming the phobic fear of the navels.

In the present article, the main characteristics of omphalophobia  are reviewed. Its symptoms and their causes are explained, and the treatments to be carried out to overcome this alteration are postulated.


Omphalophobia is an anxiety disorder. Specifically, it refers to a rare and unusual type of specific phobia.

People suffering from this disorder have an irrational, unfounded and uncontrollable fear about the navels, so any contact with this part of the body generates high feelings of anxiety.

In this way, the main characteristic of omphatophobia is to suffer a phobic fear of the navels. This means that a person with omphatophobia has a fear of this part of the body that is characterized by:

  1. Excessive: the fear of the navels of the omphalophobia is characterized by being excessive. These elements cause an extremely high fear that bears no relation to the real demands of the situation.
  2. Irrational: the navels by themselves do not constitute any risk for people, but the subjects with omphatophobia interpret them as highly threatening. This is because the fear of the disorder is governed by totally irrational thoughts.
  3. Uncontrollable: People with omphatophobia are often aware that their fear of navels is excessive and irrational. However, they can not do anything to avoid feelings of fear as they appear automatically and uncontrollably.
  4. Permanent: The phobic fear of the navels is characterized by being persistent and permanent. This does not disappear with time and is not subject to certain stages or vital moments.


The symptomatology of omphalophobia is mainly anxious. The manifestations of anxiety appear whenever the subject is exposed to their feared elements (navels), due to the high sensations of fear that these provoke.

The anxious symptoms of this disorder are usually severe and intense. At present, it has been established that the manifestations of omphalophobia can be classified into three main groups: physical symptoms, cognitive symptoms and behavioral symptoms.

Physical symptoms

Physical symptoms refer to a series of changes in the functioning of the organism. These alterations appear as a response to the phobic fear produced by the navels and are due to an increase in the activity of the autonomic nervous system of the brain.

The physical manifestations of omphatophobia can vary markedly in each case, so they do not follow a unique pattern of presentation. However, in general, a person with omphatophobia will experience some of these symptoms when exposed to his phobic element.

  1. Increase in the cardiac rate
  2. Increase in the respiratory rate.
  3. Palpitations and / or tachycardias.
  4. Drowning sensation
  5. Increase in muscle tension.
  6. Excessive sweating
  7. Pupillary dilation
  8. Stomach and / or head pains
  9. Dry mouth, dizziness, nausea or vomiting.

 Cognitive symptoms

The cognitive symptoms refer to the irrational and incongruent thoughts that the person with omphalophobia develops with respect to the navels.

The cognitions of the alteration can adopt different forms and contents, but they are always characterized as irrational and negatively attribute the feared element (the navels).

Behavioral symptoms

Finally, to be able to speak of omphatophobia it is necessary that the fear produced by the navels negatively affect the person’s behavioral pattern.

In this sense, the alteration presents two main behavioral symptoms: avoidance and escape.

The avoidance is, in the case of omphalophobia, the most prevalent behavioral symptom and is characterized by avoiding contact with navels at all times.

This manifestation can have negative consequences such as avoiding self-washing or other activities that require contact with the navel.

On the other hand, escape is the behavior that individuals with omphalophobia set in motion when they have been exposed to their feared stimuli. It is usual for people with this alteration to escape from places like beaches or pools when seeing the navels of other people.


The etiology of omphalophobia has not been studied, however, many authors suggest that it could present common causes with the rest of specific phobias.

In this sense, living negative or traumatic experiences related to the navels, or receiving negative information about this part of the body during childhood could be important factors.


The treatment of first choice for omphalophobia is psychotherapy. Specifically, cognitive behavioral treatment has very high efficacy rates in the intervention of phobic fears.

This treatment is based mainly on exposure. A specialized therapist will expose the subject to his feared stimulus in a controlled and progressive way, with the aim of getting used to the navels and overcome the fear of them.

Also Read: Anthropophobia: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Likewise, these interventions can incorporate training in relaxation to reduce the state of anxiety and nervousness of the person, and cognitive therapy to correct irrational thoughts about the navels.