Fear of cotton balls is also known as sidonglobophobia. There is not much in the clinical literature about fear of cotton balls, but on message boards and social media groups, people living with this phobia report being afraid of cotton balls and the sound they make when torn apart.
A phobia is a fear of a situation, object, or activity that is irrational, outsized, uncontrollable, and persistent. The fear is typically so strong that a person will try to avoid the cause by any means possible.
Approximately 19 million Americans live with phobias. While phobias can start at any age, they often begin in childhood. A fear of cotton balls is a type of phobia known as a specific phobia, which is a fear of something that is out of proportion to the actual danger.
Read on to find out more about the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of fear of cotton balls.
Someone who has a fear of cotton balls may not want to walk past them in a store. They may also avoid cotton swabs. Opening medicine or vitamin bottles may be stressful because of the cotton stuffed inside at the top. Some people with this phobia also may fear the plastic or foam materials that are used to help pack fragile items.
In general, symptoms of a specific phobia vary but often include:
People with a specific phobia generally know that their fear of the object or situation is excessive, but they cannot work through it. It is usually only diagnosed when the phobia interferes with life enough that it impairs school, work, relationships, or home life.
A diagnosis of a specific phobia is made by a mental health professional based on criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Fear of cotton balls is not mentioned in the DSM-5, but specific phobias are. Criteria for this diagnosis include:
- Persistent and excessive fear occurs in the presence of or in anticipation of a certain situation, event, or object.
- Exposure to the feared trigger usually causes an immediate anxiety response, which can include a panic attack.
- The individual knows the fear is disproportionate to the actual threat.
- The phobic situation is avoided; if this is not possible, the person feels significant distress.
- The phobia significantly impairs a person's normal routine; work, school, or social activities; or relationships.
- The fear lasts at least six months.
- The anxiety, panic attacks, or avoidance of the situation cannot be explained by any other mental health disorder.
Some phobias start because of previous situations: They can be the result of a traumatic experience, for example, or a person may see others fear something and learn to fear it. Other times, people can’t remember when a phobia started.
Phobias do tend to run in families, but more research needs to be conducted to further explore genetic and biological aspects of phobias.
Treatment is available for specific phobias, but many people with specific phobias do not seek treatment. This is because they are not severely impaired by their phobia, or they can avoid their trigger fairly easily. Other people may be too embarrassed about their phobia to seek treatment.
The type of therapy that is typically recommended for specific phobia is exposure therapy. It may be combined with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Exposure therapy involves safely exposing an individual to their feared event or trigger until their fear is lessened and they are able to manage being exposed to their fear. This may also be paired with deep breathing and relaxation techniques. This can involve holding cotton balls, being near them, ripping them, and more.
Finding a support group can also be helpful. Being around people who know what it’s like to live with a phobia can be validating, and they can also provide tips and tricks to help overcome the fear.
Sometimes medication can be helpful in treating a specific phobia, especially if the anxiety symptoms are intense or if you have panic attacks. Different types of medication may be prescribed, including:
Living with a phobia can be hard, especially if it's difficult to avoid the object of your fear. While you may be tempted to isolate yourself from others, try to fight that urge. Surround yourself with supportive family and friends who will be patient and understanding. If your phobia starts to interfere with your quality of life, ask your healthcare provider about treatment options.
A phobia is a fear of something that is not proportionate to the danger it poses. A person usually realizes that their fear is excessive, but they may not always seek help. A fear of cotton balls can impact someone’s life in a variety of ways, but there are treatments available, including medication and therapy. Talk with your healthcare provider about your phobia and how you’ve been managing it. They’ll be able to refer you to a professional for treatment.
A Word From Verywell
Living with a phobia isn’t easy, especially if it’s one that is more rare or not well understood. But there are treatments available that can help you manage your phobia. Tell your healthcare provider what’s going on—you don’t have to do this alone.