Sidonglobophobia (si-dong-lo-bo-foh-bee-uh) is the fear of cotton or cotton balls. Doctors may also call it bambakophobia, which is a combination of bambaki, which means “cotton” in Greek, and phobos, meaning “fear.”

People with sidonglobophobia have an extreme fear of cotton or anything consisting of the material. They may also dislike how cotton balls feel or sound.

Individuals with this phobia may know that cotton is harmless, but they still experience panic and dread when they come into contact with it.

Sidonglobophobia is a type of specific phobia. Specific phobias can develop following trauma or negative experiences with a particular object. The issue can also stem from an excessive fear of contamination or dirt that a person associates with cotton balls.

Continue reading to find out more about the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of sidonglobophobia.

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Sidonglobophobia is a type of specific phobia — a mental health condition that involves an intense, irrational fear of a particular object, place, or sensation.

In sidonglobophobia, a person fears cotton wool or other objects that consist of cotton. They may experience anxiety, dread, panic, and distress when they see or touch even small amounts of cotton. The fear can be debilitating and negatively affect the individual’s quality of life.

Finding definitive statistics for sidonglobophobia is challenging, as there are no studies or surveys recording this.

However, specific phobias, in general, are common. Around 12.5% of adults in the United States experience specific phobia at some time.

The main symptom of sidonglobophobia is fear or anxiety when a person comes across cotton or cotton wool. They may experience:

An individual with this phobia may also go out of their way to avoid cotton. They may avoid certain aisles in stores, opening pill bottles that may have cotton stuffed inside, or fear injections if the doctor uses cotton swabs to cleanse the skin.

The exact cause of sidonglobophobia is not always clear. However, specific phobias often begin in childhood. They can be a product of a negative experience, or a learned behavior. If a child sees others exhibit fear of something, they can also learn to fear it.

For example, a child may come to associate cotton with:

  • painful procedures, such as injections
  • contamination or germs
  • a traumatic experience involving themselves or someone else

Another possibility is that a person may have a sensory aversion to cotton or cotton balls. In this case, they may feel repulsed by how cotton feels on the skin or how cotton wool sounds when torn.

Diagnosing sidonglobophobia typically involves taking a medical history and discussing a person’s symptoms, fears, and coping mechanisms. A doctor may then refer them to a psychologist or psychiatrist for further assessment and treatment.

A mental health professional will use criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR) to make a diagnosis. A person with specific phobia will:

  • have a significant fear of a particular object
  • feel immediate fear or anxiety upon coming into contact with it
  • have fear or anxiety that is out of proportion to the danger the object poses
  • actively avoid the object
  • experience significant distress and impairment in different areas of life, such as work or social interaction
  • have persistent symptoms lasting 6 months or more
  • not have another condition that better explains the symptoms

In children, the phobia may cause sudden crying, clinging to a parent, freezing, or tantrums when they confront the object.

People with sidonglobophobia may not realize their fear is excessive until it begins interfering with their life. At this point, the person should speak with a doctor or mental health professional.

The primary treatment for phobias is behavioral therapy. This includes:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This helps someone understand their fear, identify their triggers, and notice when it is affecting them. It then teaches a person healthy ways of coping with the fear.
  • Exposure therapy: This gradually exposes people to their fear in a safe and controlled environment, reinforcing that it is not dangerous. As a person builds confidence, they learn they can handle situations where they come across cotton in daily life. CBT can also include exposure therapy.
  • Relaxation techniques: These involve techniques that can calm an individual when they are experiencing anxiety or fear, such as deep breathing or mindfulness. A person can learn these on their own or as part of CBT.

People who have sidonglobophobia due to a traumatic experience may also benefit from trauma therapy to address the memories that are causing it. There are several forms of trauma therapy, including trauma-focused CBT and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).

If a person has severe symptoms, a doctor may suggest medications that reduce anxiety. They cannot treat the underlying phobia, but they can make starting therapy easier and improve quality of life for some people.

Learn more about the types of therapy.

Sidonglobophobia is an extreme fear of cotton or cotton balls. The exact cause is not always clear, but it may stem from a negative childhood experience involving cotton.

People with this phobia may experience anxiety or panic when they are around cotton, as well as physical symptoms, such as sweating, a faster heart rate, and shallow or rapid breathing.

A doctor or mental health professional can diagnose the condition and provide treatment options, such as CBT and exposure therapy.