I know what you’re thinking ‘Fear of holes – WTF?’
“The most common phobia you have never heard of”
Dr Geoff Cole University of Essex.
What is Trypophobia?
Trypophobia derived from the Greek word trypo and means ‘boring holes & Fear’.
Trypophobia is the phobia (or irrational fear) of clusters of small holes or irregular patterns. Yep, it is a real thing & its affects 16 percent of people according to a new study in Psychological Science.
What triggers it you say?
For me it’s images, the lotus seed pod, tafoni (a rock formation), coral & bone marrow are classic examples of the sort of tunnel like holes that make me shiver and feel itchy. Sponges, crumpets, soap bubbles, honeycomb, cantaloupe and even aero chocolate are among the triggers for some people suffering with trypophobia. Other people say it is the texture of the holes that gets to them.
If you are struggling to follow me here, try typing ‘Trypophobia images’ into Google. I’m sure this will help give you a clearer picture. I wouldn’t recommend this for anyone who thinks they may be affected as it is not a pleasant experience.
Just saying the words clustered holes makes my hairs stand on end & seeing a picture of a lotus pod, especially photo shopped into someone’s nipple or tongue (honestly who did this?) makes me want to stab my eyes out and rip my skin off.
If you suffer like me, your heart may be already racing, and you may have goosebumps all over or even feel anxious. I promise not to show any pictures (there are enough of those on every other article you can find!)
Instead here is a kitten to calm you down.
What kind of reactions are triggered?
Reactions vary widely from feelings of disgust to sever migraines.
Speaking from a personal point of view, I initially get goosebumps followed by all of my tiny hairs standing on end. I feel strong feelings of disgust and sometimes anger, aggression or frustration (linked to self preservation). I feel cold and itchy and I get an almighty urge to rip the skin off of my body & pull my eyes out! Uncomfortable and unpleasant right? My heart rate increases and the image haunts me for long periods of time afterwards. I will be enjoying a cup of coffee later on and BAMN the image of whatever I saw earlier will pop into my head and it will start all over again. I have also been known to cry too, true story.
Other people have reported migraines, a strong desire to destroy the cluster, anxiety, revulsion, panic attacks, cold sweats, feeling sick and itchy skin.
What causes this unusual phobia?
To be honest, I really don’t know. There is little research out there to give a clear understanding on the subject.
Although it has been widely documented online by sufferers there is very little known about Trypophobia. Even the big bods at Wikipedia have only recently accepted the entry. In 2009 they referred to it as a “likely hoax and borderline patent nonsense.”
Some suggest that trypophobia is an instinctual fear of harm from legitimately dangerous things that have been transferred to harmless objects.
There has been a study from the university of Essex which I found interesting to read on a similar topic however I am not sure how I feel about it:
Dr Geoff Cole and Professor Arnold Wilkins (University of Essex) suggests that the phobia occurs as a result of a specific visual feature also found in various poisonous animals like snakes and the blue-ringed octopus. The findings are published in Psychological Science and the link is near the top of this post.
They were basically trying to figure out if there was a specific visual feature common to trypophobic objects. They compared 76 images of trypophobic objects with 76 control images of holes that were not associated with the phobia. They found that the trypophobic objects had relatively high contrast energy at midrange spatial frequencies in comparison to the control images.
Dr Cole: “We found that people who don’t have the phobia still rate trypophobic images as less comfortable to look at than other images. It backs up the theory that we are set-up to be fearful of things which hurt us in our evolutionary past. We have an innate predisposition to be wary of things that can harm us.”
They concluded that clusters of holes may be unpleasant for some people because they happen to share a visual feature with animals that humans have learned to avoid.
How to get rid of this irrational fear?
In truth there is no quick win.
Try to remember back to when it first started. Did a specific event cause it? If you can get to the root of your fear then you may be able to understand and deal with it properly.
Educating yourself on what bothers you may help. If its lotus pods (CRINGE) that make you anxious try and learn about why they have holes. If you understand the logic behind something you are less likely to be afraid of it.
You may wish to try therapy like behaviour therapy or CBT, talking about the issue might be enough to resolve it and I’m sure a specialist will have some handy tips on dealing with the reactions and thought processes during the difficult times.
Some people including Dr Cole suggest decentralising yourself from your fear. In other words confront your fear (aka exposure therapy). Try looking at the images that frighten you until you are not frightened any more.
Discussing your fear with someone you trust can be beneficial. I kept it quiet for years because I felt silly. Then one day an object was put on my desk with a cluster of holes (innocently) and I burst into tears and threw it across the office. I then had to tell my friends why I did this with their gift. I felt a lot better afterwards like a weight was lifted from my shoulders. It didn’t fix the problem but they are now aware of my fear and are less inclined to put me in an awkward situation. It also means I have someone to talk to when I feel irrational.
Here is a puppy to take the edge off.
I hope you found this helpful.
Please let me know if this phobia affects you or someone you know.