In what way do the tiny bubbles in your morning coffee make you feel when you look at a honeycomb? Or when you see a spotty animal? For the most part, we’re not affected by anything. If you suffer from trypophobia — a fear of holes — then images with a dense cluster of holes may cause you to feel frightened, disgusted, or even panic.
What Is Trypophobia?
This anxiety disorder isn’t yet recognised by the American Psychiatric Association, and neither is it included in the DSM-current V’s list of diagnosable mental disorders (DSM-5). However, it is recognised as a common condition by many mental health professionals, and certainly feels real — and sometimes quite troubling — to anyone who experiences it.
While it’s difficult to determine exactly how common trypophobia is, a study published in Psychological Science found that 16 percent of participants surveyed exhibited feelings of fear, discomfort, aversion, and disgust while looking at a cluster of holes, such as those in a lotus seed pod.
What Are The Symptoms of Trypophobia?
Trypophobia is triggered primarily by images, and many people experience symptoms within seconds of viewing these images. Again, it’s images of tightly clustered holes that usually cause symptoms, but some people report symptoms based on any image that contains holes or spotted patterns.
Here are some of the most common trypophobia triggers:
- a pair of bug’s eyes
- Coral\s Sponges
- Pods of lotus flowers
- Clusters of eyes
- Spotted animal skin
- Water condensation
Usually, people who have trypophobia experience strong reactions when viewing these images, though there is a wide range of feelings associated with the condition. Here are some of the most common emotional and physical reactions reported by people who have trypophobia:
- Increased heartbeat
- Itching and “creepy crawly” skin sensations
- Shaking\s Goosebumps
- Shortness of breath
Trypophobia can be traced back to a variety of factors.
Experts have not been able to definitively pin down what causes this phobia of holes, but there are some theories, most having to do with human evolution and adaptation. The idea is that images of tightly packed holes are reminiscent of things that humans have understandably feared (dangerous animals, infectious diseases) and that viewing images that look similar to these elicit uncomfortable feelings in people who have trypophobia.
For example, according to research published in Cognition and Emotion, trypophobia may be related to the fear of parasites and infectious diseases, which often present in patterns of closely clustered together holes (boils, the measles rash, insect bites, a body covered in flies, etc). (boils, the measles rash, insect bites, a body covered in flies, etc.).
“We suggest that aversion to clusters is an evolutionarily prepared response towards a class of stimuli that resemble cues to the presence of parasites and infectious disease,” the researchers explain. “Trypophobia may be an exaggerated and overgeneralised version of this normally adaptive response.”
Some researchers have surmised that a phobia of holes is related to a fear of dangerous animals. Other researchers, on the other hand, found no link between trypophobia and images of venomous animals; rather, they found that trypophobic images and patterns are simply frightening to some people.
Treatments For Trypophobia
You might be ashamed to admit that you have a fear of holes. You should know that there is nothing wrong with you. Trypophobia is more common than most people realise, and it has less to do with your personality than it does with your genetics. Our reactions to these images can vary widely among us. That said, you shouldn’t have to just “grin and bear it” if you feel that a phobia of holes is making it difficult to function or enjoy your day-to-day life. Trypophobia is associated with increased rates of anxiety and depression, so if you are struggling with those along with a phobia of holes, it may be time to seek therapeutic help.
Types of therapy that may be helpful for trypophobia, include exposure therapy (used effectively for many types of phobias) and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) (CBT). Sometimes medication may be appropriate to help you manage your anxiety or depression symptoms. Utilizing meditation and relaxation techniques, eating well, exercising, and practising good sleep hygiene can also help mitigate your symptoms.
Trypophobia is a real fear of spiders, as anyone who has ever had the misfortune to encounter it can attest. Suffering through it doesn’t have to be your reality. If you want to feel better and be able to live a full and happy life, there is help available.