Trypophobia – A Fear of Holes

An irrational and incessant fear or disgust about a cluster of tightly packed holes, bumps or skin abscesses is known as tryophobia. A phobia is a psychological problem triggered by certain conditions that make a person feel extremely anxious and experience some physical symptoms such as dizziness or general illness.

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Characteristics of Trypophobia

Tryophobia is a phobia that is comparatively new as the term was coined by internet users in the year 2005. People are suffering from this phobia experience an uncomfortable and queasy feeling on looking at surfaces that have tiny bumps or holes on them. Although this condition is not considered serious or life-threatening, the degree of severity in which it manifests itself among people varies from person to person.

Triggers for Trypophobia

  • Cantaloupe
  • Cluster of eyes
  • Bubbles
  • Condensation
  • Aluminum metal foam
  • Coral
  • Honeycombs
  • Lotus seed pods
  • Insects, mammals or amphibians who have spotted skin on their fur
  • Pomegranates
  • Strawberries Image Source:

Research of Trypophobia

Researchers have had a tough time in deciding whether they should classify trypophobia as a real phobia. People have also come up with various reasons to substantiate this type of a psychological condition. It is often understood to be an extension of a biological fear of harmful things and subconsciously associated with dangerous animals such as the blue-ringed octopus with harmless things like the lotus seed pod.

Likewise, something as simple as high contrast colors in a particular graphic arrangement is capable of triggering the symptoms of the phobia. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association does not recognize trypophobia as an official phobia. Keeping in mind the number of people who suffer from this condition, more research needs to be conducted to understand the scope of trypophobia fully.

Causes of Trypophobia

  • DNA: Some researchers believe it is characteristic of human DNA to feel repelled by structures or shapes that are repeated. This repulsion towards repeated patterns could be one of the reasons behind the fear.
  • Instincts: Human beings are gifted with instincts that help to keep themselves safe. These instincts allow the mind to associate with some shapes or patterns with danger. Further, this relation drawn in mind may result in trypophobia. Conditioning and priming can instill fear of certain images among individuals.
  • Suspicion: Holes and bumps are usually accompanied by a fear of the unknown. People may be suspicious about what may creep or crawl out of the bumps or holes. They may also fear insects or infections that are frequently related to such conditions. It makes them feel uncomfortable or disgusted to the extent that could make them feel sick.
  • Past experiences: In some cases, individuals may have been subject to bee stings, spider licks, measles, rashes or pox that could have caused such structures to develop on the body. Hence, the person connects the appearance of these structures to the painful experiences in the past leading to trypophobia. Image Source:

Symptoms of Trypophobia

  • Body Shakes
  • Panic attacks
  • Nausea
  • Feeling uncomfortable
  • Goosebumps
  • Distress
  • Feeling of the skin crawling
  • Visual discomfort
  • Eye strain
  • Illusion
  • Distortion
  • Sweating
  • Feeling repulsed
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Hurting of the hair
  • Turning up of the stomach
  • Vomiting
  • Itchiness
  • Wanting to cover or destroy a surface covered with tiny holes or bumps

Risk Factors of Trypophobia

There could be a possible link between trypophobia and major depressive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder. People who have this phobia show signs of generalized anxiety disorder. Also, a connection has been observed between trypophobia and social anxiety.

Diagnosis of Trypophobia

First, the doctor asks the patient about the symptoms that he/she is experiencing. Then an inquiry is made about family’s medical history and any past experiences that could trigger the phobia. However, the most effective way to diagnose this fear is by exposing the individual to images of surfaces covered with tiny holes or bumps and then observe the reaction to it.

  • Lotus Seed Pod Phobia Test: The person is exposed to lotus seed pods or lotus pods. Then his/her reaction is observed to confirm whether or not the person has the phobia.
  • Trypophobia Test Picture: It includes showing pictures of the lotus seed pod or photo shopped images of tiny holes on the skin. It also includes pictures of corals, beehives or anything else that represent a cluster of holes.

Treatment of Trypophobia

  • Cognitive therapy: The therapy aims at changing the perception of the person from destructive or unsettling thoughts. The patient is taught how to differentiate between real and unreal situations. The therapy requires active participation on the part of the patient to cure the condition.
  • Behavioral therapy: Treatment sessions are conducted to help the patient in control his/her undesirable behavior towards the object of fear. It aids in helping the patients to adapt to problematic situations, i.e., when he/she may be exposed to a cluster of small holes.
  • Exposure therapy: The therapy includes exposing the person to the feared objects repeatedly. It is one of the most common methods adopted to treat trypophobia. It has been observed that repeated exposure has led to a significant lowering of the degree of fear.
  • Combination therapy: It refers to a combination of the behavioral and cognitive therapy. It allows a person to cope with the fear as well as normally react in case he/she encounters the object of fear.
  • Modeling: It allows patients to observe the reactions of non-trypophobics. Thus it helps them to gain perspective and see that there are responses other than fear to the objects of fears, i.e. tiny holes. This observation may help them curb their fear and react better to similar situations.
  • Flooding: The goal here is to desensitize trypophobia. The patient is immersed with non debilitating stimuli until the reaction to the feared object dies down. To reach the desired outcome, relaxation is used along with flooding therapy.
  • Neuro-linguistic Programming: With this therapy, a person can decrease the fear that he/she experiences. The person is exposed to the feared object only to be reprogrammed.

When to Visit a Doctor?

Although recognition of trypophobia like genuine phobia is still being deliberated upon the fear that one experience is not easy to understand. People must seek medical help as soon as they observe the symptoms associated with the phobia so that it can be treated at the earliest.

Trypophobia pictures

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