Trypophobia (A complete guide)

Trypophobia

What is Trypophobia?

Trypophobia is also known as “fear of holes”. This fear can also include bumps and other patterns that are combined closely together. People who have trypophobia experience symptoms like severe fear, nausea, itching, sweating, shaking, and even panic attacks.

Some people with trypophobia feel queasy even from looking at surfaces that have small holes gathered together, for instance, the top of a lotus seed pod or the body of a strawberry can trigger discomfort in someone with this phobia.

Unfortunately, this phobia isn’t officially recognized. Studies about trypophobia are limited, and because of this, the research that is available is divided on whether or not it should be considered a diagnosable condition.

Trypophobia (A complete guide)

What are the triggers of trypophobia?

Not much is understood about trypophobia. But common triggers include things like:

* Lotus seed pods

* honey combs

* strawberries

* Coral

* Aluminum metal foam

* Pomegranates

* Bubbles

* Condensation

* cantaloupe

* a cluster of eyes

Animals such as:  insects, mammals, and other creatures which have spotted skin or fur, also trigger symptoms of trypophobia.

Trypophobia (A complete guide)

What are the symptoms of trypophobia?

Symptoms are reportedly triggered when an individual sees an object with small clusters of holes or shapes that resemble holes.

While seeing a cluster of holes, people with trypophobia react with disgust. some of the symptoms include:

* goosebumps

* feeling repulsed

* feeling uncomfortable

* visual discomfort like eyestrain, distortions, or illusions

* distress

* feeling your skin crawl

* panic attacks

* sweating

* nausea

* body shakes

Is trypophobia an anxiety disorder?

Trypophobia is a phobia. Phobias are anxiety disorders that are normally thought to arise due to learning (a bite may cause a fear of dogs) or due to innate evolutionary mechanisms like may underlie a fear of spiders and snakes. Usually, there’s a threat, specific or general, real or imagined.

In the case of trypophobia, there is no obvious threat, and therefore the range of images that induce the phobia have little to nothing in common with each other,  aside from their configuration. Even individuals who do not have trypophobia still find trypophobic images aversive, although they do not experience the intense emotions. They only experience aversion because the configuration contains mathematical properties that are shared by most images that cause visual discomfort, eyestrain or headache.

Trypophobia (A complete guide)

How did trypophobia become known?

The term “trypophobia” is thought to have originated on an online forum entitled “A Phobia of Holes.” A user named Louise from Ireland consulted the Oxford Word and Language Service for help crafting the word, which translates to “fear of boring holes” in Greek.

The term came into popular usage in 2009, when a University of Albany student named Masai Andrews founded the website Trypophobia.com and a trypophobe support group on Facebook, according to Popular Science. As of today, the public group has over 13,600 members. 

A newer sister group, called “Trypophobia Triggers,” acts as an archive of pockmarked, pitted images that send members’ stomachs turning.

The trypophobe community secured a Wikipedia page describing the condition of trypophobia . Wikipedia editors deleted an attempted page in 2009, stating that trypophobia was “likely hoax and borderline patent nonsense,” the Washington Post reported. The fear has now secured pop culture fame and was even featured in the seventh season of the TV series “American Horror Story,” as highlighted by BuzzFeed.

Is trypophobia backed by science?

Trypophobia first entered scientific literature in 2013, when researchers proposed that the condition stems from an innate aversion to dangerous animals. Scientists came up with the concept when one of their study participants mentioned their fear of the blue-ringed octopus, a highly poisonous animal with bruise-colored spots. The researchers realized that many dangerous animals, such as the box jellyfish, inland Tai pan snake and poison dart frog, share similar visual features to trypophobia triggers; namely, their patterns are typically high-contrast and clustered, but not so close that they overlap.

Researchers disagree on whether or to not classify trypophobia as a true phobia. One of the primary studies, a trusted Source on trypophobia, published in 2013, suggested that the phobia could also be an extension of a biological fear of harmful things. The researchers found that symptoms were triggered by high-contrast colors during a certain graphic arrangement. They argue that the people suffering from trypophobia were subconsciously associating harmless items, like lotus seed pods, with dangerous animals, like the blue-ringed octopus.

A study published in April 2017 disputes these findings. Researchers surveyed preschoolers to verify whether the fear upon seeing a picture with small holes is predicated on a fear of dangerous animals or a response to visual traits. Their results suggest that people who experience trypophobia do not have a subconscious fear of venomous creatures. Instead, the fear is triggered by the creature’s appearance.

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) does not recognize trypophobia as a phobia. More research is required to understand the complete scope of trypophobia and therefore the causes of the condition.

What are the risk factors for trypophobia? 

Very little is understood about the risk factors linked to trypophobia. One study found a possible link between trypophobia and major clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Consistent with the researchers, people with trypophobia were more likely to also experience major clinical depression or GAD.

Trypophobia (A complete guide)

How is trypophobia diagnosed?

To diagnose a phobia, your doctor will ask you a series of questions about your symptoms. They will also consult the DSM-5 to assist in their diagnosis. Trypophobia isn’t a diagnosable condition because the phobia isn’t officially recognized by medical and psychological state associations.

Can someone stop a trypophobic reaction?

If you are experiencing acute symptoms of trypophobia, using relaxation techniques can shorten their duration while they are occurring and reduce their frequency and intensity in the future. Deep breathing, for instance , can calm your anxiety and fear by slowing down your pulse and inducing a relaxation response in your body. 

One simple, effective technique is known as box breathing. The technique for this is:

Exhale slowly through your nose for a count of 4 .

enter air into the lungs slowly through your nose for a count of 4 .

Exhale slowly through your nose for a count of 4 .

Continue breathing this manner for one to 5 minutes. 

Is there a treatment for trypophobia?

No specific treatment has been particularly effective for the treatment of this condition. However, many of the treatments used for specific phobias also are likely to be helpful in reducing symptoms of trypophobia. These include the following: 

Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy is a common treatment that involves progressively exposing an individual to the feared object. The hope is that over time, this exposure will cause fear symptoms to decrease. This process is typically done very gradually. An individual may start by imagining what they fear, then watching videos or looking at pictures of the feared object, then finally being near or maybe touching the source of their anxiety.

In the case of trypophobia, an individual with symptoms may start by simply closing his or her eyes and imagining something like a honeycomb or seed pod. They are going to continue performing this activity until symptoms start to lessen. Once the individual is ready to imagine the feared object without a response, he will move onto the subsequent step, which frequently involves watching a picture of an object that normally triggers symptoms.

The process of desensitization technique continues on until the patient is in a position to encounter an object without feeling excessive disgust, fear, or anxiety.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) involves working with a therapist to change the underlying thoughts and behaviors that may contribute to trypophobia. This might involve discussing unrealistic thoughts, replacing these with more realistic ones, then making changes in behaviors.

One of the explanations for why people experience phobia symptoms is because they often believe there is something inherently dangerous or threatening about the feared object. This results in negative automatic thoughts as soon as they encounter the source of their fear.

Through CBT, people work to exchange their often irrational beliefs and negative thoughts with more positive and realistic ones.

Relaxation Techniques

Different relaxation strategies also can be useful for reducing feelings of disgust, fear, or anxiety. Visualization, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation are a couple of strategies which may be helpful.

Visualization involves picturing soothing images or situations. an individual with trypophobia might attempt to envision a gorgeous sunset or a field of flowers whenever they encounter something covered with tiny holes.

A simple distraction also can be a useful coping technique. If you see something that triggers a trypophobic response, you would possibly simply look and find something else to focus on or look at until your symptoms are reduced

Medications

Anti-anxiety drugs may also sometimes be prescribed, particularly if the individual also experiences depression or anxiety. These medications include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), benzodiazepines such as Xanax, or beta-blockers. These medications could also be used alone, but they are often utilized in conjunction with another treatment approach like CBT, desensitization technique , or other types of psychotherapy.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about trypophobia: 

Is Trypophobia real?

Trypophobia—the fear of repetitive patterns of closely packed holes or protrusions—is not recognized as a psychological or psychiatric disorder that can be diagnosed, but it has been widely discussed in social media. (“Trypo” comes from the Greek word for hole). It is considered by some experts to be a sort of hysteria disorder.

What triggers a trypophobia reaction?

Almost any repetitive pattern can trigger a reaction, but this may not always be the case. In one case, a patient was triggered by bumps within the meringue on a pie.

Is trypophobia a skin disease?

No, but it might be an evolutionary response to skin diseases. Serious skin diseases resemble a cluster of shapes. Some say trypophobia is an excessive reaction to pictures of severe skin diseases. 

Is there a cure for trypophobia?

Since trypophobia can be considered an anxiety disorder, some anti-anxiety medications may help relieve symptoms such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or benzodiazepines. There is no cure, and very little research has been done to investigate this. Exposure therapy in which a patient is exposed to unpleasant images or situations—may be helpful.

How common is trypophobia?

There is little data, but some experts say it is relatively common. It is most common in women.

Want to learn more about trypophobia? Try these recommended readings!

Trypophobia: Real Terrifying and you definitely have it: phobia,fear,anxiety,stress,overcome,trypophobia (Stress, Anxiety,Depression, High Pressure, Unhappy, Stressed)

In this book you will learn what makes you feel like your skin is crawling when you see holes. 

References:

1) Trypophobia: The Fear of Holes. Web MD. 2020

2) Trypophobia: Is it Real and What are the Triggers? Healthline. July 17th, 2017. 

3) Trypophobia. Very Well Mind. March 12th, 2020. 

Trypophobia (A complete guide)

Sara Najam

Sara Najam is an Applied Psychologist, with a deep interest in psychopathology and neuropsychology and how psychology impacts and permeates every aspect of our environment. She has worked in Clinical settings (as Special Ed. Counselor, CBT Therapist) and has contributed at local Universities as a Faculty member from time to time. She has a graduate degree in English Literature and feels very connected to how literature and psychology interact. She feels accountable and passionate about making a "QUALITY" contribution to the overall global reform and well-being. She actively seeks out opportunities where she can spread awareness and make a positive difference across the globe for the welfare of our global society.