Trypophobia is a kind of pathological fear or phobia of tiny holes, especially groups or irregular patterns of small holes. There are thousands of individuals all over the world who suffer from this phobia. However, the condition or its diagnosis is not recognized by any scientific literature, including the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM/Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
The term trypophobia has its origins in the Greek words ‘trýpa’ meaning hole and ‘phóbos’ meaning fear. The name of the phobia was coined in the year 2005.
Research on trypophobia
The first researchers to study trypophobia were Geoff Cole and Arnold Wilkins from the Centre for Brain Science at the University of Essex. They postulated that instead of being a cultural learned fear, reaction associated with trypophobia had its roots in a biological repulsion.
The scientists, Cole and Wilkins, wrote an article in Psychological Science in 2013 where they elucidated that the fear of holes had linkages with the normal reaction of the brain to shapes associated with danger. These shapes were usually found to be bunched holes in contexts linked to danger, like holes seen on diseased tissue or wounds or holes created by insects, or in bland contexts like bubbles and fruits. It was found that trypophobia patients used to experience adverse symptoms like panic attacks, shuddering, chills, nausea, crawling skin, itchiness, palpitation, and excessive perspiration, etc., when they encountered such shapes.
Some patients found the holes to be gross or disgusting while others believed that icky creatures may reside within such holes. Psychiatrists are of the opinion that such responses are typically the result of condition and priming.
Even though trypophobia is broadly referred to as ‘fear of holes,’ increased research on the subject had led to beliefs that the condition is less likely to be linked with fear and also not isolated to just holes. Wilkins has stated that trypophobia can be regarded as closer to disgust than fear and such disgust may often be associated to reaction of patients to possible occurrence of contaminants. Additionally, the disgust has its origins in clusters of items and such items may not necessarily be holes.Visual exposure to objects that induce such disgust often causes the heart rate to become variable and/or rise as well as increased activities in that area of the brain that regulates vision spikes.
Types of trypophobia
Many people are known to suffer from fear of holes or clusters of things. Trypophobia patients may experience adverse reactions to small holes as well as clustered things like mid-section of a sunflower, spider eggs, etc. Some patients may even become agitated when they see circles bunched together.
Some types of trypophobia, based on varied trigger factors, are listed below:
- Potpourri which is used as room fresheners can arouse fear in some people. In some, the dried seeds are what causes patients to experience fear of clusters and holes.
- Some people are afraid of holes that occur naturally on different things such as a rock, a stone, or the ground. Erosion of rocks, etc., by wind and ocean water over a period of several decades can result in the development of irregular patterns and clusters of holes in them. Such bunched holes can trigger trypophobia in some people.
- Visualization or actual images of maggots, worms, or other kinds of insects digging into veggies and fruits, etc. can cause revulsion, nervousness, and disgust in some patients.
- Trypophobia can also get triggered by just looking at photos of clustered objects or small holes.
- Honey combs, cheese, meat holes, and other such foods featuring holes can be revolting for some patients.
- Fear of holes occurring in the tissues of animals and humans can literally send shivers down the spine of some trypophobia patients. The visual characterization or actual exposure to pockmarks or puncture marks on the skin can just make the skin crawl. People may even faint when their minds think about worms or maggots burrowing through disease skin.
Trypophobia – Causes
Doctors are not aware about the exact cause of trypophobia. It may not have a direct co-relation with fear of holes, but may have underlying psychological causative aspects.
- It is possible for fear of a certain object, person, or event to transfer and eventually get elicited as fear of clusters or holes, i.e., trypophobia.
- People who are scared of snakes or scorpions may develop a fear of holes as such creatures tend to lurk in dark holes. Thus, fear of such creatures may metastasize to fear of holes.
- It is possible for trypophobia to get activated in people after they witness a loved one, a friend, or a stranger fall down into a hole. Such events can affect the subconscious mind, eventually leading to its reenactment in the form of trypophobia.
- It is also possible that some individuals have a genetic tendency to feel anxious after exposure to even the mildest of stimuli, ultimately resulting in easy development of fear of clusters and holes.
Cure for Trypophobia
Trypophobia is not a recognized condition. Hence there are no standard treatment options. Patients may however seek counseling and therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy, etc., to get rid of their fears.
Filed in: Conditions