Trypophobia (from the Greek word trypo, which means boring or drilling holes, and Phobos, meaning fear) is an intense fear of a repetitive pattern of holes. (Phobias: The Psychology of Irrational Fear. ABC-CLIO. pp. 401–402).
If you type the word "Trypophobia" in the search box on YouTube, you will see a lot of videos related to this topic. Looking at the videos that come up, you will see that many people are trying to play with people’s fear of this repetitive pattern of holes.
But is Trypophobia real, or is it only a figment of the imagination of some click-baiting YouTubers who are after some “views”?
Signs and Symptoms of Trypophobia
Some scientists who are skeptical of this particular phobia, performed some analysis and experiments related to this. They have shown pictures or images that induced trypophobia to some subjects. They theorized that the phobia arises in part, because the image shown resembles, or “share basic visual characteristics with dangerous organisms.”
It seems that people fear these irregular or repetitive pattern of holes because it’s associated with danger, such as toxic organisms having the same hole pattern.
So what are the signs or symptoms that a person may be suffering from Trypophobia?
In an article written in Medical News Today, the following are the symptoms that may be exhibited by people with Trypophobia:
- Feelings of disgust, fear, or discomfort
- Skin itching
- Skin crawling
- Panic attacks
So if a person experiences any of the above while looking at images of a cluster of small holes, there is a possibility that that person may have this condition.
Causes and Common Triggers of Trypophobia
Are there specific hole patterns that people with this condition are triggered with? There are some studies or surveys made of what are the common causes of Trypophobia. Below are some of the list of common causes and triggers:
- Lotus seed pods
- Holes or bumps on flesh
- Insect eyes
- Holes in diseased or decaying flesh
- Bubble wrap
- Fruit seeds
- Sea sponges
Even man-made patterns and spot patterns in some animals may cause a trypophobic reaction.
Treatments of Trypophobia
No known treatment exists for treating Trypophobia. But some treatments could help people suffering from this condition. One is Exposure therapy, which is an accepted treatment for other types of phobia.
Exposure therapy is exposing a phobic person in a controlled environment, to feared situations. The purpose is to help conquer the person’s fear of the situation or object that causes him or her that fear.
Following the logic of the therapy, it may help a person with Trypophobia to start by imagining something such as a coral or bubbles, or any small cluster of holes in his mind. He or she may then continue working on this, until such time that the fear decreases. And soon, he or she can overcome the fear of the object.
Societal and Cultural Impact of Trypophobia
In a survey done by Psychiatrists, it showed that the majority of those suffering from Trypophobia reported varying degrees of anxiety. Almost 90% of respondents reported mild to severe anxiety with panic attacks.
In the same survey, people reported a “great deal of psychological distress and impairment”. This affected their social life, work, and in their home life. Despite this, the majority of the people with Trypophobia never sought treatment. The study also found that those with Trypophobia, are predominantly female.
It’s interesting to note that Tryphophobia, as of now, is still not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. However, since 2009, Tryphopobia has been widely used and accepted as a term.
How Common Is Trypophobia?
There is no exact data or figure to determine how common or prevalent Trypophobia is. But in one 2013 study published in the journal Psychological Science, they found that 16% of participants experienced feelings of disgust or discomfort when they looked at an image of a lotus seed pod.
In an online survey of members of an internet-based support group for people with Trypophobia (which has 12,000 members), 195 agreed to take the survey done by Psychiatrists. Out of the 195 respondents, 81% experienced symptoms of Trypophobia. This occured even when not confronted directly with a cluster of holes (they were worried that they might come in contact with clusters of holes).
What Should You Do If You Have Trypophobia?
Since Trypophobia is not even recognized as a disorder, no cure or drug will help an individual to be relieved from this condition. If you think that you have Trypophobia, the best way is to seek Psychiatric help as people with different types of phobia usually do.
Since phobia generally is an extreme or irrational fear about something, it may help if you talk to a professional who deals with these kinds of cases. This is where exposure therapy may be applied to your condition.
You may want to join online support groups on Facebook or other social media such as Quora, where discussions about a particular subject or topic such as Trypophobia are encouraged.
They say that peace of mind, is the basis of a healthy body and mind. You may want to practice meditation and mind relaxation techniques. Yoga is a good form of exercise where deep breathing is one of the fundamental exercises. This may help you relax both your mind and body. You may also want to engage in sports activity or plain physical exercise.
Trypophobia is still new compared to known and more established phobia, such as the fear of heights, or fear of spiders, to name just a few. There are still a lot of things that we don’t know about this disorder, because even medical science could not agree if it’s a real phobia or not.