What is trypophobia?
Trypophobia is the fear or feeling of disgust when looking at closely packed holes. Individuals who have trypophobia tend to feel very unsettled the moment they look at things with small clusters of holes that are closely held together. Few of examples would be the head of a lotus seed pod or the body of a strawberry, which has hole-like structures on it. Certain individuals would start to feel uncomfortable when they come across such things.
However, this phobia is still unofficially recognized since there are only limited studies being carried out. Research studies are also divided whether this particular condition should be considered as an official condition.
There have been a growing number of people fearing holes. In certain cases, the reaction becomes so severe that an individual starts to have a panic attack after seeing clusters of holes. Shapes that are naturally created such as the honeycomb structure or lotus seed pods are related to trypophobia.
A study published in the year 2013 about trypophobia had suggested that this phobia can be linked with the biological fear of harmful elements. Researchers had studied that the symptoms were triggered by high-contrast colors with a particular graphic arrangement. They tend to argue that individuals who are affected by trypophobia were in the process of trying to subconsciously associate harmless items such as lotus seed pods with certain dangerous animals such as the blue-ringed octopus.
Another study published in April 2017 tried to dispute these findings. Surveys were conducted on preschoolers to confirm whether this fear of clustered holes is based on a certain kind of fear toward a dangerous animal or just a response to certain visual traits. The survey results suggested that individuals who experienced trypophobia do not have any unconscious fear toward venomous creatures, but the fear gets triggered by the mere appearance of that creature. Trypophobia is still not recognized as an official phobia because there is still a need for a detailed study to understand the complete scope of trypophobia along with its causes.
What can trigger trypophobia?
There is limited information available on trypophobia. However, certain triggers have been considered such as:
- Lotus seed pods
- Cluster of eyes
- Aluminum metal foam
- Animals or creatures that have spotted fur or skin
There are certain people who think that the fear of clustered holes is mostly innate, whereas research tends to link trypophobia with nature and DNA. The brain is said to associate certain shapes with wounds, disease, or danger. One theory suggests that the cause of trypophobia is due to priming and conditioning. Trypophobia is also known to be caused by any of the following:
- Evolution - The fear of clustered holes can be due to evolution. When people are exposed to the pockmarked objects, the brain perceives it as something bad or dangerous.
- Deep-rooted Emotions - Certain childhood objects tend to trigger trypophobia in the minds of individuals such as a bee sting, which left excessive swelling of skin pores.
- Natural Objects - Trypophobia can also be associated with natural objects, which include blisters on the skin or rashes after an episode of chicken pox or measles.
The symptoms are usually triggered when an individual comes across an object that has closely packed holes or shapes that resemble small clustered holes. Upon seeing the objects, individuals with trypophobia would try to react with disgust or tend to get scared. The following symptoms are associated with trypophobia:
- Skin crawling sensation
- Feel restless or uncomfortable
- Shivering or shaking
- Panic attacks
- Visual discomforts such as distortions, eye strain, or illusions
- Feel repulsive
- Excessive sweating
The reactions from individuals suffering from trypophobia can be quite intense. It can make them feel as if their skin is crawling, feel itchy, or make them physically ill the moment they see such images. Many of them find it gross and disgusting enough just at the sight of it. Certain people feel that there might be something living inside those holes, whereas some feel that they may fall inside those holes. Moreover, it can trigger a panic attack in certain individuals.
There is limited detailed information about the risk factors associated with trypophobia. In a study conducted in 2017, it was found out that there is a link between trypophobia and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or major depressive disorder. According to research studies, individuals with trypophobia are more likely to experience either GAD or major depressive disorder. In a prior study published in the year 2016, it also noted that there is a link between trypophobia and social anxiety.
To carry out a correct diagnosis of trypophobia, the doctor would initially ask a series of questions about the symptoms you have been experiencing. The doctor would also ask about your medical, social, and psychiatric history. Doctors can also refer to the DSM-5 for more help in carrying out the diagnosis.
Since this phobia is still not officially recognized by medical associations, it remains an undiagnosable condition. Trypophobia is still something new and still being researched upon. However, there have been theories and research studies conducted on the exact cause of trypophobia. To diagnose trypophobia, one of the best things to do would be to present certain things that have clustered hole openings.
One test is known as the trypophobia test pictures. In this test, if the image triggers any kind of response in patients who have been experiencing fear of clustered holes, then it is basically an affirmation that the individual has trypophobia. There are other ways to perform the trypophobia test and few of them would include:
- Lotus Seed Pod Phobia Test: In this particular test, an individual would need to be exposed to images of lotus seed pods or lotus pods. To affirm the phobia, the individual is then observed for any reaction or resistance to seeing the holes.
- Trypophobia Test Picture: This particular picture test would include showing pictures of lotus flower seeds or edited images of similar objects that show closely packed holes. For test purposes, one can also use the images of corals or beehives. It can be anything that would represent a cluster of holes.
A phobia can be treated in a number of ways, but the most effective form of treatment is exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on changing an individual’s response to a certain situation or object that often leads to fear.
Another common treatment for phobias is cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a combination of exposure therapy along with other techniques that help manage anxiety and overpowering thoughts. Below are other treatment options that can help in managing phobias:
- Certain relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation.
- A general talk session with a psychiatrist or counselor to understand your fears and overcome them.
- Certain medications or drugs such as sedatives or beta-blockers can help reduce anxiety and panic attacks.
- Carrying out physical activities or exercises.
- Mindful strategies and breathing techniques to cope with stress and anxiety.
While the use of medications has been tested when it comes to anxiety disorders or mental issues, there is very little known about their effectiveness in terms of treating trypophobia. Thus, it also becomes important for an individual to take an ample amount of rest, consume a healthy and balanced diet, and avoid items that have caffeine, which can worsen anxiety.
In case of fearful situations, learn to face them head on as often as possible to get rid of your fears. Moreover, people with phobias can have the support from their friends or family members. They can also get help from support groups that have other people who are trying to manage the same issues.
Since trypophobia has something to do with how the brain perceives particular objects, its cure, treatment, and management would mainly involve the following therapeutic methods:
- Cognitive Therapy: The main goal of cognitive therapy is to change the negative perception of the patient with healthier thinking.
- Exposure Therapy: This particular therapy is the most common management approach when it comes to dealing with trypophobia. In this treatment method, the individual would need to be exposed to objects that they fear for several times. Through continuous exposure, fear would be significantly reduced.
- Combination Therapy: This therapy would include a combination of behavioral and cognitive therapy. In this particular approach, the patient would need to learn various ways to cope with their fear so they could live a normal and happy life even if they encounter such fears in the future.
If you suspect that you have trypophobia, you can consult a doctor or counselor to identify the root cause of your fear and help manage its symptoms.