Last reviewed by Dr. Raj MD on January 12th, 2022.
What is Trypophobia?
Trypophobia is a term coined by internet users in 2005. About 16% of people has trypophobia as a result of a study in Psychological Science. It is the fear to cluster of holes of any variety that possesses no threat. The severity of trypophobia varies from one person to another.
Some people are uncomfortable seeing clusters of holes while others shake all over because of fear. The word trypophobia comes from the Greek word trypa which means hole and phobos meaning fear.
Although a lot of people have experienced trypophobia, the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not categorize trypophobia as a psychiatric illness.
Causes of Trypophobia?
Some people think that the fear to cluster of holes is innate while some research linked trypophobia to human DNA and nature. The brain associates the shapes with danger, disease, or wounds. Another theory for the cause of trypophobia is that people are afraid of the images because of conditioning and priming.
Researchers from Centre for Brain Science at the University of Essex conducted a research. They concluded that the holes were not the reasons for people’s fear. It is how the brain perceives the holes. The brain sees it as a danger and its reaction to holes is intense. People feel like there is something crawling on their skin. Once they see the image, they feel weak and sick. They feel like something odd is living inside the holes.
Trypophobia can also be caused by the following:
- Deep rooted emotional problem – There are certain objects from childhood that can trigger the fear to cluster of holes such as bee stings. It could possibly be that the person experienced bee sting during childhood that led to skin pore and excessive swelling.
- The fear to cluster of holes might be due to evolution. An exposure to pockmarked objects might be perceived by the brain as something dangerous.
- The fear to cluster of holes can be associated with organic objects such as skin blisters and rashes following an episode of skin-related diseases like measles and chicken pox.
Is Trypophobia Fake?
Trypophobia is a true psychological fear. However, there is no such medical condition that causes severe holes in the skin. Although, there are skin conditions that can be categorized as bizarre or gruesome such as vitiligo, smallpox, human papilloma virus, and leprosy.
(An image of a lotus pod; one that triggers trypophobia)
Signs and Symptoms of Trypophobia
There are cardinal signs and symptoms of trypophobia. Just like any other forms of phobia, trypophobia causes uneasiness and irritation to the whole body by just merely looking at the feared object like sponge, cheese, and beehive.
A person might watch the object for some time and decimate it after a few minutes. Symptoms associated with the fear include the following:
- A sensation on the skin like something is crawling on it
- Turning up of stomach
- Hurting of the hair
How to Test or Diagnose Trypophobia?
Trypophobia is something new and the exact cause is still unknown up to this time, although there are some theories and research conducted on the causes of trypophobia. To diagnose trypophobia, the best thing to do is to present things with cluster holes openings.
This is called trypophobia test pictures. If the image triggers response in patients experiencing this fear, then it is an affirmation that the person has trypophobia. There are many different ways to perform trypophobia test and some of them include the following:
- Lotus Seed Pod Phobia test – With this test, you have to expose the person to lotus seed pods or lotus pods. Watch the reaction or resistance to holes of the lotus pods to affirm the phobia.
- Trypophobia Test Picture – The picture test includes showing photos of lotus flower seed or photo shopped image of similar objects or images showing holes on the skin. You might also want to use the image of corals, beehives, or anything that represents cluster of holes.
Cure and Treatment for Trypophobia
Since the condition has something to do with how the brain perceives an object, the cure, treatment, and management for trypophobia focus on therapeutic methods. These include the following:
- Behavioural Therapy – The patient needs to undergo a series of treatment sessions with the aim of helping the patient control his undesirable behaviour towards feared objects. The object of the behavioural therapy is to help the patient adapt to such condition, especially during the troublesome times, especially when the patient is exposed to cluster of small holes.
- Cognitive Therapy – The goal of cognitive therapy is to change the perception of the patient to destructive matters. The patient should learn how to isolate real from unreal ones. For the patient to easily recover from the phobia, he/she should actively participates in the cognitive therapy session.
- Combination Therapy – It is a combination of behavioural and cognitive therapy. With this approach, the patient may be able to learn different ways to cope to the fear and that they could live their life normally even if they will encounter their fears.
- Exposure Therapy – This is one of the most commonly used treatment and management approach to trypophobia. In this method, you have to expose the patient to feared objects again and again. Over time, the fear would lessen significantly.
- Flooding – In this approach, the patient is immerse in a non-debilitating stimuli until such time that the untoward reaction to the feared object dies down. The goal here is to desensitize the trypophobia. Relaxation therapy is used along with flooding to effectively reach the desired outcome.
- Modeling – This type of therapy includes both trypophobic and non-trypophobic. The patient suffering from trypophobia should watch a person who does not have trypophobia being exposed to cluster of holes. The patient will realize that exposing to such feared objects will actually cause no harm at all. This is a way of addressing the phobia in a non-threatening way.
- Neuro-linguistic Programming – With this type of therapy, the patient will be exposed to feared object and get to be reprogrammed. After some time, the patients will be able to mitigate or somehow decrease their fear.
In a psychological standpoint, a phobia is an anxiety disorder thought to arise because of a learned danger or innate evolutionary mechanisms like in the fear of snakes, fear of spiders, or fear of dogs. In other words, there is a real threat whether it is general or specific.
In people suffering with trypophobia, there is no exact threat. The objects being feared have very little in common with one another. The feared to cluster of holes is more of configuration, which causes visual discomfort and headache.