Holes in face phobia

Triggers, Causes, Treatment, and More

Trypophobia refers to a strong fear or disgust of closely packed holes. The name, first introduced on a web forum in 2005, combines the Greek words “trypa” (punching or drilling holes) and “phobia” (fear or aversion).

People who have this phobia typically feel queasy, disgusted, and distressed when looking at surfaces that have small holes gathered close together or clustered into a pattern.

Experts don’t yet officially recognize trypophobia as a specific phobia. Studies exploring this phobia remain limited, and existing research hasn’t reached a conclusion on whether to consider trypophobia a unique mental health condition.

That said, there are plenty of anecdotal reports of people experiencing trypophobia.

Read on to learn more about the fear of holes, including potential triggers, causes, and how to get support when it causes extreme distress.

Trypophobia is mainly visual. If you have this phobia, you might feel anxiety, disgust, and discomfort when looking at things like:

  • lotus seed pods
  • honeycombs
  • strawberries
  • coral
  • seeded breads
  • Swiss cheese
  • scabs or lesions on skin
  • aluminum metal foam
  • pomegranates
  • sponges
  • pebbled or graveled roads
  • bubbles
  • condensation
  • cantaloupe
  • a cluster of eyes

Animals with spotted skin or fur — think leopards, Dalmatians, or poison dart frogs — can also prompt revulsion and fear.

Some people with a fear of holes have an aversion to surfaces with irregularly shaped holes only. They may not notice the same level of discomfort when looking at surfaces with holes of the same size, like those in a showerhead or on a fabric patterned with polka dots.

Others might find all closely packed holes uncomfortable and upsetting.

Pictures of trypophobia triggers

If you have trypophobia, you’ll generally notice feelings of disgust and discomfort when looking at an object or surface with small clusters of holes or shapes that resemble holes.

While you might associate phobias with fear, research from 2018 suggests most people with trypophobia experience disgust — not fear — as a primary symptom.

You might also begin to feel disgusted, uncomfortable, or anxious when thinking about something that has this appearance — if, say, your partner begins to tell you how much they love strawberries and you start to visualize the fruit.

Specific symptoms might include:

  • goosebumps, chills, or the sensation of your skin crawling
  • gagging or nausea
  • sweating
  • rapid heartbeat
  • dizziness or lightheadness
  • visual discomfort, including eye strain, distortions, or illusions
  • a general sense of discomfort or distress
  • a strong desire to get away from the image or object
  • feelings of panic or a panic attack
  • shaking or trembling

Scientific evidence has yet to pinpoint a clear cause of trypophobia, but there are a few potential explanations.

Some experts theorize this fear of closely-packed holes may develop as an extension of a biological fear of venomous or otherwise dangerous creatures.

Researchers who analyzed images that produced an anxiety response in people with trypophobia found that high contrast colors in a certain graphic arrangement tended to trigger anxiety, disgust, and other symptoms.

They also found that images of certain highly dangerous animals, including the king cobra, deathstalker scorpion, and blue-ringed octopus, shared certain spectral properties with the trypophobic images. Spectral properties refer to subtle things, like contrast and spatial frequency, that can impact how your eyes and brain take in images.

The fear of holes, then, may be less a fear of holes and more an unconscious association of harmless items (like lotus seed pods) with feared animals (like a blue-ringed octopus) because they share certain spectral features.

In other words, trypophobia may stem from your evolved ability to detect threats in your environment.

Many people with trypophobia also experience a strong aversion to scabs, pockmarks, or other patterns of rashes and skin markings, leading some experts to link this phobia to another evolutionary response: the drive to avoid germs or contagious skin conditions or illnesses.

Other experts aren’t so sure

In one 2017 study involving 94 preschoolers, who typically don’t have the same fear of snakes and spiders as older children and adults, researchers showed 4-year-olds several sets of images:

  • trypophobic images featuring small holes
  • images and line drawings of venomous animals
  • images and line drawings of nonvenomous animals

According to the results, children who experienced distress when looking at trypophobic images also experienced distress when looking at color images of venomous animals — but not when looking at the line drawings of the same animals.

Study authors believe these results support the idea that trypophobia relates only to the unique spectral characteristics shared by certain animals and clusters or patterns of holes, rather than an unconscious fear of dangerous creatures. They do, however, note the need for more research exploring the fear of holes.

Again, research on trypophobia remains in the early stages, so experts aren’t yet certain exactly what factors can increase your chances of developing a fear of holes.

That said, it’s not uncommon for a phobia to begin after an unpleasant or distressing event with the object of the phobia.

Based on the potential causes of trypophobia, it’s possible your aversion could begin after an encounter with a venomous snake, exposure to a contagious skin condition, or another trypophobia trigger.

One 2017 study found a possible link between trypophobia and major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Study authors surveyed 195 adult members of a trypophobia support group and found that:

  • 19 percent of participants had a diagnosis of major depression, and an additional 8.7 percent believed they could have major depression
  • 17.4 percent of participants had a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder, while an additional 11. 8 percent believed they could have GAD
  • Many participants reported other mental health diagnoses, including social anxiety (8.2 percent) and panic disorder (6.2 percent)

Research from 2016 also noted a link between social anxiety and trypophobia, suggesting that for people with social anxiety, the fear of holes could in fact be a fear of eyes, or the human gaze. Seeing clusters of holes might provoke the sensation of many pairs of eyes gazing back at you, leading to distress and discomfort.

You also have a higher chance of developing any phobia if you have a family history of anxiety conditions and phobias in particular.

Only mental health professionals can diagnose phobias, like a fear of holes. Since there’s no official diagnosis of trypophobia, a therapist won’t diagnose trypophobia specifically.

All the same, they can certainly recognize when the appearance of clustered holes causes intense distress and offer guidance and support on working through that fear. They may offer a more general diagnosis of specific phobia.

Plus, a therapist can also help identify any other mental health symptoms you live with, including signs of anxiety conditions or depression, by asking questions about:

  • the symptoms you experience
  • the things that trigger them
  • how they affect your daily life

Learn more about what therapy involves.

Support from a mental health professional can go a long way toward helping ease symptoms of trypophobia.

Potential approaches to treatment might include:


A few different types of therapy can help treat phobias, including exposure therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT):

  • Exposure therapy. This approach allows you to begin facing your fear in the safe environment of therapy so you can learn — with a therapist’s support — to change your response to the object or situation causing your fear. Experts generally consider exposure therapy the most effective approach for phobias.
  • CBT. This approach teaches strategies to help identify, challenge, and reframe unwanted thoughts and distressing feelings. CBT techniques can help you learn to manage overwhelming emotions, including feelings of anxiety and fear.

Learn more about therapy for phobias and when to reach out.


No medication specifically treats trypophobia symptoms, but a psychiatrist or other prescribing clinician might recommend medication if you experience:

  • extreme feelings of anxiety or panic in certain situations
  • anxiety overwhelming enough to get in the way of everyday life or keep you from making progress in therapy
  • symptoms that don’t improve with therapy alone

Medication options for specific phobias might include:

  • benzodiazepines
  • beta-blockers
  • antidepressants
  • buspirone

Learn more about medication for anxiety.

Other approaches

Your therapist might also recommend other strategies to help you manage anxiety and emotional distress. These might include:

  • relaxation techniques, including deep breathing, yoga, and meditation
  • spending time in nature and other calming environments
  • mindful breathing, observation, listening, and other mindfulness tricks to help cope with stress
  • taking time for hobbies and enjoyable activities

While taking care of your physical health may not address your phobia directly, good self-care can go a long way toward helping you feel more able to manage anxiety and other symptoms.

A few tips that may help:

  • Aim to get around 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.
  • Eat a balanced diet and limit foods that can trigger anxiety.
  • Get regular physical activity, if you’re able — exercise can help ease anxiety and depression symptoms.
  • Limit caffeine, especially if you’re sensitive to its effects, since it could worsen anxiety symptoms.
  • Reach out to friends and family to talk through your feelings.
  • Find a support group to connect with other people living with the same symptoms.

Here’s how to create a personalized self-care checklist.

In search of a therapist?

If you’d like to try online therapy, our review of the best online therapy options can help you start your search for the right teletherapy service for your needs.

Experts may not yet recognize the fear of holes as an official phobia, but that doesn’t mean your symptoms aren’t real.

If your symptoms cause emotional distress and affect your daily life, talking with a mental health professional is a good next step. They can help you explore possible causes, triggers, and helpful strategies to manage anxiety, disgust, and other unwanted emotions related to trypophobia.

Triggers, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Written by Stephanie Watson

In this Article

  • What Is Trypophobia?
  • Is Trypophobia a Real Phobia?
  • Trypophobia Symptoms
  • Trypophobia Triggers
  • Trypophobia Causes
  • Trypophobia Risk Factors
  • Trypophobia Diagnosis
  • Trypophobia Treatment
  • Trypophobia Outlook

What Is Trypophobia?

Does the sight of a honeycomb, sea sponges, or soap bubbles make you shaky and sick to your stomach? You could have trypophobia, a fear of holes.

The name for this problem comes from the Greek words "trypta," which means hole, and "phobos," which means fear. But the term doesn't date back to ancient Greece. "Trypophobia" reportedly first appeared on a web forum in 2005.

It's one of many fears of harmless things, like chaetophobia, a fear of hair, or microphobia, a fear of small things.

People with trypophobia have a strong physical and emotional reaction whenever they see patterns made up of holes or spots. The bigger the cluster of circles, the more uncomfortable they feel.

Is Trypophobia a Real Phobia?

True phobias are those that cause enough fear and worry to interfere with your everyday routine, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Trypophobia doesn't meet that standard.

The APA doesn’t officially recognize this disorder in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), a large volume of all known mental illnesses and their symptoms. Experts say trypophobia is more likely disgust than fear.

Trypophobia Symptoms

The symptoms of trypophobia look a lot like a panic attack. You might have:

  • Nausea
  • Shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • A fast heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Itching, goosebumps, or a feeling like your skin is crawling

People with trypophobia may get these symptoms several times a week or every day. Sometimes, the fear of holes never goes away.

Trypophobia Triggers

Common things that can trigger trypophobia include:

  • Holes or pebbles in concrete
  • Air holes in a slice of bread
  • Patterns in the frosting of a cake or pie
  • The head of a lotus flower
  • The holes in an old hockey mask
  • Skin problems like sores, scars, and spots
  • Spotted animals
  • Shower heads
  • LEDs in traffic lights

Trypophobia Causes

Researchers have a few ideas about what causes trypophobia.

The powerful reaction might be a way to protect yourself from danger. Some of the most poisonous animals on the planet -- like the king cobra, puffer fish, and poison dart frog -- have hole-like patterns on their skin. Those patterns are like the ones that bother people who have trypophobia.

Deadly diseases such as measles and smallpox cause circular skin rashes. Trypophobia could be a reaction that humans have developed to avoid getting sick.

It's also possible that the images themselves trigger fear. Some people may be more sensitive to the mix of light and dark in pictures of holes. Researchers say that hole-like patterns have a type of visual energy that can cause an unpleasant reaction.

Other researchers believe that the fear comes from social anxiety. Circles look a little bit like clusters of eyes or faces staring at you, which can be upsetting if you get nervous in social settings.

Trypophobia Risk Factors

Trypophobia is more common in women than in men. It also runs in families. In one study, about 25% of people who had trypophobia also had a close relative with the condition.

Some people who are afraid of hole patterns also have other mental disorders, such as:

  • Major depression
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Social anxiety
  • Panic disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Bipolar disorder

Trypophobia Diagnosis

Doctors don't know a lot about trypophobia, and it can be hard to diagnose. A psychologist or primary care doctor will ask about your symptoms and how they affect your everyday life.

One group of researchers created a list of 17 questions called the trypophobia questionnaire. It asks people to rate symptoms like anxiety or fear on a scale from 1 ("Not at all") to 5 ("Extremely") when they see pictures of holes.

A few self-tests are available online, including the Implicit Trypophobia Measure 0.5a. Before you click on one of these tests, remember that they could include images that are disturbing, even to people who don't have trypophobia.

Trypophobia Treatment

Because trypophobia isn't a true disorder, there’s no set treatment for it. Some studies show that an antidepressant like sertraline (Zoloft) plus a type of talk therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are helpful. CBT tries to change the negative ideas that cause fear or stress.

Trypophobia Outlook

If circular patterns bother you, it can help to talk with other people who share your fear. They might have some suggestions for ways you can manage trypophobia. Ask your doctor, or look online for support groups.

Trypophobia: what it is and how to get rid of it

Trypophobia is the fear or disgust at the sight of clusters (clusters) of small holes, irregularities or patterns, such as honeycombs, plant seed pods, or close-up photographs of skin pores. The word comes from the Greek "tripa" (τρύπα), which means "drilling" or "hole". Doctors do not recognize trypophobia as a diagnosable disorder because it is poorly researched.

  • What is
  • Causes
  • Symptoms
  • How to get rid of
  • Trypophobia test
  • When to See a Doctor

The material was commented by Ekaterina Kharina, counseling psychologist at the Center for Cognitive Therapy Yakova Kochetkova, psychotherapist, psychiatrist at the PsyMedClinic Mental Health Clinic

Advertising on RBC www. adv.rbc.ru

What is trypophobia

Trypophobia can manifest itself in different ways. Its main trigger is a surface with a group of small contrast holes, bumps or patterns. Some feel discomfort only at the sight of “naturalistic” clusters, such as honeycombs, wormy meat, or a toad that carries fry in holes on its back. For others, even a photo of plastic cups standing side by side, cheese with holes in it, or traffic light LEDs can make them feel uncomfortable. nine0003

Researchers believe that trypophobia goes back to very ancient human instincts and accompanies it throughout history. However, it was "discovered" quite recently. The first case of fear of cluster holes was described in 1998, and the term itself appeared only in 2004 [1]. Therefore, today this phenomenon is poorly studied and is not an official diagnosis.

In 2009, the Trypophobia.com website appeared, thanks to which, by 2012, millions of people had learned about this disease, many of whom were surprised to find it in themselves. In 2016, American model Kendall Jenner admitted that she suffers from severe trypophobia. nine0003

Terrible clowns and mirrors: the strangest celebrity phobias

Scientists believe that the fear of cluster holes is not a phobia to the same extent as, for example, agoraphobia, that is, the fear of open spaces, or arachnophobia, the fear of spiders. Trypophobia doesn't fit most of the diagnostic criteria for a phobia—and here's why.

© Shutterstock

First, every sixth person experiences some manifestation of trypophobia, although it is quite possible that this phenomenon is even more widespread [2]. This allows scientists to consider discomfort at the sight of cluster holes as the norm. A phobia is a disorder in which a person experiences fear where most other people do not. nine0003

In addition, with a phobia, fear prevents a person from living, and this happens infrequently with trypophobia. “In practice, we very rarely encounter such complaints,” notes Ekaterina Kharina. “For the most part, people simply avoid such images, don’t look at them, and live their lives in peace.”

Secondly, the symptoms of trypophobia from a clinical point of view are quite different from the manifestations of other phobias. In 2018, scientists from the American Emory University conducted an experiment in which they proved that the emotion caused by cluster holes is rather not fear, but disgust [3]. nine0003

Groups of students were first shown snakes and spiders, animals that are most often the objects of phobias. The pupils of the majority greatly dilated - scientists began to consider this a sign of a reaction of fear. However, images of the cluster holes did not lead to pupil dilation, and in some, they even narrowed.

Researchers have stated that fear causes arousal, and pupillary dilation is one of its signs. Disgust, on the contrary, suppresses a person, makes him refuse to act. nine0003

“ICD-10 (an international classification of diseases adopted in 1990, used in Russia) has specific isolated phobias, and ICD-11 (adopted in 2012) has specific phobias,” says Ekaterina Kharina. - In principle, the most pronounced cases of trypophobia with a stretch could be attributed there. But if we look at the description of these diagnoses, then they rather mean an obsessive fear of some situations or things, rather than disgust. And we often encounter disgust with obsessive-compulsive disorder. nine0003

I think that there may be people with obsessive trypophobic images, but I have never met such people. If a person feels disgust only when confronted with such images or objects, but there is no obsession, then this cannot be attributed to OCD either.

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Causes of the fear of holes

The results of the experiment by scientists from Emory are consistent with the modern assessment of trypophobia from the point of view of evolution. Today, scientists believe that trypophobia is an evolved natural reaction of our nervous system, designed to protect us from the threats associated with infections or parasites. nine0003

If a person is faced with danger, such as a predatory animal, he needs stimulation and strength to escape, so the nervous system responds to such a trigger with an adrenaline rush.

But if a person encounters something unhealthy and potentially infectious, such as a worm fruit, spoiled meat with larvae, or a person with a skin disease, the brain should make him refuse the interaction - that is, on the contrary, suppress the activity. This is how disgust works in trypophobia [4]. nine0003

Most scientists agree on this interpretation of the origin of this disorder. However, it is not clear what was the original object, the aversion to which has developed into an abstract trypophobia in modern man.

According to one theory, trypophobia originates in a reaction to honeycombs, wasp nests, or burrows of poisonous snakes. Other scientists have similarly associated trypophobia with infectious human diseases [5]. Indirectly, this interpretation is confirmed by a study in which it turned out that in people with skin diseases, trypophobic reactions are on average stronger than in others [6]. nine0003

According to another version, trypophobia is associated with social anxiety disorder, and cluster holes on a subconscious level are associated with faces or eyes that constantly watch a person [7].

It is also known that trypophobia is more prone to women and people with a number of mental and mental disorders: OCD, depressive, bipolar, panic and anxiety.

© Shutterstock

Symptoms of trypophobia

The most common symptom of trypophobia is mild discomfort. Its manifestations include:

  • anxiety;
  • nausea;
  • increased sweating;
  • palpitations;
  • tremor;
  • sensation of itching in various parts of the body.

Despite the fact that trypophobia is not yet considered a disease, in some cases it can lead to serious problems - panic attacks, increased anxiety.

“With a strong degree of trypophobia, negative impressions from seeing cluster holes can persist for a long time,” says Ekaterina Kharina. - For example, a person looked at such pictures - and the next day or even several days he thinks about them. But in my practice there were no cases when trypophobia led to pronounced shock reactions. nine0003

If trypophobia goes beyond the usual discomfort, people may begin to avoid certain things or certain foods. One of the few reported cases of acute trypophobia is a 12-year-old girl who was disgusted by any porous or sesame-sprinkled bread, strawberries, and noodle soup. She also could not drink raspberry juice or eat marmalade: the sensation of stones or granules on her tongue evoked the same reaction in her [8].

How to get rid of trypophobia

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

The main treatment for trypophobia is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The psychologist helps the patient "replace" implausible attitudes about the objects of fear with more realistic ones, and then change the behavior [9].

Exposure therapy

Another popular and effective method is exposure therapy, during which a person is gradually taught to control their level of fear. As Ekaterina Kharina notes, this is one of the subspecies of cognitive-behavioral therapy. nine0003

First, in a state of complete relaxation, the patient tells what he is afraid of, then he is shown a picture of the object of fear. Over time, a person may be able to stand next to him and even touch him. Sensitivity and the level of fear are thus reduced.

“Someone may have the idea that he will not be able to bear the sight of such an image, that his discomfort will be prolonged or will not end, that he will lose control of himself or go crazy,” Kharina explains. “With exposure, we test the patient’s “hypothesis” that their discomfort persists.” nine0003

The psychiatrist notes that exposure works well for ordinary phobias, but in the case of disgust, this method in the traditional format does not lead to a reduction in discomfort. Therefore, it had to be changed a little: a person is taught to endure what disgusts him, form positive associations and connections in memory.

© Pexels


In some cases, your doctor may prescribe medication to treat trypophobia with antidepressants or benzodiazepines. nine0003

Trypophobia test

Since trypophobia is not considered a diagnosis, it does not have precise diagnostic criteria. The tests described below are not scientific and involve looking at the triggers of trypophobia.

Japanese scientists have developed a questionnaire to measure the level of trypophobia in humans. It is necessary to evaluate the strength of 17 sensations that he experiences when looking at the cluster holes, on a 5-point scale, where 1 - the sensation does not manifest itself at all, and 5 - it manifests itself very strongly. Here is a list of these sensations:

  • fright;
  • disgust, loathing;
  • feeling of discomfort or heaviness;
  • feeling of panic, screaming;
  • alarm;
  • nausea;
  • bodily manifestations of excitement: "butterflies in the stomach", palpitations, sweating, pain in the abdomen, etc. ;
  • "feeling like I'm going crazy";
  • desire to destroy cluster holes;
  • itching;
  • tickling; nine0006
  • goosebumps;
  • desire to cry;
  • vomiting;
  • chills;
  • respiratory disorders;
  • shiver.

There is no exact methodology for assessing the level of trypophobia on this test, but in the experiment of the creators of the test, the average score of a sample of 582 people was 32.2, and the range of values ​​was from 17 to 85 [10].

There are a huge number of tests for trypophobia on the Internet. Any of them will help to subjectively assess its level to one degree or another. Implicit Trypophobia Measure 0.5a is often recommended. nine0003

© Shutterstock

Trypophobia video test is very popular. It's very easy to get through. First you need to turn on the video and take a pose according to the instructions in it. Next, you will be shown trypophobic pictures that will become more and more unpleasant. When you feel like changing your position or turning off the video, do it.

There are no exact criteria here either, but the longer you can watch this video without discomfort, the less likely you are to have trypophobia. nine0003

The author of this article had itching sensations all over his body already at the 30th second, and soon a noticeable discomfort appeared. During the editorial experiment, which involved six women and one man, it was not possible to find people with serious manifestations of trypophobia. Their reaction was much less pronounced: some felt a little uncomfortable at the end, but only one woman experienced itching sensations typical of trypophobia.

However, they managed to find one trypophobe: it turned out to be the 33-year-old husband of an employee. A video test was not even needed: it was enough just to mention that an animal called the Surinamese pipa appears there. This is a toad that carries fry in holes on its back. If they need to be released, then she "shoots" them. nine0003

The reaction was sharp: the memory of seeing a photo of an animal once caused nausea, followed by a request that he never be reminded of the pip. Then, for a whole day, he could not calmly look at holes with holes, for example, at porous sponges, which he associated with pipa.

When to See a Doctor

According to Harina, one should seek medical help with symptoms of trypophobia when they bring severe discomfort into everyday life. For example, if it is caused not only by the Surinamese pipa, but also by bubbles in the water or holes in pancakes or pancakes. nine0003

Why do holes scare me?

The average reading time is 11 minutes.

Trypophobia is the fear of cluster holes. The origin of a phobia may be explained by evolution, but the more people learn about it through the Internet, the more socially contagious it becomes.

Valentin Tarasov reads.
Podcast on YouTube, Apple, Spotify and other services

Julia was eleven years old when this first happened. She came to her father's apartment in the Swedish city of Malmö when he was not at home, dropped her backpack and plopped down on the sofa. She turned on her favorite TV channel - cartoons were about to start on it. A cartoon guy with a big head appeared on the screen. Instead of skin and a beard, he had huge cracks on his chin. nine0003

She suddenly felt a wave of disgust rising up her throat. She closed her eyes and fumbled for the button on the remote, turning off the TV. Every three or four months, she stumbled upon something she couldn't look at calmly, which caused a feeling of disgust and fear. Sometimes they were cracks, sometimes they were a lot of holes or spots, and sometimes a cluster of sea acorns in programs about the underwater world. Then she began to shake and break into sweat, which caused her to fall to the floor and cry.

One day, while texting with a friend, Julia saw something so unpleasant that she threw the phone across the room in horror. She didn't know anyone who reacted the same way to things like that. What happened?

In her twenties she was living in London with her then-boyfriend, and one day he burst home after work saying, “Julia! I know what's wrong with you!"

Kate McEniff for Mosaic

Trypophobia is an aversion to clustered holes and cracks, accompanied by feelings of fear and disgust. nine0003

You may not even have heard of this phobia. Do not worry: now you will never forget about it.

Psychologists identify several phobias that can have a negative impact on people's lives. Trypophobia was isolated not so long ago, and therefore it is not yet so widely known and studied.

There are even disputes over whether this can be considered a phobia at all. Most phobias cause an acute feeling of fear, but in some cases it is also accompanied by disgust. Some researchers believe that trypophobia is based only on disgust. nine0003

People who were asked about the first trigger for their trypophobia named various objects, from Christmas tree decorations to images of a hornet's nest, porous bricks, bubbles in cake batter, or beads of water on the body after a shower. In addition to objects found in real life, those suffering from trypophobia are sometimes frightened by images. So, images of lotus inflorescences are often cited as initial triggers. They look like green shower heads with large seeds. A fake story about the “lotus breast” with the corresponding pictures spread on the Internet in 2003 and caused a wide public outcry. nine0003

There are few studies on trypophobia in the scientific community today, but one of them explains why this fictional story spread so quickly and widely: according to the results of the experiment, trypophobia is felt more strongly when holes are shown on the skin than when they are shown on inanimate objects e. g. on rocks. It becomes even stronger when the holes are superimposed on the faces.

Of course, the "lotus breast" story would not have spread in earnest without the help of the Internet. The World Wide Web has more than once increased people's awareness of certain conditions with physical or behavioral symptoms that many believe actually originate in our minds - the so-called psychogenic conditions. nine0003

Psychogenic illness is not a new phenomenon. One of the earliest examples was the 1518 "dancing plague" in Strasbourg, and more recently, mass tics in teenage girls in a small town in upstate New York. These states are part of human life. But due to the stream of information bombarding us every minute, billions of people in all corners of the world can stumble upon triggers on the Web. And anyone with a gadget with an Internet connection becomes a potential distributor of dangerous information. nine0003

Recently, many online communities of people have emerged: for example, those suffering from dermopathy (also known as Morgellon's disease - an unexplained skin disease in which patients claim to find certain fibers under their skin - note New about ) or who consider themselves “targets” monitored and experimented on by the ruling circles. Maybe trypophobia is just another one of these conditions? Can it be considered a product of the digital world, or is it just distributed through its channels? nine0003

And why are holes of any origin a cause of animal fear for some people?

Kate McEniff for Mosaic

Julie's boyfriend grabbed his laptop and quickly typed a query into the search bar. Selecting one of the many videos, he turned it on. Less than ten seconds later, Julia burst into tears and ran out of the room.

This was one of the commercials used to determine if a person has trypophobia. This is usually a slideshow of trigger images, ranging from lotus flowers to dishwashing sponges. nine0003

After regaining consciousness, Julia thought about what had happened: “I was surprised, but at the same time I felt relieved. I was reassured that I was not the only one suffering from this, there are other people.”

But there was one snag. The girl could not get more information, because as soon as she began to google trypophobia, she immediately came across trigger images.

In this regard, she entrusted the search for information to her boyfriend, who had to read aloud everything that he found on the topic. So she found out about two groups on Facebook, uniting people suffering from trypophobia, and joined them. nine0003

Looking through these groups, she realized that trypophobia affects various aspects of life. People who suffer from it live in constant fear of accidentally or deliberately stumbling across a trigger, whether it be an object or an image. They can be anything, from pancakes to brake lights.

The massage therapist explains: “I just can't look at some things. Sometimes I have to turn away clients if their skin gives me trypophobia.”

“The hairs on my arms stand on end when I see a lot of holes,” says another person. “Sometimes I feel like I might die if I keep looking at them….” They are also afraid of any surface with a "hair-like" cover. nine0003

In Facebook groups, some claim that they are “afraid that something could jump out of these holes at any moment right in your face. ” Others describe watching TV or movies like this: “There are costume designers and makeup artists who love attention to detail in clothes or facial skin, and the camera shows the results of their work up close. Because of them, we spend the rest of the viewing time trying to recover.”

One of the users describes himself as "a guy under two meters", which "can drive into hysterics" just a picture. nine0003

Both in virtual and real life, people suffering from trypophobia often face the fact that, in an attempt to provoke some kind of reaction, they are often deliberately shown trigger images. “Showing me pictures of holes is not funny,” writes one. What can be funny about my fear? It's cruel".

For such people, trypophobia is associated with a question to which no one would like to hear the answer: "What is there in these holes?".

The patient undresses. On the body, the borders of the pimple are marked with a black dotted line. The doctor selects an instrument and asks: "Are you ready?". The scalpel touches the skin. A gloved hand looms nearby, holding a cotton swab. Almost, almost, almost. nine0003

And it's happening. A jet of greenish pus shoots out of a huge cyst on his shoulder. The pimple cannot withstand the force directed at its extermination, and its contents, writhing like a snake, come out of the pore, like a cream from a tube.

It's disgusting, but at the same time fascinating.

I'm strangely attracted to the work of US dermatologist Sandra Lee, known as Dr Pimple Popper. She has 3.5 million followers on Instagram, 5.4 million on the SLMD YouTube channel and her own series. So I'm not the only one. nine0003

I can't stop watching her videos. A strong metallic taste of saliva appears in the mouth. The head is splitting from anticipation, impatience and tension, growing before a new episode.

In case you didn't already know, popping pimples is a new trend in the video industry, very intimate and personal: the act of popping, removing and destroying blackheads, cysts and other dermatological imperfections.

This is disgusting. And also ambiguous, not even in terms of vagueness or ambiguity, but rather because of the acute tension between opposing forces - what researchers in this field call "equally capable of helping or hurting, laughing or angering." nine0003 Kate McEniff for Mosaic

Popping pimples disgusts me, but also excites me. Try showing these videos to your family and friends! (My mother-in-law liked it, a colleague who sits too close to my desk didn't.) It's funny, but even people with trypophobia have different attitudes towards this procedure.

“Surprisingly, it gives me pleasure. I don’t know why,” says Julia, who, despite her trypophobia, is partial to acne videos. nine0003

Do they act as triggers for her? “A little, but at the same time it is fascinating to me. These are very strange, mixed emotions: on the one hand, you are a little afraid, and on the other, you like it.

What's in those holes? Pus, blood, dirt.

Gross, but familiar. Think about the last time something disgusted you. Such that you wanted to wash not only your hands, but your whole body inside and out?

Whatever it is and whenever you encounter it, you are not alone. The grimace that appeared on your face then (and which, for sure, still appears now when trying to remember this incident) is identical to the one that occurs when I step into warm cat vomit. nine0003

Eyebrows frown, eyes narrow, nose wrinkles, and upper lip curls in discontent. This grimace of disgust is controlled by a muscle called the levator labii superioris. It is she who is responsible for this unique facial expression.

Researchers suggest that disgust evolved to avoid pathogens, disease-causing substances that are found in everything from spoiled food to poisonous plants, from vomit to corpses. nine0003

When we encounter such things, we instinctively “squeeze” our faces to try and prevent dangerous substances from entering the body through the mouth, nose, and eyes. We feel nauseous, say "nasty things" and retreat to protect ourselves from the negative effects of exposure to these substances.

This response to pathogens is now seen as a key component of the so-called "behavioral immune system". It represents the thought processes and behaviors that occur when trying to avoid contact with parasites and infectious diseases. nine0003

Tom Kapfer, who studies emotions at the Free University of Amsterdam, believes that trypophobia is related to an evolutionary adaptation to avoid parasites that live on our skin, such as lice and fleas. (Is it itchy everywhere now?)

Just as disgust evolved to stop us from consuming potentially harmful substances, skin reactions—like itching and flaking—have evolved to protect us from ectoparasites.

In other words, our desire to scratch what itches is no different from the desire of cows to brush off flies with their tails or cats to gnaw fleas out of their fur.

A study by Kapfer states that it is not necessary to feel parasites on the skin for this reaction to occur. “It seems that even simple images of parasites can cause a protective reaction in the skin, although usually it occurs when something is actually crawling on the body,” he explains.

While people without trypophobia felt disgust when looking at pictures depicting something dangerous to health, such as an accumulation of mites on a dog's ear, others with this phobia reacted just as violently to seemingly harmless holes in the bread. nine0003

Kapfer suggests that people with trypophobia may overreact to things that look like pathogens or parasites but are not. Just like people with a fear of snakes get scared when they see a garden hose. However, with pimple popping, uncertainty has arisen. Some online support groups ban trigger pictures, but trypophobia threads on Reddit do the opposite.

User rutterstinkle explained to another user: “In this subreddit0019 approx. Newwhy ) we post pictures that cause an attack of trypophobia. The branch was called "That'll do it" ("Will"). At the bottom was an image of a phone screen with a man with torn, holey skin on the splash screen.

Can cluster holes attract anyone at all? After all, there are owners of tarantulas, and there are arachnophobes; there are skydivers, and there are those who are afraid to even climb a stepladder. There is a thread on Reddit called "trypophobia" about which one user asked: "So it's just a mirror of a trypophobia subreddit with a different name? Or am I missing something?" nine0003

In one of the two main trypophobia Facebook groups, a user told his story of love and hatred for trypophobic things:

“Because I realized that I was not alone, I tried to desensitize to trigger pictures. In my attempts on YouTube, I came across a video from a veterinary clinic in the Gambia. Since then I have become obsessed with them. And I'm not exaggerating: I really start the day by watching their videos and watch them multiple times a day."

Another user explained, "I forced myself to look at these pictures because I thought if I looked long enough I would stop being afraid. " nine0003

Such an example of exposure therapy (or exposure therapy) rightly becomes the subject of discussion, especially since such forms are often used to treat psychiatric problems, including phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. On the other hand, there are still no published data on successful or unsuccessful cases of trypophobia treatment in this way.

Some trypophobia sufferers seek solace in another Internet trend, the Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. ASMR is a pretty popular trend on YouTube. At last count, over 13 million videos have been posted on the platform to stimulate ASMR. It is believed that they cause "pleasant tingles in the brain." nine0003

ASMR fans claim that the videos help them relax and even fight insomnia. In April 2019, a New York hotel offered embedded ASMR videos to its guests. Usually in such commercials, people eat, whisper, comb their hair, fold paper or print. But there are also weird videos, like, for example, a video from the studio of American artist Bob Ross.

Keith Macaniff for Mosaic

According to Adrien Massanari, Associate Professor of Communications at the University of Illinois Chicago, in cases of trypophobia and ASMR there is a clear social contagion aspect through online communities. “You can easily and quickly share videos and gifs and start a conversation, which can definitely get rid of the feeling of loneliness.” With a couple of clicks, the sender makes their personal Internet experience public. nine0003

Massanari calls such a phenomenon “deeply human”. Sharing even something that at first glance is unattractive, we feel a sense of togetherness. Julia doesn't go online often because she's afraid to see trigger pictures. “It takes me a long time to recover from this,” she shares.

Julia is also trying to protect herself from offline triggers. The girl loves television and films, but she has to avoid scenes filmed underwater so as not to inadvertently see bubbles or holes on aquatic plants or animals. She doesn't swim in the sea for the same reasons - on a family vacation in Egypt, Julia stayed on the boat while her siblings frolicked in the water. Once she asked her friend to change her sweater, because it was full of holes, and the girl simply could not look at him. nine0003

Julia is a graphic design student, so her Instagram is predictably flawless. Photo of skyscrapers, lanterns, stairs. She even makes grocery carts and umbrellas look beautiful: sharp corners everywhere, refraction and reflection, the balance of light and shadow.

Some of the photos even have holes, but they are correct, clean, perfect. For example, the insides of a washing machine or round windows on building facades. Everything is accurate. Restrained. No cracks.

I asked if trypophobia interferes with her profession. “No, I haven’t experienced anything like this yet,” she replied. “Now we are mixing theory and practice, so we can photograph whatever we want.” nine0003

I noticed that her photos look very linear. “I never thought about it,” the girl admits. In photography, I love structure. Maybe it has something to do with control."

I asked if she had ever been treated for her phobia.

She answered in surprise: “Well, is there a cure?”

I tentatively mentioned talking therapy.

Massanari explained how people with anxiety disorders look to popping pimples, ASMR, and miniature food (google 'miniature food' - it looks amazing) for self-soothing. nine0003

“Using these videos as a means of venting emotion or coping with anxiety can be just as likely to have a positive or a negative outcome,” says Massanari. “That’s what people usually do when they don’t have access to professional support.”

Now Julia, as before, is simply trying to avoid things that she cannot tolerate. But danger can lie in wait for her even in a dream. Sometimes, falling asleep, a girl sees pictures of holes and holes that make her jump out of bed. nine0003

I asked if she had seen these images before.

“No. The brain draws them on its own,” Julia explained. According to her, as soon as you find out that you have trypophobia, you immediately begin to see triggers everywhere.

When you learn about trypophobia, you start talking about it all the time. In the pub, at work, in conversation with my mother, like Julie's boyfriend or those Reddit users, I strove to show any interlocutor images of lotus flowers, Surinamese toads or honeycombs to see their reactions. nine0003

To most, this seems too strange to be true. Just another non-disease spread over the Internet. And the media only inflates the extent of the contagion: a Kardashian who is “fighting her trypophobia,” a famous chef posting trigger photos of Wellington beef, and students so afraid of bubbles that they can’t wash dishes.

What you do not even notice - unless, of course, you begin to look for it intentionally - can ruin a day and a whole week for another person. A forced situation in which he sees pictures that cause fear and panic. The need to check movies that you want to watch with your child, downloaded TV shows, ads on the bus for something that might scare. nine0003

Whether or not this phobia is officially recognized, there are people who suffer from trypophobia every day.

While the Internet can sometimes cause harm by spreading trigger images, it also allows people with the same phobia to come together and talk about how the Ralph scene scared them, when they might never have met in real life.

In an online world that seems so fragmented and divided into subcultures - those who like to watch pimples pop, who suffer from trypophobia or enjoy ASMR - there are still some things in common. It reminds us of our human nature. We are all made of skin and bones, flesh and blood. nine0003

Whether we feel pleasure or disgust, the main thing is that we feel.

So, we live.

Based on materials from Mosaic
Author: Chrissy Giles

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