Trypophobia: Symptoms, Causes And Treatments

The trypophobia , phobia holes, the holes or points, is the extreme fear or repulsion caused by any standard, particularly holes or small holes close together geometric figures, but can also be small rectangles or circles convex.

It is a fairly common phobia in humans, although little known in reality. While trypophobia not listed in the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association , thousands of people claim to feel revulsion and anxiety symptoms to the observed patterns of small holes agglomerates.

This phobia can provoke emotions such as disgust, fear and in some cases panic. Although it is not considered a disease, if it interferes with mental well-being, it is advisable to go to a professional to evaluate and treat it.

Some of the objects that can cause this sensation are corals, bee panels, soap bubbles, a polka dot suit, a handful of stacked logs or an aerated chocolate bar.

Causes of trypophobia

Most phobias are caused by traumatic experiences or are culturally learned.

However, this would not be the case for trypophobia according to research carried out by the University of Essex, the results of which were recently published in the journal Psychological Science .

According to Geoff Cole, a vision science researcher, the visual patterns that trigger symptoms in people with trypophobia are similar to those found in various poisonous animals.

Some of the world’s deadliest animals, such as the blue-ringed octopus, king cobra, certain scorpions, and various spiders, have spot patterns on their surfaces.

Taking this into account, it could be inferred that trypophobia has a simple evolutionary explanation: people who feel disgusted by observing these patterns move away from dangerous animals, which helps them in their survival.

In this way, it is not surprising that even today many people present symptoms of anxiety when observing patterns of spots or holes that are reminiscent of those seen in the most poisonous animals in the world.

It would be reminiscent of a fear that formerly helped many humans to survive.

Symptoms How do you know if you have a phobia of holes?

If you want to know if in your case trypophobia is really a phobia and needs treatment, the following conditions must be met:

-The fear must be persistent, excessive and irrational, and must be triggered by the presence or anticipation of the stimulus, in this case, the observation of a certain geometric pattern.

-Exposure to the stimulus must invariably provoke an intense anxiety response or a panic attack.

-You avoid the situations that cause these symptoms or you barely bear them, always under an intense feeling of discomfort or anxiety.

-These avoidance behaviors and anxiety symptoms (which appear even when you only think of a honeycomb) interfere with your daily life: in your work, your studies, your social life and your normal routine.

If you feel identified as the situations described above, then your trypophobia is actually a true phobia and it would be a good idea to seek help so that the symptoms no longer interfere with your life.

What else does science know?

In many forums on the internet, thousands of people who have self-diagnosed trypophobia share their experiences.

Scientific psychology has yet to admit trypophobia as a disease, it is also not listed in the dictionary, and until recently it was not on Wikipedia.

However, scientists Arnold Wilkins and Geoff Cole from the University of Essex, decided to do more research on this phobia and carried out several experiments.

In one of them they showed a series of images to 286 people taken at random. Between the images the holes of a cheese alternated and a panel of lotus seeds full of holes with various natural landscapes.

The participants had to indicate if the images caused them any kind of discomfort.

About 16% of the people surveyed said they felt some disgust when looking at images with holes or geometric patterns, while the remaining 84% said they did not feel anything special when looking at any of the images.

Wilkins and Cole analyzed the characteristics of the images that did cause unpleasant sensations and found something in common in all of them: Spectral analysis of the trypophobic images showed high-contrast energy in the mid-range spatial frequencies, which makes them striking to look at. .

It is not yet known why these images cause unpleasant sensations in certain people and not in others, but what scientists are sure of is that trypophobia does not have a cultural origin, such as triscaidecaphobia for example.

And in most cases, trypophobia is also not traumatic in origin.

The researchers believe that the human body may have used these triggers to get away from certain poisonous animals, which have patterns on their skin with characteristics similar to the images from the trypophobia study.

In some people, these triggers continue to work, which is why they feel anxious and adrenaline invades their bloodstream when they observe certain patterns.

However, there is also another theory about the origin of trypophobia. There are those who think that it is just a collective manifestation of disgust at certain images.

The aversion to holes in organic material could easily be explained because they are images that are frequently associated with disease, says Martin Antony, a professor of psychology at Ryerson University in Toronto, author of a book on anxiety control.

In any case, people with trypophobia continue to group together in different forums on the internet and even have a Facebook group with more than six thousand members, while science tries to elucidate the origin of their symptoms.


Like all phobias, there are several possible treatments, various psychological therapies, and some medications:

Exposure therapy

In exposure therapy, the therapist will gradually expose you to the stimulus that causes your symptoms, helping you to control anxiety through different tools.

Gradual and repeated exposure over time will make you feel less and less anxious so you can control the situation when you see patterns of small holes. You can learn more about this therapy in this article.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

In short, cognitive behavioral therapy is about changing thoughts and behaviors.

It also involves gradual exposure to the stimulus, combined with other techniques that will help you deal with anxiety-provoking situations in different ways. Your beliefs about your phobia and the impact it has on your life will also change.


They must be prescribed by a psychiatrist. For the treatment of some phobias, antidepressants, tranquilizers or beta-blockers are prescribed.

The beta blockers are drugs that neutralize the effects of adrenaline in the body. They slow the heart rate, lower blood pressure, and reduce tremors.

The antidepressants commonly prescribed for severe phobias are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. The doctor may also prescribe other types of antidepressants to control symptoms, depending on each case.

Lastly, a certain type of tranquilizer medications called benzodiazepines can help control anxiety in people with various types of phobias. They should be used with caution because they can have adverse side effects and various contraindications.

It should be noted that in most cases, medication is used when the symptoms of the phobia are really uncontrollable and interfere with the person’s daily life, preventing them from carrying out their activities normally.

For other cases, psychological therapies and any other method that helps control anxiety, such as yoga or meditation for example, are recommended.

Living with trypophobia: a real testimony

Here is an example of what life can be like for a person with trypophobia, according to the actual testimony of a patient:

“It all started when I was less than ten years old. My father loved fishing and we often went out together. When we caught something important, we kept the skeleton or teeth of the fish as a trophy.

Once, on the edge of the kitchen window, a flat ovoid bone appeared, full of thousands of little holes, one next to the other, surely it  was the bone of some prey.

That object really disgusted me and when my father noticed, he forced me to touch it. Obviously, I cried and I think at that moment my phobia started  .

My father, in an attempt to heal me, would expose me to anything that had holes or holes: a piece of coral or a honeycomb. When the waves  receded in the sea leaving many little holes in the sand, I forced myself to walk on them.

The symptoms got worse over the years and I got nausea, dizziness and panic attacks that I could barely control.

When I was older, I looked for information and found four methods to overcome these types of phobias, and I used all four to develop the  tools that today allow me to control anxiety in some situations.

The first method is to gradually expose yourself to images with groups of holes.

The second is to seek information about the phobia in question to try to reason about the matter and banish the fear in this way.

The third is to resort to the imagination to face the object without actually seeing it and the fourth is the shock method: a prolonged and forced exposure, until the anxiety can be controlled.

After my first shock experience, I thought my trypophobia had been cured. A few months later, on a trip to the Caribbean, I signed up for a diving excursion  , without thinking that under the sea there are millions of plants and animals full of little holes.

So I suddenly found myself hyperventilating with an oxygen nozzle on as the instructor held my hand trying to help me touch  an orange coral with thousands of hideous little holes on its surface.

I couldn’t even scream. When we finally surfaced, I thought: if I can handle this, I can handle anything.

After that experience, whenever I come across a pattern of holes, I try to take a deep breath and reason. If I can control the anxiety  in that first moment, I can continue almost normally.

Although I don’t always succeed. Apparently, I will always be phobic, although I have stages of hypersensitivity during which I scare even the pores on my  face, and in other stages, the symptoms soften and I can buy a jar of honey with a panel drawn on the label.

As you can see, trypophobia seems like a totally real phobia. The study carried out at the University of Essex showed that 16% of the population show symptoms of trypophobia when they see images full of holes or geometric patterns.

So in the event that you also have this phobia, you are not the only one, and most people manage to control their symptoms, so you can too. If you can’t manage your anxiety yourself, don’t hesitate to see a professional.

And what symptoms of trypophobia do you have? How have you tried to overcome it?


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