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When you can’t look at holes?

For some people, looking at clusters of small holes can trigger intense fear or disgust. This condition is known as trypophobia, and it affects around 15% of people. While not officially classified as a mental disorder, trypophobia can cause significant distress for those who experience it. In this article, we’ll explore what trypophobia is, what causes it, its symptoms, and when you know you can’t look at holes.

What is Trypophobia?

Trypophobia refers to the fear of holes, bumps, and clusters of repetitive patterns. The word comes from the Greek words “trypa” meaning holes or openings, and “phobia” meaning fear. While many people feel uneasy looking at images of clusters of holes, for people with trypophobia this fear is taken to the extreme.

Some examples of trypophobic imagery include:

  • Honeycomb
  • Pomegranate seeds
  • Bubbles
  • Frogs eggs
  • Lotus seed pods

When people with this condition see images like these, it can trigger an intense reaction of fear, disgust, and revulsion. In some cases, it may even lead to panic attacks.

While trypophobia is not classified as an official phobia in medical manuals, researchers believe it may share similarities with other anxiety disorders. The fear and disgust felt by trypophobics when looking at trigger images is very real and distressing.

What Causes Trypophobia?

The exact causes of trypophobia are unknown, but scientists have proposed some theories:

Evolutionary Threat

Some researchers believe there may be an evolutionary basis to trypophobia. In primitive times, seeing patterns of holes may have been associated with danger or disease. Holes may be instinctively linked with poisonous animals or insects, infections, or skin parasites. This could trigger a fearful response.

Visual Discomfort

Looking at clusters of holes may be visually uncomfortable or disorienting for the brain. The repeating patterns may create an optical illusion that the brain struggles to process. This confusion and discomfort could lead to revulsion.

Overactive Imagination

Some experts think people with trypophobia may simply have an overactive imagination. Looking at holes may provoke disturbing imagined sensations like something crawling under the skin. This imagined sensation amplifies feelings of disgust.

More research is needed to uncover the root causes of trypophobia. It likely involves a combination of visual perception, emotion, and mental associations.

Symptoms of Trypophobia

When exposed to triggering imagery, people with trypophobia often experience the following symptoms:

  • Intense fear, repulsion, or disgust
  • Itchy skin or feeling like something is crawling on the skin
  • Shuddering or shivering
  • Sweating or chills
  • Shortness of breath or nausea
  • Panic attacks
  • Headaches
  • Feeling faint or dizzy

Reactions can range from mild discomfort to full blown panic attacks. Responses may be instant upon seeing the imagery, or more delayed. The level of symptoms can vary between individuals.

Common Triggers

Here are some common trypophobic triggers and images that provoke reactions:

  • Honeycomb, sponges, corals
  • Clusters of eyes
  • Frogs eggs, bubbles, holes in skin
  • Seeds, barnacles, soap bubbles
  • Evenly spaced patterns and clusters

Basically, any image with clustered circles or holes can trigger discomfort. While not officially a recognized disorder, trypophobia is a very real phenomenon.

When You Know You Can’t Look at Holes

Here are some signs that indicate you may have trypophobia:

  • Seeing images of clustered holes makes you instantly uncomfortable or squeamish.
  • You feel like you need to immediately look away or block the image from view.
  • Looking at holes or bubbles makes your skin crawl or itch.
  • You experience nausea, chills, or revulsion when seeing repetitive hole patterns.
  • You find yourself unable to look closely at objects like honeycomb or pomegranates.
  • Seeing holes elicits an intense and disproportionate emotional response.
  • You go out of your way to avoid images that trigger this reaction.

If you have these reactions consistently, it may be sign that you have trypophobia. The level of fear experienced is out of proportion to any real danger, reflecting a phobia.

Overcoming Trypophobia

If you suffer from trypophobia, there are some methods that may help overcome or cope with the condition:

  • Exposure Therapy: Gradually viewing triggering images and overcoming fear responses can help desensitize sufferers.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: This type of talk therapy helps modify negative thought patterns around holes.
  • Medications: Anti-anxiety medications may temporarily reduce feelings of panic and fear.
  • Relaxation Techniques: Breathing exercises, meditation, or mindfulness can all help calm fear and reduce symptoms.
  • Avoidance: Simply avoiding triggering images can help manage responses on a daily basis.

Though trypophobia is not officially recognized, the fear and revulsion it causes is real. Seeking help from a therapist can aid in developing coping strategies. With proper management, it is possible to overcome and live with this condition.

Prevalence of Trypophobia

It’s estimated that trypophobia affects around 15-20% of people. Women seem to be more predisposed than men.

A 2017 study examined trypophobia reactions by gender among 286 participants. The results showed:

  • 21% of women had extreme trypophobic reactions
  • 9% of men had extreme trypophobic reactions
  • 76% of trypophobics were female

Interestingly, the phobia does not seem related to other disorders. Trypophobics do not necessarily have increased tendencies toward other phobias.

While trypophobia appears common, it also goes unreported. Many people don’t realize their aversion is shared by others. Increased awareness has led more trypophobics to recognize they are not alone.

Famous Cases of Trypophobia

Though rarely discussed, several celebrities have admitted to suffering from trypophobia:

Kendall Jenner

In 2018, model Kendall Jenner confessed her trypophobia on Twitter after fan account posted a photo of a sliced honeycomb. She tweeted: “I have horrific trypophobia. This makes me want to scratch my skin off.”

Chloe Grace Moretz

Actress Chloe Grace Moretz also took to Twitter to express her disgust at trypophobic images, saying: “Trypophobia is so real and horrible.” She posted an image of a lotus seed head, saying the photo made her “skin crawl.”

Geoffrey Arend

In 2017, actor Geoffrey Arend told a talk show host he had to block images on social media to avoid seeing trypophobic triggers. He said the images provoke an uncontrollable emotional response.

Kelly Osbourne

Reality star Kelly Osbourne has also described her struggles with trypophobia. She shared that seeing repetitive hole patterns makes her feel “sick and scared”.

Harry Styles

Singer Harry Styles once abruptly ended an interview after a trypophobic image appeared on screen. He apologized, saying “I just don’t like holes.”

These celebrities help raise awareness and show that trypophobia is more common than many realize. Their stories validate the experiences of ordinary trypophobics.

Finding Help for Trypophobia

If you suffer from trypophobia, know that you’re not alone. Seeking help and support can make the condition more manageable. Here are some tips:

– Talk to your doctor. Explain your symptoms and ask for guidance. They may refer you to a therapist or counselor.

– Find a mental health professional familiar with phobias and anxiety disorders. Therapies like exposure and CBT can be highly effective.

– Join a trypophobia online forum. Connecting with others who understand your specific fear provides community.

– Let friends and family know. Having loved ones who understand your phobia provides acceptance and support.

– Practice self-care and stress management. Soothing activities like yoga, deep breathing, or meditation help calm your mind and body.

– Take time to educate yourself. Learning more about trypophobia provides insight and tools to overcome it.

– Be patient and don’t avoid the fear entirely. With gradual exposure and courage, it is possible to overcome this phobia.

You don’t have to live in distress. Seeking treatment tailored to trypophobia offers hope of conquering your fear.


Trypophobia, the fear of holes, affects a sizable number of people. The exact causes are unclear but may be linked to biological evolution, visual discomfort, or an overactive imagination. Looking at clusters of holes can provoke symptoms like panic attacks, revulsion, nausea, and itchy skin in those with the condition. Trypophobia is not officially classified as a disorder, but treatment is available through exposure therapy, CBT, medications, and self-care. Raising awareness makes those who suffer feel understood and provides hope for overcoming this phobia. While trypophobia may always affect some individuals more than others, it doesn’t have to severely impact quality of life with proper treatment and support.