Trypophobia: definition, causes, symptoms and treatment


Trypophobia is an intense and disproportionate fear of clustered or repetitive patterns of holes, irregularities, or bumps such as honeycombs or lotus seed pods. Trypophobia is not classified as a mental disorder. However, you may meet the criteria for a phobia if the sight of clustered patterns causes sudden fear and anxiety to the point of causing marked distress or aggravation.

There is a debate as to whether trypophobia fits the clinical definition of a particular phobia. However, people with severe symptoms can be treated with therapies commonly used to treat anxiety disorders, such as exposure therapy.

Get Medical Information / Laura Porter

What is trypophobia?

Until recently, little was known about trypophobia. The term trypophobia is believed to have been first coined in 2005, when members of an online forum claimed to have an unfounded fear or dislike of objects with tightly closed holes.

Since then, thousands of people have said they were injured. This has led some experts to question whether trypophobia is a legitimate condition or simply a social disorder similar to Morgellon 's disease.

Typically, experts diagnose a phobia according to criteria set out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Edition 5 ( DSM-5 ). However, it has been difficult to determine whether trypophobia fits these conditions for a particular phobia, because researchers interpret this condition in different ways.

For example, a study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry in 2018 reported that many people who claim to be trypophobic show disgust at seeing clustered patterns, but not fear. These researchers did not classify this as a phobia, as fear is the defining characteristic of phobias .

On the contrary, the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry has published a report that concludes that trypophobia is in fact a specific phobia. This was determined by the persistence of symptoms in combination with psychological stress and disturbances experienced by the study participants .

Other researchers speculate that an individual's initial aversion to group patterns may start out as fear, but with negative reinforcement and constant avoidance, it can develop into a phobia over time .

While there is limited and controversial research on whether trypophobia is actually a true phobia, any object or situation that consistently triggers extreme irrational fear can legitimately be considered a phobia.


Trypophobia can be caused by a variety of things and patterns. For example, lotus seed pods, honeycombs, and pomegranates have large clustered holes that can cause fear and anxiety.

Insect eyes, sea sponges, coral reefs, and condensation on the surface can also cause disgust and disgust. People who fear holes may also be nervous about man-made products like bubble wrap or graphics that appear to be full of holes.

Each phobia manifests itself as a psychological reaction and an autonomic nervous system reaction. These reactions precipitate negative experiences in a person because strong emotions generate physical symptoms and vice versa.

People with trypophobia may experience some or all of the following physical and psychological symptoms :

  • Panic attacks
  • Perspiration
  • Tremble
  • Hot flashes or chills
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Looking for breath
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Soft spot
  • Numbness
  • Dry mouth
  • Confusion

People with phobias tend to avoid the object or experience that triggers the symptoms, which can make work difficult in certain circumstances.


Another diagnostic problem is that trypophobia can coexist with other psychiatric disorders (such as major depressive disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder), resulting in overlapping symptoms .


Phobias do not have a specific cause. Instead, they can be the result of any number or combination of complex factors, including genetics, previous trauma, responses learned at an early age, and long-term anxiety or depression.

Some scientists believe that the cause of trypophobia may be evolutionary. Researchers from the University of Amsterdam suggest that trypophobia is not caused by trauma or anxiety, but simply "an exaggerated and overly generalized version of the natural adaptive response" to patterns in nature that we initially considered dangerous .

For example, a person may unconsciously associate an uneven object with a rash or blisters, as with smallpox . The groups of holes can be interpreted as parasitic skin infections and certain patterns can mimic the appearance of poisonous snakes.

Similarly, a person may be afraid of clumped patterns in food and other organic matter, because they mimic the appearance of larvae, which can make food dangerous to eat.

Other academics are less supportive of this hypothesis. In a 2017 study, preschoolers reacted immediately to color photographs of poisonous snakes, but not to the characteristic patterns associated with snakes. This suggests that any response to such patterns can be learned more than instinctively. It also raises questions about whether trypophobia is a legitimate phobia .

Watch out

Trypophobia is not a specific disease, so there are no clearly established recommended treatments. However, people who are diagnosed with a specific phobia are usually treated with psychotherapy and, if necessary, with medication.

Treatment includes:

  • Exposure therapy, which can reduce a person's response to fear by gradually exposing them to what they avoid and fear.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy helps people deal with the negative thoughts, behaviors, and emotions that arise from their phobias, and then replaces them with feelings of security and positivity.
  • Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants that can be used to relax someone who is experiencing stress, anxiety, and anxiety in response to a phobia.
  • SSRIs help treat phobias by regulating serotonin, a brain chemical that influences mood and anxiety.
  • Beta- blockers can counteract the disturbing effects of phobias by blocking beta receptors. It slows the heart rate and helps lower blood pressure to reduce anxiety symptoms.

Get the word of drug information

Whether trypophobia is a recognized diagnosis or not, it has the potential to harm daily life. Any hyperactive response to an object or situation that is persistent and causes avoidance behavior should not be ignored or downplayed. You can get help from a therapist or doctor who specializes in phobias and anxiety disorders.

A professional can help you discover a variety of tools and treatments to find the right one for you. Many people have phobias and irrational fears and can overcome them with the right help. Talking openly with your loved ones about how you are feeling can reduce your fears and support you on your healing journey.

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