Trypophobia: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors and Treatments
What is trypophobia?
Trypophobia is a fear or aversion to densely packed holes. People who feel nauseous when looking at the surface with small holes that gather close together. For example, a lotus seed or strawberry head may cause unpleasant feelings for someone with this phobia.
Trypophobia is, therefore, the recommended phobia (intense, irrational anxiety or fear) of irregular specimens or clusters of small holes or bumps. This phobia is not officially recognized as a mental disorder and rarely mentioned in scientific literature.
Studies on tryphobhobia are also limited and available research is divided into whether it is to be considered an official ailment.
What does the research say?
Researchers disagree on whether to classify trypophobia as a true phobia. One of the first tryphobic studies published in 2013 has suggested that this phobia can be an extension of biological fear from harmful things. Researchers have found that the symptoms were caused by high contrast colors in a particular graphical layout. They also claimed that people affected by trypophobia unknowingly associate harmless objects, such as lotus seed boxes, with dangerous animals such as the blue circle octopus.
Another study published in April 2017 casts doubt on these findings. Scientists have examined pre-school children to confirm whether the fear of seeing a small hole is based on fear of a dangerous animal or a response to visual characteristics. Their results suggest that people experiencing trypophobia are not afraid of poisonous beings. Instead, fear is caused by the appearance of the being.
Tryphobobium is not well known and is uncommon. The following are the common things that trigger it:
- Lotus seed boxes
• Aluminum metal foam
• eye cluster
Animals, including insects, amphibians, mammals and other creatures who have seen skin or fur, can also cause symptoms of trypophobia.
Symptoms are said to be triggered when one sees an object with small heaps of holes or shapes that look like holes.
When they see a cluster of holes, people with trypophobia react with resistance or fear. Some of these symptoms also are:
- Visual discomforts such as eye fatigue, deformity or illusion
- Body vibration
- Emergency situation
- Feeling that your skin is crawling
- Panic attacks
- Does not feel uncomfortable
There is not much known about the risk factors associated with trypophobia. The study of 2017 found a possible link between trypophobia and depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. However, according to the researchers, people with trypophobia have had a more depressive disorder or anxiety disorder.
To diagnose phobias, your doctor will ask you about a number of questions about your symptoms. They also take your medical, psychiatric and social history. They can also turn to the DSM-5 to help diagnose them. Trypophobia is, however, not a diagnosis, because the phobia is not officially recognized by medical and mental health associations.
There are several ways to treat phobias. The most effective form of treatment is exposure therapy. The exposure therapy is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on changing your reaction to an object or situation that causes your anxiety.
Also, another common therapy for phobias is cognitive behavioral therapy. A cognitive behavioral therapy combines exposure therapy with other techniques to help keep your fears under control and ensure that your thoughts are not overwhelming.
Other treatment options that can help you manage phobias are:
- General speaking with a counselor or psychiatrist
- Attentive breathing, observation, listening and other attentive strategies for dealing with stress
- Medicines such as beta-blockers and sedatives that reduce anxiety and panic symptoms
- Exercise and physical activity to control anxiety
- Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and yoga
While drugs have been tested with other types of anxiety disorders, their effectiveness in trypophobia is poor.
Therefore, it may also be useful to:
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet.
- Get enough rest as well.
- Avoid caffeine and other substances that can aggravate anxiety.
- Contact friends, family, or group that support links with other people who resolve the same issues.
- Cole GG, et al. (2013). Fear of holes. DOI:
- Chaya K, et al. (2016). Fear of eyes: Triadic relation among social anxiety, trypophobia, and discomfort for eye cluster. DOI:
- Imaizumi S, et al. (2016). Trypophobia is predicted by disgust sensitivity, empathic traits, and visual discomfort. DOI:
- Can W, et. al. (2017). Is trypophobia a phobia? DOI: