The fear of holes, or trypophobia, is an irrational and persistent fear of holes, generally not the huge ones but the tiny holes seen within asymmetrical clusters. It is a rather unusual, albeit, a common type of phobia, wherein sufferers report having an adverse reaction to images of holes or objects with holes.
Typical symptoms of trypophobia
According to researchers Geoff Cole and Arnold Wilkins of the University of Essex, the brains of trypophobic individuals associate the holes with some kind of danger. The kind of danger one senses or imagines it yet to be established.
The fear of holes not only covers holes in the form of images, the individual may also fear holes in meat, clusters/pores on the skin, on vegetables or fruits or even those in sponges, wood, honeycombs etc. For some people, even the mere verbal mention of “fear of small holes” is enough to trigger trembling and shuddering.
The reaction displayed by each trypophobic individuals is different: some feel their skin ‘crawling’, others may shudder, a few report feeling itchy while still others report feeling physically sickened or disgusted. Some phobics also report thoughts of falling into the holes triggering major panic attacks.
Causes of trypophobia
A group dedicated to the fear of holes on a popular social media site has tried to establish the causes behind this as yet unexplored phobia. Often people are completely unaware that they have a latent form of trypophobia until they actually see images of holes. Individuals in the group have volunteered the following probable causes behind this unusual fear:
- Deep rooted emotional problem-Some object associated with childhood that triggers traumatic memories associated with holes. Possible bee stings in the past that led to a swelling wherein the swollen skin displayed every pore.
- Scientists have also reported that evolution may be one of the major causes behind the fear of holes. They explain this fact by giving the example of “pockmarked objects” which do not seem “quite right or completely normal”. Some primitive portion of the brain perceives or associates these ‘pockmarks’ with something dangerous.
- Holes also tend to be associated with organic objects like rashes or skin blisters that typically follow an episode of measles or chicken pox.
Treating fear of holes
Facing your fear of holes is the best way to overcome it. Trypophobia is as yet an unexplored science, however, the same methods of treatment used for overcoming other kinds of anxiety and phobias can be used for treating trypophobia:
Cognitive behavior therapy: This therapy focuses on altering a person’s thinking. This includes converting harmful or unproductive thought patterns into controlled and positive ones. It eventually helps the trypophobic individual distinguish between reality and imagination.
If a deep rooted emotional problem is the likely cause behind the fear of holes, then behavior therapy, counseling and hypnosis may also prove to be very effective in treating trypophobia.
Neuro Linguistic programming therapy is also being used for treating trypophobia. This includes exposing the subject to his/her fears and altering or reprogramming them in order to diminish the phobia.
As can be seen, a lot needs to be studied in order to determine the origin and exact cause of the fear of holes. There are no diagnostic tests for determining if one has the fear of holes. However, if an image of holes or the mere thought thereof is taking an extreme form or affecting your day to day life, it is best to undergo one of the therapies explained above in order to regain control over this fear.
James Charles says
It always makes me press my teeth together and gives me the urge to find a knife and slice off the skin on my forearms even though nothing is there.
Sometimes pictures of succulents in a garden bed will make me cringe. Pictures of little holes make me think of the skin rashes I sometimes have since I was a child. Rashes or hives due to eczema, poison ivy or even elastic in my clothing.
I am 14 and these things never used to bother me but now that I am older I get chills from looking at small holes that are all close together.
Omg same. I’m 18 now, but ever since I was 8, that’s when I started having this phobia. I would get the chills and would want to scratch it.
I’m only ten but I have a fear of holes, especially bee nests and wasps. When I was like 7 years old I got chased by a swarm of yellow jackets and I got stung by 6 and passed out. I woke up in a hospital with searing pain in my neck.
I don’t know why but the fear of holes is just creepy.
liv taylor says
I only realized how much I’m actually affected by this phobia recently. I was watching a film in school about war and in one of the scenes, there were several bullet holes in a wall, and I absolutely freaked out and literally could not watch it. It’s crazy and it all started when I saw the ‘crumpet hand’ on a facebook post several years ago and even saying that phrase makes me want to puke.
I think that might be the very image I saw and realized for the first time how deep this phobia is. I was at work and saw the Facebook post, and I jumped, almost cried out (maybe I did), and got very lightheaded. I had every negative and disgusted feeling. A friend had to close Facebook for me. It’s awful and can pop up anywhere. Just the word “clusters” makes my hair stand on end.
I’m trying to find out what my phobia is called, or if it exists – can anyone help?
I have an extremely strong aversion to basically anything long and skinny and breakable extending off a living body. Spider legs, insect antennae, birds wings. It’s like I’m terrified of them and I’m equally terrified of their limbs breaking unnaturally. To calm myself down I have to think of fat spheres and soft (not spiky) edges and nothing sticking out, nothing long or skinny that could be broken. Otherwise I will literally run away screaming, from something as harmless as a magpie or a cockroach. Any ideas?
Joah Yates says
It is fine to be afraid of roaches (I don’t know anyone who is fine with them; let alone like them) but a magpie shouldn’t be scary unless they attack you. To help with this phobia of yours, I suggest going to a therapist.
I have Trypophobia and it started when I was little. I was watching a show where there was a piece of cheese and then 3 mice suddenly popped out of the cheese and made little holes in the cheese. I freaked out so much.
When I see a picture of small holes it makes me want to scream and cry and it makes me feel sick.
I’m crying right now because I looked up holes in the skin.
No why would you look that up! I just looked it up and now I am shaking.
When I see holes close together I get goosebumps all over my arms and the top of my head feels itchy.
Anyone else that won’t eat strawberries because of this?
Just curious, because while I relate to every single thing I read in comments, I didn’t see anyone else mentioning strawberries.
Yes! The sight of one in person gives me the shivers. It’s similar to skin with clogged pores. I’m glad I’m not the only one.
If I see a hole, mainly holes of perfect shape and size (similar shape of holes) my body start to itch and I want to destroy it all.
I won’t eat a pomegranate because of the holes.
I have trypophobia, and if an image gets hold of me it’s very hard to drive it from my mind. I have also trained myself never to look up at my shower head because the holes there really disturb me. Anyway, one of the things I find most troubling about this phobia is that I cannot find any kind of support group for it online, because OF COURSE as soon as I do a search the hideous images come up. So I thank you all for weighing in, because it helps to know I’m not crazy. Or I am crazy and I have lots of good company! But seriously–the explanation that the disturbance could come from some primal association we have with pestilence makes a lot of sense to me. It explains the deep horror.
Naysia Wherry says
I am 13 and every time I see small holes my stomach starts growling or bubbles up a lot and I start almost vomiting or spitting
Sometimes when i see holes (most commonly drains) i get scared, shrudder and avoid it quickly.
That happens to me too, whenever I see holes I’ll get a crawly shuddering feeling and turn away from it.
I think I have the opposite of this – Trypophilia. For some reason I get great pleasure from looking at small holes like that.
So do I. I find them almost mesmerizing. But I really wish I knew the cause!
Me too! The 1st time I saw that photo of a Lotus pod, they pretended it was some weird growth on someone’s finger. I found myself craving to go back and look at the picture over and over. Something weirdly satisfying about it.
Smth smth says
In my class the upper walls and ceilling is made of wood and filled with holes and i cannot look at it and thats when i discovered i was trypophobic and i was laughed at.
My fear is of tightly clustered objects (which would include holes, I guess). Is that trypophobia?
When I first realized this was a phobia I was relieved. I thought I was crazy. My biggest phobia of holes are spores on the leaves from roses or on the baby’s breath. O my, I gag and get so sick to my stomach and itch like crazy.
My body shudders and I want to vomit at the sights of multiple small pores with moving things inside them. that’s trypophobia I learnt. But I also get sickened feelings looking at surface with protruding (opposite of pores) like cat, dog’s breasts, some women’s nipples, dotted condoms with solid color… now what’s that phobia.
I am 46 years old. I first noticed I had an issue with holes, crack, and clusters at the age of 5 and so did my sister. We were disturbed by bathroom tiles and saw what no one else in the family could. Over the years some things grossed me out but I never associated it with the “3” until I watch the 1st episode of American Horror Story – Cult in which the main character has this phobia (DON’T WATCH IT). Now I experience all of the classic reactions. I have a supper strong mind and usually nothing bothers me, including horror movies. I can see how this could drive someone to insanity but knowing you are not a freak and that you simply have a common phobia that many others have, should be very encouraging. All of the explanations that I have read for this phobia may be comforting but I don’t believe any to be accurate. After watching “AHS” I noticed that while on my job I was surrounded by items with millions of holes daily. I had to figure this out. Clearly the scientists and doctors are lazy and don’t want to help us. I think I’ve got this Trypophobia figured out. I will continue to study myself and will disclose my findings when complete. P.S. One of my kids has it too.
I don’t know can I say I have this phobia or not, I think no. But every time I see something like that i just want to crush it until it don’t have any shape, it’s not I am scared, it just like I want to crush it even though it’s in peoples hand or face. I remember I when I fell from bicycle and my grandma give me first aid, like almost 4-5 days it become scab inside of the cotton because my grandma leave it like that and the cotton with my scab become one, when I went to see my scab I open a little bit in my left knee and I saw almost the same like that picture and the first thing I did is searching for toothpick and I crush it and then I felt satisfying and I wanted more hahaha it is weird right?
Chantal Brunet says
Omg yes! This is exactly how I feel too!
Every time i see holes, my nose, ears and throat starts itching.
What if you have the opposite reaction? Is it considered Trypophilia? I may be a trypophiliac… Heheh. I’m weird.
shan cinco says
my boyfriend used to get paranoid about that .. he’s starting to act like weird, overthinking of a little scratch that it might have some holes like the photo shopped pictures in the internet .. i was trying to lift up him that its just edited pictures . but he says , its always replaying to his mind when once he accidentally view one of that pictures . it takes him almost a month to move on with that thing . giving him sleepless night because of that .
If A Man Afraid has trypophobia does that mean He Has A Fear Of Vagina’s?
No because trypophobia is when someone is afraid of clustered holes, not just one hole but many. I am a trypophobic myself.
Yeah i shout because i see the hole
Felicia Stroid says
I know me too
Heh. What really got me was some STUPID youtube video about trypophobia.
Well dammit they had that lotus breast image AS COVER FOR THEIR VIDEO.
And it kept showing up in my recommended list.
I wanted to die right then and there.
Another thing very similar to a post above and before me was when I had an allergic reaction with scabs, and it itched, and despite the gross idea, I eventually scratched it off, so it looked like dozens of tiny holes and I flipped out.
Trypophobia may seem irrational to others, but this thing has been bugging me ever since I learnt it was a actual phobia. I thought it was normal at first then I saw some photoshopped images and from there this was a problem.
Pee Dee says
I discovered that I had this phobia accidentally when i looked at a Facebook picture of a lotus flower photoshopped on a human hand. I did not know that it was not real at the time until i cached and googled the wording that came with the picture and discovered that it was fake. As a nurse I have treated horrible looking wounds but fortunately and strangely i have never been phobic to any wounds no matter how gross. So be4 i discovered that it was fake i kept going back to the image to try and diagnose and understand it which made it worse. I thought it was some nasty cancer or the holes with black things burrowed in them could be some horrible insect that lays its eggs in peoples skin. The image of that lotus thingy really freaked me out for days. I would imagine it growing in the wet corners of my bathroom so much that i was frantically scrubbing my bathroom with bleach. Recurring symptoms that i felt were that i became very sensitive to even the tiniest itch on my skin, I hated wetness on my skin, i felt goose bumps, and a sweaty sickly sensation each time i visualised the image in my brain. The worst part when i realised that i was in a crisis was when my husband tried to just touch my skin and i pushed him off bless him! I broke into tears and explained that i had seen this image on face book and the image was haunting my mind. Fortunately he was very understanding and tried to even help. I also realised that diring the episode, my mind was on the constant look out to avoid triggers i.e. anything with symmetrical holes, clusters, swarms of creepy crawlies or images of bacterial colonies etc. I almost took down a wall hanging flower that had asymetrical holes but stopped by rationalising that it was just a normal hanging which i had bought because it was nice and that helped. What also helped me was to keep reminding myself that the lotus image was just a fake photoshopped picture and that when i had looked at a real lotus flower at the florist so many times be4, i wasnt phobic to it. I also followed someones advice to divert my mind and immediately displace and replace the thought with something beautiful each time and it was helping. Somehow the “phobia” seemed to run its course, just as much as the mind processes sad events in our lives. The impact eventually faded till thoughts of it did not scare me anymore and thought of it less and less frequently. However, a few days ago i again!saw another facebook post with it but quickly stopped the feed recurring. My 2nd exposure hasnt been severe as the 1st its been very mild, i still noticed hightened sensitivity to even tiniest skin itches. It makes me think that the phobia has a potential to get triggered to an acute reaction. But i also think that each sufferer has to develop their own strategies that help rid the phobia. I also think that very gradual exposure therapy starting with least scary or even a real lotus flower (if not scared of it) then stepping up to review less scary to the gross images may work if implemented using rationalising and bargaining techniques. Where it doesn’t work perhaps avoiding triggers helps. I conclude by saying phobias are harmless in reality but can give people harmful imaginations that can cripple and sometimes ruin people’s lives.
Felicia Stroid says
That is so true it can really control you until you get it out of your head
It can, holes make me want to die.
you will be fine
There is something about this fear that makes me compulsively crush anything that has these holes. Like I cannot get rid of the image in my head, but I constantly imagine wanting to crush all the holes together.
I know the first time I was aware of this was watching a show about a woman whose plane had crashed in South America. While she was unconscious, some bug implanted its young in her arm. The visual they showed stuck with me forever and really upset me. Then came the famous lotus breast and other internet viral images. Most recently I had an issue with one of the evil crones from the Witcher 3 video game. Her left eye was a patch over several small, hole-like things with flies.
The overwhelming urge to want to pop or crush them all causes physical frustration along with the goosebumps, shivers, and constant need to shake my head in the negative. My husband finds it funny, but doesn’t give me too much grief any more about it. I just wish I could brain bleach all of the images.
Oh god Jen, I totally get the witcher 3 reference :O
I feel you, just thinking about that constantly gives me goosebumps and ich like crazy.
I FEEL YOU ALL e.e i get goosebumps from even a golf ball ;-;
maya dean says
I absolutly hate having this phobia because it keeps me awake for nights and nights and the thing is i just imagine if one day i get holes in my skin and how i will react and i would actually probably commit suicide because i have such extreme trypophobia. I cry hysterically even thinking about it. Someone help me!
I have this fear of holes and I’m afraid of sesame seeds getting into the pores of my skin and growing roots.
I really thought it was just normal.
I saw this image and i can’t take it out of my mind. I can’t even sleep. Feeling miserable 😭
Same man. What can I do to stop thinking about it?
I deal with the same thing, I can’t get it out of my mind and can’t sleep at night…it’s so upsetting….
Omg. This is so creepy! I never knew there was a ‘phobia’ of this! When I see holes or just even think about it I keep saying yuck all the time and turn around and close my eyes. I don’t want the image to be stable at my vision. I get goosebumps with this! Yuck!
Same i didnt even think it was an actual thing until now
I’ve had it (or been aware of it) ever since my friend told me about the time she got really bad planters foot from not wearing shoes. I looked up trypophobia at having seeing the word here, the images from the net horrified me. It feels like such an extreme disgust that it causes fear, physical and mental pain as well as nausea and visions of the disturbing image on my skin.
DO NOT READ The following if you aren’t confident you can control your reaction. This is what I perceive about its origin.
It feels to me like the fear of horrible mutilating pestilence. Like bursting pustules spewing disease or spores on me. Or me getting pulled into them and fragmented into the holes where I am infected by disease. The size of the holes is the biggest trigger it seems.
My theory is that some time between now and the first humans there was a pandemic that caused severe pitting of its victims flesh. The humans that survived were the ones that were terrified by the marks and fled. Through natural selection this fear survived in humans genetically to become activated when we see something suitably similar to the disease that decimated our race.
It also explains why we imagine the holes on ourselves, it is our primal genetic mind warning us of becoming infected.
I’ve had this phobia since I was little and if I see one specific image that triggers my panic attacks I look very closely at it, like deeply into it so that I don’t see multiple holes and then I look away and don’t ever look at it again. To expose oneself to the phobia does not work for everyone. It definitely doesn’t work for me, it just gets worse. I am currently having a slight panic attack only from that picture in the beginning of the article.
This is my worst phobia and it is a real struggle. I feel like my skin is crawling, my body shivers, it feels like my eyes are melting together and I can’t get the images out of my head. My entire body is itching and it’s so bad. I hate it so much. Luckily I don’t see triggers in real life very often, it’s only hard to be on the internet sometimes.
This all started when I was a kid. An English teacher once read a lesson where she mentioned “the poor man wore a jacket filled with holes”. I imagined whatever she said and when I imagined this jacket I felt disgusted!
Years later I never even imagined it but still had this when someone mentioned it in facebook comments and I curiously googled it -_-
I believe we associate disgust and danger with it because irregular clusters of black holes look like shapes of bacteria/virus colonies, shape of fungus colonies, if leaves/veggies/fruits have holes it means there are worms inside, etc.
The only solution I find is shift your focus somewhere else and don’t let your mind think about it!
Wow this is amazing.
I had this phobia for a while now, and it didn’t start from that lotus thing. I was watching some TV show a long while ago where they were talking about going to another country and came back with bugs inside them. (warning if you already don’t like this part please ignore the next). Apparently a worm ended up burrowing itself into her scalp, between her scalp and forehead. The doctors found the hole creating bubbles which is when they found the worm.
Since then I’ve had this disturbed reaction to seeing some plants with holes like the Lotus flower, and also the thought of my skin having said holes where insects were freely flying out of. Like right now I’ve got an issue with a skin rash under my arm pit and my brain decided I needed to hate life towards the end of my shift and imagine some white thread like creation with holes in it suddenly grown underneath my armpit and worrying I’d feel something crusty and possibly bug filled thanks to the smell the “fungus” is creating. I will say though talking about it on an open forum made my reaction a little less worse. Can’t wait to get rid of this damn rash so I can go back to not thinking about the irrational fear we all seem to have…
I think I’ve had this for awhile, and it gets worse everytime I see something. Honeycomb, condensation blotches, lotus pods even pancakes. I get sight of it and I start to feel light headed, sick to my stomach and my hand gets tingly and itchy. I just want it to stop.
I remember always being scared of tiny holes, and everyone looked at me like I was insane when I freaked out or told them about it.
Then, upon seeing those horrid lotus seed pod things on Facebook not too long ago, and someones comment saying ‘Trypophobia’, I googled it and found out what it was and that I wasn’t nuts! I was so relieved haha.
I remember that last year I was rubbing cream on my tattoo, and the scabs started peeling slightly, looking like I had loads of holes in my skin – resulting in me having a panic attack, crying hysterically and my mother having to finish applying the cream :L
Bad times~ :c
Wow. That sounds TERRIFYING.
I find myself reading things like this and searching my skin in hopes that I might not find anything of the sort.
Omg this is crazy my skin is crawling, I’m grossed all the way out. I have this bad. Help, what do I do?
It started with the lotus flower and the stupid thing on Facebook and it’s getting worse.
I have a deadly fear of spiders, ever since a spider jumped on me and bit me and I still think it’s horrible. Does anyone else go through that?
It keeps saying it is the fear of clusters of holes and irregular shapes. But it is not the hole. It is your brain detecting that the cluster of holes represent danger and can make it seem unpleasant and disgusting and cause your skin to itch.
I recently discovered I had this phobia when I watched a movie called Rest In Peace Department (R.I.P.D). In that movie there were creatures called Deados which where ugly and deformed and one of those Deados had several smaller eyes on one side of his face. Immediately when I looked at his face, I automatically felt a chill going down my spine and I felt so cold to a point that I had goosebumps. I looked up the creature from the film that night before going to bed and what I saw gave me nightmares. The search result had similar images all based on Trypophobia. That was one of the most terrifying images in my life.
I am really struggling with severe anxiety over this phobia over the past few days. Something someone tried to describe to me conjured up an image in my brain that I can’t get out of my mind. I looked this up and now know it’s a real phobia. The only other time I had this was as a child. I’m trying ‘anchoring’ as a technique to get over it as I’m just crawling out of my skin talking about it – forget looking at pictures.
I found this fear thing on YouTube and I was confused about it. So I searched it up on google and saw some pictures of it. And since then my body still itches and I’m scared. I don’t know what to do :(
I think it’s a primal fear of death since worms crawl on us after we die.
I’ve had this fear for a while now. I remember a dream of where I touched a big pumice rock with lots of little holes. 1 million ants came out of the holes and I have been scared of little holes ever since. Whenever I see trypophobia pics on the internet I shudder and I have to look away. Now thanks to this article I can finally convince my family I’m not making this up. The fear has been slowly diminishing since I was six. But too slowly I think.
I have recently acquired this weird fear of everything with little holes, especially in the skin or eyes. I initially started panicking when I saw a picture of an eye with little orange and black lego blocks on facebook (looked like an eye disease) and couldn’t get it out of my mind to the point that my eyes actually started being really itchy and red and very sore. Knowing that it was photoshopped didn’t make any difference to my reation. Now I notice I cannot look at anything with micro holes as I start to panic and get goosebumps all over. I’m glad I’m not alone with this problem – at least I know what it’s called now. Any assistance on how to fix this problem would be amazing.
Sonia i can relate to you 100%. My fear of holes is worse when i have seen disgusting photoshoped photos of eyes and skin with holes. My brain tells me immediately that its a horrible disease and my skin starts to itch like crazy for hours unending. My scalp especially itches terribly. I have taken antihistamines to stop the itching. These images were at some point constant in my mind. One thing i cant seem to understand is as much as it makes me cringe, panic, scream , cry i still am curious to have another look. I even want to hold it in my hands and crush it! It has been troubling me now for over a month like every single day. I want the feeling to stop so i am determined to do something about it. I have learnt that you can beat this fear by facing it gradually and telling yourself constantly that it not going to hurt you. I have started looking at some images with holes. I have been able to look at the lotus without getting terribly itchy. I have also made progress in looking at some images of the skin with holes. I still itch but not as much and its now shortlived. What i have been unable to face is the images of holes in an eye! So far i am glad i am making progress. You must reassure yourself that those images are not real, they are there to provoke that kind of reaction. Its all in our minds, we have to fight it and its not easy but we must try daily. If i can do it then you can too. Try to face it and keep reminding yourself its the way your brain is interpreting it to you. You must try to correct this by telling yourself its ok.
As far as I recall I had this fear since I was a kid. However, it’s just yesterday that I came to know the name.
What I really fear is not just any hole, but inside them must be something of different color, mainly grey or white in black holes. I remember I was imagining that those holes were on my skin (wherever I saw them) and at that time I never saw them on someone else’s skin, until the last two weeks when I was set to that scam on Facebook.
I actually was feeling cold and trembling, something was crawling on my back to my head and whenever I thought of the image I saw, I was really in torture and I felt that seeing the real picture was not as torturous as just thinking of it. So I decided to stare at the pic for some time. I also noticed that my head started aching… crazy!
I decided to find the way to get it off -the fear-. I found that someone mentioned facing it is one of the ways, just like what I had observed when I felt looking at the pic was a bit of a comfort. So I embarked to the internet and downloaded a bunch of the trypophobic pics on my pc! I spent some time watching them…
And trust me, I see a lot of improvements. That feeling is slowly going away (NOT COMPLETELY yet).
What is being done, I guess, is that the mind is getting used to those holes.
So if you wanna try this you need to have a variety of pictures as they will have different shapes of holes. Good luck!
Like one of the comments above it was a picture on Facebook that really set me off, if your brave enough to search it comes up as lotus breast, I too could not get the image out of my head for a long long time imagining it on my skin all over my body, I find that a lot of everyday things can trigger my fear now, for example led lights on back of cars/buses if configured in a circular pattern! Absolutely crazy I know but very real to me, I also find when I’m more stressed/tired it triggers a lot more easily.
Omg! Likewise, that same exact picture almost had me dead. Anxiety, upset stomach, headache, goose bumps. I believe it was a scam about breast cancer and people kept reposting it. It was so damn gross! I’ve had this fear since forever. Especially in biology lab back in high school I would never look under the microscope at things because of the microholes. Even now just talking about it is making me itch. When I think about the holes I associate them with nasty deadly diseases, especially on the skin. I tried hashtagging trypophobia on IG to look at many pics but I’m still sick to my stomach, worst thing I ever did! I doubt I will get over this fear. Even something as simple as a honeycomb drives me up the wall :-(
Oh my God I just discovered that today.
I’ll try to find a way to get rid of this :D