Tucking into strawberries is something most of us look forward to. Playing with bubble wrap never seems to get old, and beautiful, exotic creatures with fascinating patterns keep most of us captivated. However, for some people, these activities can induce sheer terror.
Trypophobia, derived from the Greek word Trypa, meaning hole, is an extreme fear of small holes. Well, this description isn’t quite accurate – most sufferers have a deep and troubling fear of many small holes, bumps or clusters.
Patterns that are frequently seen in today’s world, such as on citrus fruits, bubbles, golf balls and certain animal skins, are frequent triggers. Sufferers often feel disgust at what they’re looking at, and depending on the severity of the case, can experience anything from nausea to a full-blown panic attack.
There is very little known about this relatively recent phobia – which appears to have become more recognized as a result of social media. So, let’s take a closer look.
CAUSES OF TRYPOPHOBIA
Evolutionary theories suggest that humanity has developed an aversion to disease, with ancient humans learning to avoid rotting or infected flesh. Those who feared such patterns, were more likely to survive, and less likely to contract the same disease themselves. This survival mechanism is still active in modern humans, though in some people it is triggered far more easily than others. Another similar theory looks at the possible link between the fear of toxic or dangerous creatures, which often have such patterns.
Alternatively, the phobia may have arisen due to a traumatic experience in the sufferer’s past. Someone who has suffered a long and painful illness such as measles – exhibiting similar patterns on the skin – may have developed an intense fear of such patterns.
This trauma may have been witnessed rather than experienced personally. An ill relative with ‘infected’ skin, or seeing the corpse of an animal, teeming with maggots, could all lead to Trypophobia. Even movies or social media could have an effect in some cases.
Other theories look into the possibility that it is the geometry of the holes or patterns themselves that can cause feelings of disgust or anxiety. Such complex patterns can be extremely demanding on the brain, which requires extra energy and oxygen to process them correctly. This additional rush of oxygen can have numerous effects.
SYMPTOMS OF TRYPOPHOBIA
From nausea to a full-blown panic attack, typical symptoms include;
- Increased heartbeat
- Tingling sensation, itchiness or skin crawling
- Shortness of breath and trouble breathing
- Dry mouth
- Nausea and vomiting
- Gastrointestinal distress
- Desire to escape
Often, sufferers will imagine creatures – such as worms or maggots – hiding in, or crawling out of these holes, or imagine them on their own skin. In some cases, the Trypophobe may suffer sleepless nights, and struggle to take their mind off an image, or real-life cluster of holes they’ve seen.
This can lead to a prolonged and heightened state of anxiety, insomnia and depression. Indeed, there are several links to general anxiety disorders, depression.
While research is scarce, typical phobia treatments can be used to overcome Trypophobia.
Exposure Therapy encourages sufferers to gradually confront their fear in a controlled environment, with a therapist. Patients will learn relaxation techniques, that they can use to combat panic attacks as they face triggering stimuli. By not giving in to anxiety they become aware that they can cope.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is another proven technique that is more suitable for those not yet ready to expose themselves to their fear. Talk Therapy with a trained professional allows the sufferer to get to the root of their fear. They can then start replacing negative connotations with more positive thought processes.
Hypnotherapy and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) work in the same way, but typically on a more subconscious level. Essential, the brain is re-programmed to better cope with small holes. Numerous self-help techniques can be explored, such as meditation, positive affirmations, subliminal therapy, breathing exercises and even NLP exercises.
BENEFITS OF OVERCOMING FEAR OF HOLES
Clusters of small holes can appear anywhere, at any time. While one could potentially live their life avoiding such sights, overcoming Trypophobia offers a more positive outlook. Innocent gestures, such as being offered an orange, or seeing a golf ball in a shop window need not lead to a panic attack and sleepless nights.
By continuing to suffer, it’s likely your phobia will worsen, and possibly lead to more serious conditions. Having overcome your fear of holes, you will find life is more relaxed. Without so much tension, more opportunities present themselves, leading your life in exciting new directions.