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Trypophobia- Fear of Holes

Trypophobia refers to an intense, irrational fear, or anxiety associated with irregular patterns or clusters of small holes or bumps. Trypophobia is often referred to as repetitive pattern phobia. It is a little known phobia that typically refers to the fear of clustered holes, such as aerated chocolate, crumpets, honeycombs, coral reefs, lotus flowers, etc. Sufferers experience a visceral reaction to often non-threatening patterns found on animals, flowers, etc., leading feelings like nausea, light headedness, shortness of breath, skin crawling, heart palpitations, and stomach turn. Persons reporting intense fear and panic resulting from the viewing of clustered holes or raised bumps insist the images of holes or raised bumps trigger negative emotional responsiveness, distress and anxiety. A growing number of people are reporting a fear of holes. The reaction is so severe that even seeing photos of holes can set off a panic attack. For people who have trypophobia, seeing certain clusters of holes can trigger feelings of intense fear and uneasiness.

Unlike many other phobias, people that suffer from trypophobia struggle with negative emotional reactions to things and images that would not normally be conceived of as threatening. Phobias are anxiety disorders that are normally thought to arise because of distressful and frightening experiences, a learned experience. However, this phobia deviates from other phobic responses as it does not derive from learned experience. Unfortunately, for people with trypophobia there does not appear to be any single obvious threat and the range of images that induce the phobia have very little in common with one another, other than their configuration. In the case of trypophobia, it appears that it is the configuration of the holes and bumps that holds the key to negative responsiveness.

Some psychologists and researchers believe it may be a latent phobia associated with dangerous and venomous animals such as snakes and poisonous flowers. Interestingly, some psychologists and researchers differ on whether or not to classify trypophobia as a real phobia. The debate surrounding the classification of trypophobia as a diagnosable disorder range from aversive responsiveness to a cluster of holes (harmless) to patterns present on snakes (potentially dangerous and venomous) and images such as lotus seeds (harmless). Those that argue trypophobia is a diagnosable disorder believes that people that respond negatively to patterns were subconsciously associating harmless items, like lotus seed pods, with dangerous animals, simply by making a negative association of patterns.

When seeing a cluster of holes, often people reporting trypophobia react with intense disgust or fear.

Potential Symptoms Include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Feeling nauseated or disgusted
  • Sweating
  • Skin crawling
  • Panic attacks
  • Trembling
  • Visual distress and discomfort
  • Goosebumps
  • Light headedness

Potential Triggers Include:

  • Beehive
  • Coral reef
  • Lotus pods
  • Plucked pheasant
  • Skin of a chickens foot
  • Intense stretch marks
  • Tarantula Skin (shed)
  • Acorns in a tree
  • Barnacles
  • The seed patterns in a cantelope
  • Sandstone wall
  • Fern leaves
  • Fern spores
  • Snails on an ocean Rock
  • Sliced pickle
  • Pizza with pepperoni
  • Sunflower
  • Strawberry
  • Cluster of eyes
  • Condensation
  • Bubbles
  • Pomegranate

It should be noted, The American Psychiatric Association’s “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual,” (DSM-5) doesn’t recognize trypophobia as an official phobia. Therefore, more research is needed to understand the full scope of trypophobia and the causes of the condition.

To diagnosis a phobia, your doctor will ask you a series of questions about your symptoms. They’ll also take your medical, psychiatric, and social history. They may also refer to the DSM-5 to help in their diagnosis. Trypophobia is not a diagnosable condition because the phobia is not officially recognized by medical and mental health associations. However, treatment of phobic disorders can include exposure therapy, individual psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, incorporating relaxation techniques into you schedule, using self-talk, mindfulness, going to the gym, and developing a better nutritional approach to healthy eating.

* I chose not to include an image of clustered holes or raised bumps to avoid negatively affectingly those that struggle with these images.

Trypophobia- Fear of Holes

Tarra Bates-Duford, Ph.D., MFT

My name is Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford PhD, MFT, CRS, CMFSW, BCPC I have a PhD in forensic Psychology specializing in familial dysfunctions and traumatic experience. I work with individuals and families struggling with familial dysfunctions, trauma, rape, and incest. I also have a masters in Marriage, Couples, & Family therapy. I am a certified relationship specialist with American Psychotherapy Association (#15221). I have more than 15 years in the field of mental health, relationships, and behavioral sciences.

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APA Reference
Bates-Duford, T. (2017). Trypophobia- Fear of Holes. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 5, 2020, from


Last updated: 28 Sep 2017
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