Fear Of Holes (Trypophobia): Causes, Symptoms, Characteristics, Treatment

Fear of holes, or trypophobia, is a condition that causes its victims a painful emotional reaction when they see seemingly harmless images of groups of objects, especially holes. This symptom was first described on the Internet in 2005, but the medical profession does not yet recognize it.

The images responsible for the emotional reaction are things as natural as honeycombs or the head of the lotus with its seeds and manufactured objects such as blown chocolate or industrial tubes threaded from end to end. Despite their seemingly harmless nature, these types of representations (ideal for sharing on the Internet) can lead to various symptoms.

Including cognitive changes that reflect anxiety, skin-related bodily symptoms (such as itching or goosebumps), and physiological problems (nausea, heartbeat, or shortness of breath). Usually, the images that provoke the emotional reaction cannot be conceived as a threat, but in this sense, trypophobia differs from most other phobias.

You can also read Fear Of Cellular: Effects, Symptoms, Treatments, Tips.


  • Phobias are anxiety disorders believed to occur after an experiment (a dog bite can cause fear in dogs).
  • Triggered by innate evolutionary mechanisms: These can be the basis for fear of spiders and snakes.
  • Usually, there is a threat, particular or general, actual or imagined.
  • In the case of trypophobia, there is no apparent threat, and the range of phobic images have little in common except their configuration.
  • It is precisely this configuration; it seems, that holds the key to the emotion caused by the images.
  • People who do not have trypophobia continue to feel disgusted toward trypophobic images even if they do not feel emotion.
  • This happens because the configuration of the image in question has mathematical characteristics similar to all those that, when viewed, cause visual discomfort, eye fatigue, or headache.


People who have this phobia begin to experience:

  • Trypophobia is a funny fear; people start to see holes in the line, holes that should not be there, small holes, small holes, always small holes … Where did it come from ?!
  • Generally, trypophobia is defined as a phobia (irrational, excessive, rather intense fear of objects with circular clusters.
  • For example, holes in a sponge, bubbles in a coffee, a plate of honey …


  • Images with these mathematical properties cannot be processed efficiently by the brain, requiring more brain oxygenation. In an article, Paul Hibbard and I proposed an explanation:
  • This discomfort occurs precisely because people avoid looking at images that require excessive oxygenation of the brain (the brain uses about 20% of the body’s energy, and this energy should be minimized).
  • Thus, trypophobic images are among the most inherently uncomfortable to look at, and we investigated why some people and others do not experience an emotional response.
  • Images of pollutants such as mold and skin diseases can be repulsive to most people, not just trypophobes.
  • Disgust is probably an evolutionary mechanism that provokes avoidance reactions and enables survival.
  • Images of moles and skin lesions have mathematical characteristics similar to trypophobic photos. Our current work seeks to determine whether, in addition to being usually annoying, they also cause significant brain oxygenation.
  • Perhaps discomfort is a proper mechanism not only to avoid excessive oxygenation but also to protect oneself from threatening objects in terms of contamination urgently.
  • It may be that this mechanism works too well among the population affected by trypophobia.

Trypophobia, according to science.

  • At the moment, science doesn’t say much about it.
  • The medical profession does not recognize Trypophobia; there is insufficient research and data available to ‘validate’ its existence.
  • The fear of small holes is the subject of debate among scientists!
  • This does not mean that your fear will not be taken seriously: if you feel distressed or overwhelmed by your emotions, do not hesitate to express it to your GP or a psychologist.

Trypophobia, a defense against diseases?

  • They assume that this particular aversion is related to fear of infectious diseases and parasites, which may be associated with round lesions on the skin – including rubella, measles, typhus, and scabies.
  • In this perspective, trypophobia would be an adaptive response of our brain.

What if trypophobia comes from the evolution of our brains, programmed to react in case of danger?

These “evolutionary” oriented theories must be taken with many forceps and are refuted by a good number of scientists (because they lack empirical evidence).

Would trypophobia come from mathematics?

  • Paul Hibbard and Arnold Wilkins (yes, again) offer a different perspective: what if our discomfort comes from the mathematical properties of trypophobic images?
  • These images would have specific mathematical properties, which would require greater brain oxygenation … which would generate discomfort and repulsion.
  • Three other scientists confronted young children with images of poisonous animals to study the phenomenon.
  • Visually, these images had a trypophobic potential (due to the appearance of the animals).
  • The researchers found that the clichés did appear to trigger discomfort in the children.
  • But does this feeling come from the properties of the image or unconscious fear of poisonous animals?


  • Scientists have an idea; They propose the children look at images of poisonous animals, but after having eliminated the trypophobic visual characteristics this time, the subjects’ discomfort seems to disappear!
  • This result suggests that discomfort is related to the visual characteristics of the image and not to an ancestral and unconscious fear of poisonous animals.
  • You will have understood that research has a long way to go! In the meantime, tell me everything.

Georgia Tarrant
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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.