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What triggers trypophobia?

triggers trypophobia

by Alex Hales

Humans are made to have emotion and feeling. These further affect the way we judge matter in life, the way we act and even the way we think. The way humans perceive life may actually help a human to live better and to have a fulfilling life. Fear, a basic emotion in humans, is crucial for human survival. Without fear, humans may not be alert to dangers around them and causing them to become unprepared. However, an excessive and persistent fear towards specific objects or situations that in reality does not pose actual threat or only very little danger when it is present. This is known as phobia. Ask a doctor and you might be surprised knowing fear and phobia may seem similar but in true nature are two different subjects.

There are over 400 phobias that are known to mankind. Some are common to others such as trypophobia. A trypophobia is defined as fear of holes and avoidance towards irregular patterns of holes such as in a lotus seed pod or bread holes. A person with trypophobia often expresses massive feelings of disgust or fear towards these holes objects. Estimation of adults experiencing this phobia is up to 15%. It is classified under “specific phobias” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as long as symptoms clearly lead to a phobia. Only mental health professionals are able to diagnose phobias in a person. Just like with any other mental health issues, a person should not diagnose themselves or at worst claiming themselves struggling with mental health without getting any medical advice first.

Hence, what triggers this trypophobia? Identified triggers aside holes pattern includes certain other patterns, bumps, image or patterned animals. It is not known the exact causes for trypophobia. There are some theories that might explain why these triggers contribute to trypophobia. This unconscious instant reaction may actually occur as a means of survival to avoid danger or disease. For instance, it is known that poisonous animals have scaly or patterned skin like a spotty skin or clustered body parts. Apart from poisonous animals, parasitism and other infectious diseases caused by pathogens may cause skin damage in forms of irregular clusters of pus-filled bumps or circular shapes.  The mind will perceive these as danger and in return make a person feel disgusted or fear, even though what they are seeing are just images and not the real animal or a present disease. People with a history of skin problems are said to have a higher chance to develop trypophobia because they usually associate the trypophobic objects’ surfaces with skin diseases.

Symptoms of trypophobia include avoidance towards the trypophobic object or image and immense fear and disgust which may result in a person experiencing sweating, heart palpitation and even panic attack. Some people may also experience body shakes as if shivering, goosebump and nausea or vomiting. People with trypophobia may have other mental health conditions such as depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder which makes meeting a health professional more important than ever.

Albeit there is no specific treatment, treatments used for other specific phobias can improve patient condition. Examples of treatments are lifestyle changes such as relaxation and mindfulness, psychotherapy like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and sometimes medications such as anti-anxiety medication or beta-blockers may be prescribed. These treatments are catered based on how severe the trypophobia is and individual medical history.

In essence, trypophobia may seem harmless to most people but for those suffering with one, it can be quite frustrating to live with. It is necessary for those living with phobias to acknowledge that there is no harm in trying to face the triggers as continuous avoidance will only make the matter worse. There is no shame in getting professional help to overcome this dreadful condition.







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