Trypophobia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

The trypophobia, phobia of holes, holes or points, is the extreme fear or repulsion caused by any pattern of geometric figures closely together, especially small holes, although they can also be small rectangles or convex circles.

It is a phobia quite common in humans, although little known in reality. Although the trypophobia does not appear in the Manual of Diagnosis of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association, thousands of people claim to feel repulsion and symptoms of anxiety when observing patterns of small agglomerated holes.



Do you see a beehive and feel repulsion? Does just looking at any object that has many small holes together make you nauseous? 

It is about the trypophobia, perhaps extreme, a common phobia that occurs in humans and that generates emotions such as disgust, fear and in some cases panic.

It is not considered a disease, although if it interferes with well-being and leading a normal life it is advisable to go to a professional to evaluate and treat it.

Some of the objects that can cause this sensation are corals, bee panels, soap bubbles, a polka dot outfit, a handful of stacked logs or a tablet of aerated chocolate.

Causes of trypophobia 

Most phobias are caused by traumatic experiences or are learned culturally.

However, this would not be the case of the trypophobia according to a research carried out by the University of Essex, whose results were recently published in the journal Psychological Science.

According to Geoff Cole, an expert researcher in vision sciences, the visual patterns that trigger the symptoms in people with trypophobia are similar to those that appear in various poisonous animals.

Some of the deadliest animals in the world, such as the blue-ringed octopus, the king cobra, certain scorpions and various spiders, have patterned spots on their surface.

Bearing this in mind, it could be inferred that trypophobia has a simple evolutionary explanation: people who feel repulsion when observing these patterns move away from dangerous animals, which helps them in their survival.

In this way, it is not strange that even today many people present symptoms of anxiety when observing patterns of spots or holes that resemble those seen in the most poisonous animals in the world.

It would be reminiscent of a fear that once helped many humans survive.

Symptoms How to know if you have a phobia of holes?

If you want to know if in your case trypophobia is really a phobia and needs treatment, the following conditions must be met:

  • The fear must be persistent, excessive and irrational, and must be triggered by the presence or anticipation of the stimulus, in this case, the observation of a certain geometric pattern.

  • Exposure to the stimulus should invariably provoke a response of intense anxiety or a crisis of anguish.

  • Avoid situations that cause these symptoms or barely bear, always under an intense feeling of discomfort or anxiety.

  • These avoidance behaviors and anxiety symptoms (which appear even when only when you think of a honeycomb) interfere with your daily life: in your work, your studies, your social life, and your normal routine.

If you feel identified as the situations described above, then your trypophobia is really a true phobia and it would be a good idea to seek help so that the symptoms no longer interfere with your life.

What else does science know?


In many forums on the internet, thousands of people who have self-diagnosed trypophobia share their experiences.

Medicine has not yet admitted the trypophobia as a disease, it does not appear in the dictionary and until recently it was not in  Wikipedia.

However, scientists Arnold Wilkins and Geoff Cole of the University of Essex, decided to investigate more about this phobia and carried out several experiments.

In one of them they showed a series of images to 286 people taken at random. Between the images alternated the holes of a cheese and a panel of seeds of the lotus full of holes with diverse natural landscapes.

The participants had to indicate if the images caused them any kind of discomfort.

Around 16% of the people surveyed said they felt a certain disgust when looking at the images with holes or geometric patterns, while the remaining 84% said they did not feel anything special when looking at any of the images.

Wilkins and Cole @nalyzed the characteristics of the images that did cause unpleasant sensations and found something in common in all of them: the spectral @nalysis of the lipophobic images showed high contrast energy in the mid-range spatial frequencies, which makes them striking when looking at them.

It is not yet known why these images cause unpleasant sensations in certain people and not in others, but what scientists are sure of is that tropophobia does not have a cultural origin, such as triskaidekaphobia, for example.

And in most cases, tripphobia does not have a traumatic origin either.

Researchers believe that the human organism may have used these triggers to get away from certain poisonous animals, which have patterns on their skin with characteristics similar to the images of the study of the trypophobia.

In some people, these triggers continue to work and that is why they feel anxiety and adrenaline invade their bloodstream when they observe certain patterns.

However, there is also another theory about the origin of tripophobia. Some people think that it is only a collective manifestation of disgust  before certain images.

The aversion to holes present in organic material could easily be explained because they are images that are frequently associated with  diseases, says Martin Antony, a professor of psychology at Ryerson University in Toronto, author of a book for the control of anxiety.

Anyway, people with tripphobia continue to gather in different forums on the internet and even have a Facebook group with more than six thousand  members, while science tries to elucidate the origin of their symptoms.

Is tripophobia a true phobia?

panel of bees

Some people think that tripphobia is a mere psychological curiosity. There could be as many phobias as people in the world , because people can fear anything.

A traumatic experience could cause a phobia of an infinity of objects or situations.

But the question is whether, in fact, the tropophobia can cause symptoms so intense as to interfere with the daily life of the person. In the event that this was the case, the tropophobia would be a real problem to solve.

Many people say they have intense symptoms when observing images with geometric patterns, among them, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, cold sweat and tachycardia, among others.


Like all phobias, there are several possible treatments, various psychological therapies, and some medications:

Exposure therapy

In this type of treatment, the therapist will expose you little by little to the stimulus that causes your symptoms, helping you to control anxiety through different tools.

The gradual and repeated exposure over time will make you feel less anxiety every time and you can control the situation when you see patterns of small holes. 

Briefly, cognitive behavioral therapy involves the change of thoughts behaviors.

It also involves the gradual exposure to the stimulus, combined with other techniques that will help you deal with situations that cause anxiety in different ways. They will also change your beliefs about your phobia and the impact it has on your life.


They must be prescribed by a psychiatrist. For the treatment of some phobias, antidepressants, tranquilizers or beta-blockers are prescribed.

The beta blockers are drugs that neutralize the effects of adrenaline in the body. They lower the heart rate, lower blood pressure and reduce tremors.

The antidepressants that are usually prescribed for cases of severe phobias are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. It is possible that the doctor also prescribes another type of antidepressant for the control of the symptoms, depending on each case.

Finally, a certain type of tranquilizing medication called benzodiazepines can help control anxiety in people who suffer from various types of phobias. They should be used with caution because they can have adverse side effects and several contraindications.

It should be noted that in most cases the medication is used when the symptoms of the phobia are really uncontrollable and interfere in the daily life of the person, preventing them from carrying out their activities normally.

For other cases, psychological therapies are recommended and any other method that helps control anxiety, such as yoga or meditation for example.

Living with tropophobia: a real testimony

Below is an example of how life can be a person with tripphobia, according to the actual testimony of a patient:

“It all started when I was less than ten years old. My father loved fishing and many times we went out together. When we were fishing something important, we kept the skeleton or the fish’s teeth as a trophy.

Once, on the edge of the kitchen window appeared a flat ovoid bone, full of thousands of holes, one next to the other, surely it was the bone of some prey.

That object really caused me repulsion and when my father realized it, he forced me to touch it. Obviously, I cried and I think that at that moment my phobia began.

My father, in an attempt to cure me, exposed me to everything that had holes or holes: a piece of coral or a honeycomb. When the waves receded into the sea, leaving many holes in the sand, it forced me to walk on them.

The symptoms got worse over the years and I got nausea, dizziness and panic attacks that I could barely control.

When I was older, I looked for information and found four methods to overcome this type of phobias, and I used the four to develop the tools that today allow me to control anxiety in some situations.

The first method is to gradually expose the images with groups of holes.

The second is to seek information about the phobia in question to try to reason on the matter and banish fear in this way.

The third is to resort to the imagination to face the object without having to see it in reality and the fourth, the method of shock: a prolonged and forced exposure, to be able to control the anxiety.

After my first shock experience, I thought that my tripophobia had healed. A few months later, on a trip to the Caribbean, I signed up for a diving trip, without thinking that under the sea there are millions of plants and animals full of holes.

So suddenly I found myself hyperventilating with an oxygen nozzle set up while the instructor took my hand trying to help me to touch an orange coral with thousands of tiny, ghastly holes in its surface.

I could not even scream. When we finally came to the surface, I thought: if I could with this, I’ll be able to do anything.

After that experience, every time I find myself in a pattern of holes, I try to breathe deeply and reason. If I manage to control the anxiety in that first moment, I can continue almost normally.

Although I do not always achieve it. Apparently, I will always be phobic, although I have stages of hypersensitivity during which I get scared even of the pores of my face, and in other stages, the symptoms are softened and I can buy a jar of honey with a panel drawn on the label. 

As you can see, the tripphobia seems like a totally real phobia. The study conducted at the University of Essex showed that 16% of the population shows symptoms of tripphobia when observing images filled with holes or geometric patterns.

Also Read: How to Control Anxiety Naturally in 10 Steps

So in the case that you also have this phobia, you are not the only one, and most people manage to control their symptoms, so you can do it too. If you can not control anxiety for yourself, do not hesitate to consult a professional.