Trypophobia: What Is It, Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Trypophobia is a psychological disorder in which the person has an irrational fear of images or objects with holes or irregular patterns, such as honeycombs, holes on the skin, wood, plants, or sponges. 

People who suffer from this fear feel terrible when confronted with these patterns and they get symptoms like itchiness, shivers, tingling, and repulsion. In more serious cases, trypophobia can lead to vomiting, increased heart rate, and even panic attacks.

Treatment can include gradual exposure therapy, anxiety medication, antidepressants, or psychotherapy.

Trypophobia: What Is It, Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Main symptoms 

People with trypophobia may present the following symptoms when exposed to patterns such as lotus seeds, honeycombs, bubbles, strawberries, or crustaceans:  

  • Nausea
  • Shivering;
  • Sweating;
  • Crying;
  • Chills;
  • Discomfort;
  • Increased heart rate;
  • Itchiness and tingling.

In more serious cases, the person may also have panic attacks due to an extreme level of anxiety.

What causes trypophobia

According to some research, people with trypophobia unconsciously associate holes or objects with irregular patterns - usually present in nature - with dangerous situations. This happens due to the similarity of the holes with the skin of venomous animals, such as snakes or with maggots that can cause skin diseases.

Generally, people who suffer with trypophobia unconsciously cannot distinguish safe situations from dangerous situations, and so it is an unconscious reflex that results in uncontrollable reactions.

If you think you might have trypophobia, it is recommended that you avoid looking at photos related to this problem.

Trypophobia: What Is It, Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Treatment options

There are various forms of treating this type of psychological problem, and exposure therapy is the most effective. This type of therapy helps the person control the fear, changing their response with regard to the object that causes it, but it must be done very carefully in order not to cause trauma.

This therapy should be done with the help of a psychologist through gradual exposure to the stimulus that causes the phobia. The therapist uses relaxation techniques through dialogue, so the person confronts the fear until the discomfort reduces.

This therapy can be combined with other techniques that help to reduce anxiety and treat the fear:

  • Medication to help reduce anxiety and panic attacks, such as beta-blockers and sedatives;
  • Relaxation techniques like yoga or others;
  • Physical exercise to reduce anxiety.

Trypophobia is still not recognized in the Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) or the American Psychiatric Association, but some studies prove the phobia exists and causes symptoms that can negatively impact people's lives.

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  • VLOK-BARNARD, Michelle; STEIN Dan J.. Trypophobia: an investigation of clinical features. Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria. Vol.39, n.4. 337-341, 2017
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