Trypophobia: Fear of Clustered Holes?While Trypophobia does not get an official designation in scientific literature, it is a real fear to some. Actually, we are not quite sure if it could even be called a phobia; the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classifies a phobia as something that interferes “significantly with the person’s normal routine.” Seeing a few holes may seem disgusting to those with the fear, but I don’t see how it could be disruptive.
Trypophobia dwells in the realm of an infinite, yet sometimes irrational, list of fears that many everyday people have. The online Phobia List details all types of phobias, from the well-known fears like arachnophobia, to more oddball ones like zemmiphobia, fear of the great mole rat. Trypophobia has not even made this list yet.
Martin Antony, a psychologist from Ryerson University in Toronto, notes that professionals typically do not use the Latin and Greek terms that we often hear scattered across message boards on the Internet.
Possible ExplanationsAntony himself wasn’t shocked to hear that some people are afraid of clustered holes because he says “people can be afraid of absolutely anything.” One could develop a phobia for a variety of reasons; observational behavior, traumatic experiences, learned behavior, and biological factors are some of the top reasons that people pick up certain phobias. Antony says that the studies that came up with those factors were usually oriented towards more popular fears like those dealing with snakes or heights, but he says there’s no reason to think that these fears wouldn’t have the same causes as more irrational fears.
Trypophobia could also be spreading; a group on the matter has been started on Facebook and many people seem to be instantly developing the fear just by reading the comments of others. On that phenomenon, Antony comments “It’s not unusual to laugh harder at a funny movie if others around you are laughing. In the same way, we may be more likely to experience fear in a particular moment if others around us are fearful.
Often, some of the things we fear also gross us out. Antony thinks that these fears often stem from “fear of illness.” Maybe that’s the reason for trypophobia. A cluster of tiny holes doesn’t exactly look normal and, psychologically, this could signal that something must be out of place or dangerous. At this point we can only speculate since we know so little about the disease.
Trypophobia.comMasai Andrews was a sociology minor at SUNY-Albany when he started a website around the phobia. Trypophobia.com has now gotten more than 100,000 visitors according to the website’s on-screen counter. He says he wanted to start the website so that “people could compile information.” “It is my hope that one day the academic and scientific communities will, at the very least, acknowledge the aversion to holes and certain patterns,” Andrews says.
When traction finally picks up on the phobia maybe it’ll have a Wikipedia page, which it is lacking right now. Andrews says he’s tried and Wikpedia keeps deleting it. He’s even taken things a step further and, along with an Irish blogger named Louise that coined the ‘trypophobia” term and Facebook fan page members, petitioned the Oxford English Dictionary to include the word.