Trypophobia: Why a fear of holes is real – and may be on the rise

By | January 16, 2020

Some people have a visceral fear-like reaction to the holes in sponges, Swiss cheese or seed pods. Known as trypophobia, this response is increasingly common but isn’t what it seems

Health 15 January 2020

Leaf with holes

Yvonne Röder/plainpictures

When Amanda was 12, her mother took her to the doctor because she was scared by the sight of Swiss cheese. Seeded bread made her sweaty and anxious. And Amanda would cry out when she saw pictures of empty honeycomb. One day, she fled in terror from the family bathroom while it was being repaired after spotting its exposed and perforated concrete walls.

The only previous clue to her discomfort had come from her fussy eating. Ever since Amanda was a toddler, she had refused to eat certain types of bread or drink raspberry juice because she hated the feel of the textures in her mouth. But by the time she saw the doctor, Amanda couldn’t even look at the seeds in a strawberry without anguish.

A psychiatrist said that Amanda (not her real name) had trypophobia. There isn’t much in the medical textbooks about this condition, but you can find lots of information online about how it is a fear of holes. You can follow links to pictures of sponges and the perforated heads of flowers that claim to test and diagnose you. But like much information on the web, descriptions of the condition are misleading. Trypophobia isn’t really down to holes. Or fear. It might not even be a phobia, because new research suggests it is triggered by disgust. Less fear and more loathing. Reliable figures are hard to come by, but some researchers believe we will see an uptick in cases.

Read More:  Allergies are on the rise – here's how to help scientists find out why

Advertisement

“It’s something that will become more pervasive and we could be forced to treat it in a more serious …

New Scientist – Health