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Is trypophobia really a fear of holes or something else?

Even if the Internet has its shortcomings, it's a great way to bring like-minded people together, whether they're in real partnership, acting on cat GIFs, or planning protests. A group of people who have found an online community are people who identify themselves as being trypophobic, a term used to describe a fear or aversion to potholes. (Or even things that might look like piles of holes.)

Are you not sure if this applies to you? Ask yourself if you shudder involuntarily when you see something littered with holes, like honeycombs. If you're really brave, you can try googling "Lotus Flower Seed Head" and see how you feel through the pictures. We will wait, but not say, that we did not warn you: this plant is a despicable and notorious catalyst of trypophobia.

If you have trypophobia, looking at holes covered objects can cause waves of discomfort. You may start to shiver, feel like crying (or actually crying), suddenly itch or feel bad, feel short of breath, panic or sweat, or experience a racing heart . For some mental health experts, trypophobia is clearly described by this reaction as a "true" phobia which can be so severe that it can be considered a mental disorder. Others are not so sure. Here we dive deep into what experts believe in trypophobia and what not.

The Origins of a Controversial Term

Your first question might be: Why is it called Trypo Phobia If Experts Did not agree that this is actually one? Good, because experts do not seem to have come up with the name.
It is impossible to know exactly who first coined this term for an irrational fear of holes. However, Trypophobia states that the nickname comes from of a GeoCities page .

In 2005, a blogger named Louise wrote that she had consulted Oxford English Dictionary spokeswoman Margot Charlton on the right way to combine the ancient Greek prefix "Trypa" (holes) with "phobia" (fear). As Louise wrote about GeoCities, Charlton reportedly stated that "trypophobia" is the grammatically correct wording that leads to the creation of a term that yields over 1 million results when typed in Google. The naming process was apparently as straightforward as you would expect from a condition that is largely self-diagnosed, as there are no official diagnostic criteria for it. In contrast to anxiety disorders such as social phobia (also known as social anxiety) and agoraphobia (fear of situations that are difficult to escape), trypophobia is described in Diagnostic and Statistics Manual for Psychic Errors not explicitly listed ( DSM-5 ). The DSM-5 is published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and is considered a professional resource in the United States for the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. For some experts, this, together with other factors we will discuss later, means that trypophobia is a "real" phobia in the air.

The DSM-5 has an entry for specific phobias which they describe as almost always directly triggering "pronounced fear or concern about a particular subject or situation". Other identifying features include:

  • The fear or concern is disproportionate to the actual state of danger at hand
  • The person with the phobia avoids the object or situation that she fears (or endures with great anxiety).
  • Experience "clinically significant" stress or distress in areas such as work or personal relationships.
  • Anxiety and avoidance over a long period of time, usually six months or more
  • The reaction can not be explained by other mental illnesses.

DSM-5 divides certain phobias into the following categories: animal species, type of natural environment (such as vertigo), type of blood injection injury (such as a fear of needles), type of situation (such as a fear of flying ) and "different kind". Since trypophobia does not fall into one of these first four categories, the last is particularly interesting. The DSM-5 explains that someone can have a phobia if they have the above symptoms in response to a trigger. For some people, this trigger seems to be a hole – trypophobia is not mentioned in DSM-5 .

According to the American Psychiatric Association the DSM -5 is a developing handbook based on research breakthroughs and new clinical findings. As many who study and experience trypophobia will know, just because DSM-5 does not directly discuss trypophobia does not automatically mean that it is not a very real phenomenon that can cause or even weaken discomfort not.

"Once triggered, I feel sick, [and] dizzy," says Estelle, 27, who suffers from trypophobia, to SELF. "Usually I have to stop whatever I do and step back. It's not something I can penetrate or ignore – it feels like all my other senses are really overwhelmed with how freaked I am, and I drive down until the stimuli are removed.

Only limited research on trypophobia has been conducted. Therefore, it is difficult to say how many people refer to Estelles experience. A 2013 study in Psychological Science in which trypophobia was described as "previously unknown in scientific literature," examined the prevalence. The researchers found that 16 percent of the 286 participants considered photos of the notorious lotus flower head as "unpleasant or even repellent". Obviously, this is a fairly small number of people who need to be interviewed about research, so it is not clear exactly how this number applies to the general population. However, some researchers have noted that many online users seem to share these feelings regarding bundled holes, suggesting that trypophobia might occur more frequently than previously thought.

What is it about ? these pictures?

This psychological science investigated the common visual properties of objects that trigger trypophobia. According to the researchers, these objects (or images thereof) have a relatively high contrast energy at a medium spatial frequency. Kudos to you when you say, "Ah, yes, of course." If you need what is translated into non-scholarly language, it basically means that these images tend to be small, closely grouped, repetitive Pattern to have strong contrast: the bright parts are very bright and the dark parts are very dark.

"The stronger the contrast, the stronger the reaction", Arnold Wilkins D.Phil. Professor emeritus of psychology at the Institute of Psychology of the University of Essex in the United Kingdom, who coauthored the study Psychological Science reports SELF. "Holes have a high contrast due to the shadows of directional light."

Trypophobia triggers may be more diverse than the etymology suggests due to the visual nuclear properties that underlie these images. "Forms Must Be No Holes", Tom Kupfer Ph.D., a research associate at the Department of Social and Organizational Psychology of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, who has published papers on trypophobia SELF. Any pattern of small high contrast repeating shapes can do this. In a case study of 2018 Frontiers in Psychiatry a girl with trypophobia reported that she was triggered by semen on bread, speckles or animal specimens, cheese and honeycombs. In a trypophobia support group on Facebook with over 13,600 members, it was discussed how everything, from the end of hollow, stacked pipes to the back of bumpy frogs, can trigger symptoms.

Why are these relatively rich in contrasts? Energy in images with average spatial frequencies triggers the trypophobia alarm in some people? You probably will not be shocked to hear that apparently complicated brain processes are occurring here.

Your Brain About Trypophobia

There are two prevailing theories about why exploring hole piles (or similar patterns) is possible in fueling negative emotions. R. Nathan Pipitone Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychology at Florida Gulf Coast University, which investigates how biology and evolution affect human behavior (including trypophobia ), reports SELF.

The First Based Wilkins' research suggesting that trypophobic images mimic patterns on venomous or dangerous animals: think of leopard spots or the markings on the highly poisonous octopus with the blue ring , The other theory, which according to Pipitone is currently most favored by researchers, is that hole piles are visually similar to skin rashes or lesions caused by parasitic or infectious diseases.

Either way, experts believe that trypophobia comes from natural selection. Historically, people with a dislike of these animal markings or signs of disease would have generally avoided having anything to do with these patterns. This could mean that they were not eaten, poisoned or infected, so they should pass their genes on, compared to those who did not know they should stay away.

Against this background, researchers believe that many people feel a certain amount of discomfort when they look at trypophobia-stimulating images. "As with any adaptive response [such as a fear of snakes]most people experience the response at a normal level, while others experience it in excess, leading to a phobia." Stella F. Lourenco Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology at the Faculty of Psychology of Emory University, tells SELF.

As with other phobias, the fear of holes in some people seems to have arisen because of a bad memory experience. "Some sufferers remember a specific traumatic event in their childhood and can describe it when the trypophobia began," says Wilkins. One example seems to be skin diseases: a 2017 report in the journal BMC found that in two studies involving a total of 1,546 participants in persons with a history of skin diseases a higher likelihood of trypophobia existed.

] However, since these things are rarely unique, not everyone remembers exactly when their trypophobia began. Some people say that they were always repelled by the sight of bundled holes. According to researchers, certain personality traits could make people more susceptible to this fear even without an inciting event. As explained in a SpringerPlus study on trypophobia susceptibility from 2016

a phenomenon known as core disgust may play a major role. This brings us to a continuing question at the center of trypophobia research: do people experience anything at all? a fear of holes at all? Or is it something completely different?

The Emotional Root of Trypophobia – And When It Matters At All

Some trypophobia researchers argue that people with a strong aversion to holes may find it less scary than disgusting. For some, this is a tweak in the idea that trypophobia is a phobia in the first place.

In a study of 2018 PeerJ 44 participants were shown images of threatening animals, objects covered with holes, and "neutral" objects such as a cup or a butterfly. The researchers consistently measured the size of the participants' students to assess their unconscious responses to these images. They found that when looking at the "frightening" animal photos, the pupils increased in size compared to their baseline and the pupils narrowed when viewed through the holes filled images compared to their baseline. According to the researchers, the idea that trypophobia might be caused by disgust and not fear is linked to it.

All of these eye phrases may sound strange and have nothing to do with trypophobia, but the changes in the students affect how you react to both disgust and fear. It all depends on your autonomic nervous system (ANS).

Your ANS works damn hard for you by controlling involuntary processes such as your heartbeat and digestion. To accomplish its mission, your ANS is divided into two parts: your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Although this is far more complex, you can think of the SNS for our purposes as the accelerator of your ANS and your PNS as a brake. If you're worried, your SNS launches your Fight-or-Flight Reaction . You get an adrenaline rush, your heartbeat accelerates, your stomach writhes into a knot – and, what's less noticeable to you, your pupils are expanding so you can see better. In contrast, disgust seems to be the main cause of PNS, leading to a cascade of physiological changes, including narrowing of the pupil . When it comes to disgust, this reaction is probably your PNS which tries to make you withdraw from the perceived threat and deprive it of your body.

This sip about exactly what emotional trypophobia triggers may seem petty. If you want to run away screaming, is it really important, why? According to some experts, this is the case. Since different parts of the brain are involved to varying degrees in the development of anxiety and disgust (especially the amygdala (19459135) and the anterior insula (19459136)), parsing this information can help to ensure that mental health professionals tailor trypophobia treatment accordingly says Lourenco, who co-authored the study on the size of the pupils. "There are also similarities between fear and disgust that should be taken into account when considering treatment options," she adds.

According to Lourenco's view, fear and disgust are very similar. So much so that it makes perfect sense that they play each other out. Anxiety, Anxiety and disgust have the same purpose to rid us of things that our body believes could injure us, be it a tarantula or someone's weeping rash.

The Really Intriguing Part Here Even if disgust were the cause of trypophobia, it would not necessarily preclude him from being classified as an actual phobia in future editions of DSM . Do you remember the above mentioned blood injury injection phobia in DSM-5 ? (It is also referred to as a BII phobia for a bit less bite.) As the name implies, this phobia is an irrational aversion to anything that has anything to do with blood or injuries, injections, and other medical procedures. However, some researches have shown that people with BII phobia react in a way that suggests disgust when they see a picture that is supposed to stimulate their fear.

While digging into the roots of trypophobia, the case is intriguing, it's not as important as the daily impact it can have on some people's lives. This is what causes many experts – and people with trypophobia – to classify them as a valid phobia.

"From my and many other points of view, it is the most important factor in how much the disease causes disorders," says trypophobia researcher Copper versus SELF. "There is evidence that trypophobia can lead to significant ailments and suffering and interfere with normal work and home life. For example, several of those affected told us that the pictures in their [minds] prevent them from sleeping. Another said she had to quit her job as a nurse to avoid clusters.

Ultimately, people with trypophobia need to learn to live in a world full of potential triggers, even though the fundamental cause is controversial.

] Dealing with Trypophobia

Exposure Therapy is one of the most commonly recommended therapies for problems such as trypophobia, according to Wilkins. It's about using the trigger step by step until your brain no longer sees it as a threat or you can calm your fears with strategies that you learn as part of the therapy. While exposure therapy can be effective, it can be very difficult for the patient to tolerate, explains Wilkins. According to Wilkins, researchers are working on new ways to combat trypophobia, including covering one eye – a treatment that has been proven to help epilepsy episodes in which seizures are triggered by certain image types .

] As the study of trypophobia and its possible treatment has not yet been completed, those with this aversion often find their own ways to deal with it.

After finding a triggering image, Estelle tries to find soft, smooth visual stimuli, declaring that it feels "safe." She also takes a deep breath or even goes out, if possible, to channel that combat or fly energy elsewhere, she says. Everyone has their management methods as science tries to catch up.

"I know enough other people think so, that there is a name for it," says Estelle. As for people who do not consider trypophobia to be "real"? "It's not really important," says Estelle. "It's my experience, and I know that's real."

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