The term trypophobia , known for a little more than a decade, refers to a certain aversion to agglomerated figures on a certain surface or space. In general, the images causing such repulsion are geometric figures such as circles or rectangles . They can also be represented in the form of lumps or holes.

This word has Greek roots, is the result of the combination of trypo and phobia and means ” fear of holes ” and refers to the phobia of the repetitive pattern of small objects wedged into a specific surface. Some objects that generate aversion in many of these people are the honeycombs, the seeds of the lotus flower, among others.

Causes of trypophobia

There are various theories about the causes that cause the appearance of trypophobia, which have been widely debated by some scientists. The field of research regarding this condition is limited and many deny that it is a type of phobia because it generally does not interfere with people’s lives or their course is not disrupted.

Likewise, the results of the studies have yielded notable differences between those who really experience a feeling of deep fear, which leads to organic alterations as a product of the autonomic nervous system, and those who, when faced with the image represented by a repetitive pattern, only manifest disgust.

The main positions that have emerged to try to give a scientific explanation to trypophobia are the following:

Theory of human evolution

Two (2) Psychologists from the University of Essex, located in Colchester, England, known as Geoff Cole and Arnold Wilkins, attribute trypophobia and the effects on the organism to a genetic tendency or predisposition inherited from our ancestors.

Given that the patterns that can be seen in the sets of geometric figures in series can resemble in appearance animals extremely dangerous to human health such as certain types of spiders or poisonous snakes, these scientists assume that this information is it has been genetically transmitted to new generations.

The irrational fear produced by exposure to objects with characteristics that cause trypophobia then it is possible that it is an inherited survival mechanism.

A similar theory was put forward by Martin Seligman, known as learned helplessness, through which he affirmed that some of the irrational exacerbated fears, known as phobias, originated in the association of events that increased the chances of survival. In this sense, the root of phobias was attributed to biological factors.

Suggestion theory

Psychiatrist Carol Matthews supported the thesis that stated that the origin of the pathology was due to the psychological effects that knowledge about trypophobia and its symptoms trigger in individuals, who, after receiving the impressions of those who suffer from it, usually experience sensations at an organic and psychic level quite similar.

Symptoms of trypophobia

The symptomatology is quite diverse and depends on the intensity with which it occurs in each person. Trypophobia has not been well studied and many do not consider it a phobia.

However, depending on the symptoms that the person experiences when exposed to the images that are aversive , it can be classified as a phobia or not. The main symptoms are:

  • On a psychological level: Irrational fear, revulsion, feeling of discomfort, panic attacks, anxiety, disgust.
  • At an organic level: tremors at the body level, tachycardia, suffocation, headaches, sweating, palpitations, nausea. Other symptoms associated with the dermatological part are given by: tingling, itching, goose bumps.

Phobias consist of exacerbated fears of irrational cut to specific objects, animals, people and places. For those who suffer from them, these pathologies can affect their lives in a negative way and perhaps interfere with the performance of normal tasks.

Phobias come to paralyze individuals, as well as make it difficult for them to perform normally depending on the intensity with which it occurs. As for trypophobia, it has not been included as a pathology in the manual of mental disorders but, in many cases, the symptoms experienced by some patients are associated with anxiety attacks and with a deep sense of terror when being exposed to the stimulus that triggers the phobia.


Although trypophobia has not yet been recognized as a mental disorder , the discomforts experienced are present with such magnitude in some individuals that therapeutic intervention is necessary at the clinical level so that the person can get ahead and lead a normal life. It is the mental health specialist who, after an exhaustive analysis, must give a diagnosis and make a decision on the most effective treatment for each specific case.

To date, there is no medicine specifically designed for the treatment of trypophobia, however, the methods with which phobias are usually addressed in general have been used, which we will explain below:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: It is one of the most used methods in the treatment of phobias. It consists of counseling and psychotherapeutic assistance for the management, as well as the reduction, of the anxiety levels that the phobia produces in the patient. It is about extinguishing the anguish produced by being close to a certain object. The objective of this therapy is to give the required tools to the person who suffers from pathological fear for their psychic strengthening, increasing self-confidence, as well as self-control.
  • Gradual exposure therapy : It is one of the most effective techniques and is based on gradually exposing the object, person, situation or location that triggers the phobia and all the accompanying symptoms. The patient little by little, through therapeutic assistance, will get closer to what he is afraid of until he overcomes this situation.
  • Medications : Although they are little used in the treatment of phobias, in certain cases they are prescribed in order to reduce the levels of anxiety or anguish in patients.
Dr. Eric Jackson

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses. He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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