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The terms trypophobia (sometimes called repetitive pattern phobia[1]) was coined in 2005, a combination of the Greek trypo (punching, drilling or boring holes) and phobia.[2] Although it is not recognized in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,[2][3] thousands of people claim to be affected by the phobia, which involves the fear of objects with small holes, such as beehives, ant hills and lotus seed heads.[3]


While research on the proposed phobia has been limited, researchers Arnold Wilkins and Geoff Cole, who claim to be the first to scientifically investigate trypophobia, believe the reaction to be based on a biological revulsion, rather than a learned cultural fear.[3] In a research article they wrote for Psychological Science, Wilkins and Cole discussed that the reaction is based on a brain response that associates the shapes with danger. The type of shapes that elicit a reaction were stated to include "clustered holes in skin, meat, wood, plants, coral, sponges, mould, dried seed pods and honeycomb" and that observing these shapes made individuals suffering from trypophobia feel "that their skin is crawling, shudder, feel itchy and physically sick". Some stated reasons behind this fear are that the holes seem "disgusting and gross" or that sufferers are afraid that they "might fall in these holes" or that "something might be living inside those holes".[4][5]

Using data and information from, Wilkins and Cole analyzed example images presented for their "luminescence, contrast, wavelength of light" and other components, noting that the images had "unique characteristics".[6] After discussing with a person with trypophobia and how a similar negative reaction occurred when showed images of venomous animals, the researchers concluded that the reaction behind the phobia was an "unconscious reflex reaction" based on a "primitive portion of his or her brain that associates the image with something dangerous".[4][7]


  1. ^ K. Williams Brown (December 12, 2010). "The improbable horror of clusters". Statesman Journal. p. D5. Retrieved October 4, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Abbasi, Jennifer (July 25, 2011). "Is Trypophobia a Real Phobia?". Popular Science. Retrieved October 2, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c Thomas, Gregory (October 1, 2012). "Phobia about holes is not officially recognized, but U.K. scientists look into it". Washington Post. Retrieved October 2, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Danielle Elliot (September 5, 2013). "Understanding trypophobia: Why some people fear holes". CBS News. Retrieved September 15, 2013. 
  5. ^ Rose Eveleth (September 5, 2013). "Trypophobia Is a Fear of Holes". Smithsonian. Retrieved September 15, 2013. 
  6. ^ Joe Palca (September 4, 2013). "The Inside Story On The Fear Of Holes". NPR. Retrieved September 15, 2013. 
  7. ^ Cole, Geoff G.; Wilkins, Arnold J. (2013). "Fear of Holes". Psychological Science (SAGE Publications) 24 (10): 1–6. doi:10.1177/0956797613484937. Retrieved September 15, 2013.