What gives you the creeps?
A quick search online shows that the top ten phobias of all time include common phobias like those of spiders, snakes, heights and small spaces.
It might surprise some to know that although not commonly spoken about, trypophobia, or the fear of clustered holes, comes in at #10 on the list – it definitely surprised me. You’re also forewarned – don’t click that link if clustered holes freak you out too. You’re welcome.
Trypophobia might be the next fancy word you use to show off random trivia to your friends, but the creeps it induces is real.
Specifically, it refers to a feeling of disgust induced by the sight of clusters of objects or small holes. While trypophobia is not currently recognised as a disorder, it is considered by some experts as a form of specific phobia.
But here’s the thing – as a child, I didn’t know I’d be affected by this. In fact, I didn’t know this was a real phenomenon people experienced, or that there was a name for it. How, then, did I come to know this term or find myself relating to the experiences it encapsulated?
Google, my personal curiosity begging to be satisfied, and the anecdotal experience of a friend.
When I was a student, l once heard a friend mention that she had trypophobia. It was a new word to me then and not wanting to be found out that I had no idea what she was talking about, I did the best thing I knew – I Googled the term. On hindsight, l wish l had checked the word in a hardcopy dictionary instead!
Since then, I have also come to realise some of my friends can relate to my experiences with trypophobia – though I relate to this on a milder level.
For example, it is mainly clusters in pictures of nature – such as lotus seed pods or honeycomb – or pictures of unfamiliar items with holes which cause me to shrink back in disgust or horror.
In contrast, for some of my friends, this impacts the decisions they make – to some extent. That’s because seeing real objects with clustered holes is sufficient to make them shrink away in disgust.
Not Just A Mild Reaction
It never occurred to me the impact trypophobia could have on a person’s choices until a trip abroad with friends some years ago.
We were having dinner at a Chinese restaurant and had ordered a serving of lotus root soup. When the soup was served, my friend quickly but politely declined. I was intrigued that she might turn down something which everyone else seemed to be enjoying, so I curiously asked why she hadn’t joined in.
I was surprised but enlightened when she said, “because it’s lotus root and it has holes – yuck!”
It then occurred to me that I had never held things in that perspective, but it was also then that I realised how this phenomenon might impact a person in the mundane decisions of daily life.
Another friend finds clustered holes so unnerving, she cannot even look at round ceiling spotlights without having her skin crawl.
Yet, with all these in mind – if you relate to the sentiments in this piece, you’re not alone. Nor is your phobia “weird”. If you come to know of someone who considers himself or herself a trypophobe, know that their fear is as real as any other phobia – even if it’s unusual or less often triggered than other fears.
Above all, don’t Google for images – and don’t say I didn’t warn you!