What is Trypophobia?

Does the iPhone 11 give you the heebie-jeebies? There's a scientific reason why. 🕳️

Fear of holes

Roughly 16% of people have trypophobia, an aversion to small clusters of holes. University of Essex vision scientist Dr. Geoff Cole — is one of the few scientists in the world who’s studied the phenomenon. One theory is that trypophobic imagery may be reminiscent of dangerous organisms. Whatever the cause trypophobia sufferers have memefied the condition and formed online communities centered around sharing triggering images. For trypophobes, the sight of clusters of holes in various formations can cause intensely unpleasant reactions -- from serious migraines and panic attacks to hot sweats and increased heart rate.

“Even though it sounds a bit odd, the scientific context of trypophobia is very well established. We’ve known for a long time that just looking at certain things can be aversive. The classic example is photosensitive epilepsy — flashing lights. Just seeing a flashing light can have health implications, or stripey patterns in people with migraines. So, it’s that context. Patterns can be uncomfortable and trypophobia is just one of those phenomena. We found that trypophobic stimuli have a particular unique spectral composition. They have a mathematical structure that you don’t normally see in the natural world apart from the warning colors you see on poisonous animals. So, things like the poison dart frog for instance,” Dr. Geoff Cole tells Brut.

New research by visual science experts Dr Geoff Cole and Professor Arnold Wilkins from the University of Essex suggests that trypophobia may occur as a result of a specific visual feature also found among various poisonous animals. The findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. Although trypophobia has been widely documented by sufferers on the internet, it is still hardly known about and was only recently accepted by Wikipedia, who thought it was a hoax entry.