Trypophobia, or commonly known as “the fear of holes” was brought to light in the eighth series of the American Horror Story. This fear is apparently related to an inherited defense mechanism from our ancestors. A study carried out by American researchers looking at the reactions of eye pupils can tell us more.
A study on holes
A team of researchers including from the University of Emory, USA have looked into the concept of trypophobia. They observed the reactions of more than 80 people’s pupil when they looked at a variety of hole images. There were holes dug by animals (snakes, bees or spiders) but also neutral holes in such as pipes, brioche, corals or even doughnuts! Researchers remarked the surprising emotional reactions felt by the volunteers.
« A dislike for holes»
Researchers explain in their study published in the journal PeerJ that, “In comparison with threatening images of animals (which can incite reactions of fear or anxiety related to the sympathic nervous system), images of holes involve the parasympathic nervous system. This is the how we show our dislike for something“.
Sympathic nervous system phobia reactions are often characterised by an increased heart rate and breathing. However parasympathic nervous system reactions are for the most part distinguishable by a lowered heart rate and a narrowing of your pupils.
How do you explain trypophobia?
Strictly speaking trypophobia is not a fear. Instead it generates a feeling of dislike which can have varying strengths. This dislike for holes is an inherited defense mechanism according to researchers. Humans would have been able to recognise mushroom and skin diseases thanks to this ingrained dislike for holes and hollows which would therefore protect them.
Trypophobia could have been a physiological means of survival which our ancestors adopted. Our eye spots voids, holes, hollows, and deduces the potential danger. “These visual cues indicate that the body needs to be careful, by shutting down the body. It is almost as if to limit its exposure to something that could be harmful,” said Vladislav Ayzenberg, one of the researchers.
Trypophobies still remains a debilitating aversion for those that suffer from it. Bee hives and lotus flowers can cause a severe anxiety attacks, even panic attacks or tetanus attacks. Despite the research and many testimonials, this phobia is still not recognized by the manual of diagnoses, called American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
How do you manage your fear of holes?
An effective method for managing trypophobia is medical hypnosis. Using this natural alternative, a hypnotherapist will help to tame the source of the fear, which is in this case, holes. They have to do this so that the patient no longer understands or looks to control their environment.
This fear can also be relieved with the help of psychotherapy with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), but also art-therapy or with the help of a psychoanalyst.