I have two phobias: Trypohobia and blood phobia. What follows is a description of my first and most severe phobia.
Trypophobia is relatively unknown peculiar phenomenon that affects thousands of people. The term ‘trypophobia’ itself was only coined in 2005. It is not recognised as a phobia technically, but it does seem to be a uncontrolled reaction or response (typically fear, anxiety, revulsion and/or self-defense) of a kind of pattern of holes or bumps. It seems to affect all kinds of people young and old and across different cultural barriers which suggests it is not a culturally learned response. Often, a trypophobe will not know that anyone else suffers from the same experiences that they do.
For a long time I wondered why do certain patterns give me goosebumps? As long as I can remember since I was a kid I had this reaction, and there was very little information about it on the Internet that I could find. I wanted to add my knowledge on it.
What triggers it and what doesn’t?
The effect of a triggering image on any individual trypophobe can vary from no response to a severe reaction, but many trypophobes will agree that certain images are triggering. Generally speaking, any kind of cluster (of say at least 7) of holes or bumps (and in some cases, lesions) may cause discomfort. For me, asymmetric/non-uniform patterns are worse. Others have said that the texture of the holes (in the sense of touch) matters. Some repetitive patterns like honeycomb, clusters of bubbles on the surface of water, the texture of crumpets and the bumps in your skin on your knees when you kneel in carpet for too long can also be triggering.
You can do a Google search for “trypophobia” and many of the images that turn up will illustrate the concept.
To know more about triggers, we must explore why trypophobes have this reaction.
Why do trypophobes have this reaction?
There is not much research data on trypophobia to conclusively explain this reaction. From what I’ve read, and what I’ve experienced, my best guess is that certain kinds of clusters are similar in nature (visually) to some degenerative diseases, pox, infections/infestations, swarms, etc., which one would do well to avoid. You could bring some kind of evolutionary hypothesis into this, the revulsion and therefore aversion of anything that looks like this would be beneficial for survival.
For most, when the clusters/pattern is on something natural/biological such as skin, the reaction is worse. Perfectly symmetrical patterns like the holes in a cheese grater may not be triggering at all (like in my case) due to its visual uniformity (man-made appearance.) But again, different people are sensitive to different things.
As it is, trypophobes are not generally aware of any particular reason they have a reaction. It is like getting goosebumps when it gets cold; it is a reaction one cannot typically prevent.
I have done some small experimentation with this since I am affected by trypophobia, and it is very interesting to me (I’m sort of a scientist at heart.) In my case, the visual scale of holes makes a big difference. For example, looking at something from a certain distance may have no affect on me, but viewing it from further back may trigger a response. It doesn’t seem to depend so much on the “understood” scale (compared relative to other objects around it) as the visual scale – how many of the holes can be seen, how much detail, how big they are, the spaces in between them, etc.
What are the reactions to triggering images?
Reactions vary from person to person. Speaking only from my own experience, the first and most noticeable reaction I get is goosebumps. I always get goosebumps when I am triggered, and my hairs stand on end. It will continue until I am no longer triggered. I believe this is part of some kind of overall self-defense/self-preservation mechanism. At the same time, I feel anxious. I feel as though there is possibly some kind of danger. My mind starts analysing the image and for long exposure, it is all I can think about. Heart rate increases. It can have such a strong presence in the mind that it affects your ability to focus on a task. To that extreme level, it is a little bit debilitating.
The worst, though, is having the triggering images flash into your head. Continuously, more and more, until you start to feel panicky and feverish. In my opinion it is a very unpleasant experience to have a war with your mind, in trying “not” to think about something, which is slowly driving you crazy. After extended exposure, I got more sensitive to trypo triggers. I started to get reactions from simple everyday things like the shower head, bubbles of oil in the frying pan, and even the texture of toilet paper.
Others have said their reactions include things like anger (possibly aggression which can be linked to self-preservation), a desire to destroy the clusters, as well as wanting to cry (a natural reaction after being scared.) One thing that trypophobes all have in common is a very strong revulsion. Most will physically move further away (subconsciously) or look away from the image with disgust. Other common reactions include itching, skin crawling, and being sick to the stomach.
How can I get rid of it?
It takes a lot of mental solidarity to reduce your sensitivity to trypophobic triggers. I don’t believe you will be able to get rid of any reaction altogether, especially to the more severe triggers, but being able to control your reaction and curb the effect it has on you is a good start.
Firstly, I don’t recommend take the exposure/desensitizing route if you already experience any of the reactions above. Being exposed to a lot of triggers in a short amount of time can make you panicky. A lot of the images aren’t real and just created for shock value. Some people have said desensitizing works, and it can, depending on how you do it. Don’t go on a binge looking at triggers until you’re sick. If you’re out and about and see a trigger you can take the time to share your phobia with someone close to you. Being able to explain it and share it can turn it into a good experience and help condition you to associate less negativity with triggers.
Accept that you are not in control of the physical reaction your body has, and know that it is natural. Just like goosebumps, or getting hungry, these are natural feelings and it isn’t something to worry about. What you are in control of is how you deal with it.
If you need to, remind yourself that you are not in any danger.
Do not reinforce yourself into a corner of fear. The more you label trypophobia as something scary, the more it is scary, to you. It is uncomfortable and unpleasant, but do not encourage it by saying things like “This is going to give me nightmares,” and “I’m so afraid to click on this link.” Just forget those thoughts. Own it, don’t be a prisoner to it.
Finally, do not expose yourself more than you have to. I know there is a deathly curiosity that comes along with trypophobia. It takes a lot of willpower to pass up an opportunity to freak yourself out. But once you are able to say, “No, I don’t want to see that,” and go on to do other things, you will be one step closer to feeling more at ease.
By doing these, over time, your reactions to trypo images should decrease.
What are some of the worst triggers?
Here is a list of well-known trypophobia triggers. You will know immediately if you have trypophobia if you experience anxiety in response to these stimuli.
- Lotus seed pod, lotus breast, lotus seeds photoshopped onto skin (there are many of these), etc.,
- Surinam toad giving birth
- Botfly removal
- Tafoni (rock formation)
- The “frozen peas” image, most likely also photoshopped
- Googly eyes on face
I love reading books. Especially book that makes you think about your own life, or give you a glimpse into a world you didn’t know excited. Furiously happy is one of these books.
In her new book, FURIOUSLY HAPPY, Jenny explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.
According to Jenny: “Some people might think that being ‘furiously happy’ is just an excuse to be stupid and irresponsible and invite a herd of kangaroos over to your house without telling your husband first because you suspect he would say no since he’s never particularly liked kangaroos. And that would be ridiculous because no one would invite a herd of kangaroos into their house. Two is the limit. I speak from personal experience. My husband says that none is the new limit. I say he should have been clearer about that before I rented all those kangaroos.”
“Most of my favorite people are dangerously fucked-up but you’d never guess because we’ve learned to bare it so honestly that it becomes the new normal. Like John Hughes wrote in The Breakfast Club, ‘We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it.’ Except go back and cross out the word ‘hiding.'”
FURIOUSLY HAPPY is a book about mental illness, but under the surface it’s about embracing joy in fantastic and outrageous ways-and who doesn’t need a bit more of that?
Have you ever been afraid of the dark?
You’re Not The Only One
Anxiety disorders refer to a high prevalence group of problems, which include excessive levels of fear and anxiety. Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress, threat, or danger and often serves us well. It enables us to deal with threatening situations by triggering the fight/flight response so that we can take evasive action. However, it is when this response is persistent, excessive and interferes with our functioning in daily life that it is referred to as an anxiety disorder; at this point a psychologist or counselling service may be required.
- Excessive Worry/Generalised Anxiety: This is characterized by excessive anxiety and worry lasting 6 months or more. It is accompanied by central nervous problems including bodily tension, restlessness, irritability, fatigue, poor concentration and sleep disturbance. Worries usually relate to education, work, finances, safety, social issues and often minor issues such as being on time.
- Social Phobia/Social Anxiety: Persistent fear of situations in which we are exposed to possible scrutiny of others, such as public speaking engagements, social gatherings or communication with the opposite sex. This form of anxiety elicits fear of intense panic in such situations and avoidance of or escape from social environments
- Panic Attacks: This form of anxiety can manifest in sudden, intense and unprovoked feelings of terror and dread often culminating in heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath and an out of control or very frightening feeling. When we suffer this disorder we generally discover strong fears about when we might experience the next panic attack and often avoid places we feel we might have a panic attack or where escape may be difficult such as movie theatres, shopping malls or social gatherings.
- Obsessions and compulsions which are characterized by persistent, uncontrollable and unwanted feeling, thoughts or images (obsessions) and/or routines or repeated behaviors(compulsions) in which individuals engage to try and prevent or rid themselves of anxiety provoked by the obsessions. Common themes through compulsions may include repeated actions such as; washing hands or cleaning the house excessively for fear of germs or checking something over repeatedly for
errors. When we are caught in the cycle if obsession and ritual our lives are constrained and our time otherwise used for living is consumed.
- Post Traumatic Stress: Witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event including severe physical or emotional trauma such as a natural disaster, serious accident or crime may expose us to the risk of post traumatic stress. Post Traumatic Stress can be characterized by thoughts, feelings and behaviour patterns that can become seriously affected by reminders of events, recurring nightmares and/or flashbacks, avoidance of trauma related stimuli and chronically elevated bodily arousal. These reactions mat arise weeks even years after the event.
Anxiety treatment at Sydney Emotional Fitness also covers specific phobias, a related disorder to Panic. Specific Phobias involve marked, persistent and intense fears about certain objects or situations. Specific phobias may include things such as enclosed spaces, encountering certain animals or flying in airplanes. Exposure to the feared situation or object usually elicits a panic attack leading to a tendency to avoid the feared object.
For all information about Anxiety Treatment, Psychologist Counselling, Anger Counselling, Grief Counselling, Anger Management, Relationship Counselling, Stress Management and Depression Treatment in Sydney, or any of our services that may assist you in leading a more rewarding life please call us on 1300 790 550.
- Tips for Coping with a Panic Disorder (whereistandblog.wordpress.com)
- Anxiety: The Breathing Technique (something you don’t know) (embracingcalm.wordpress.com)
- Overcoming Agoraphobia and Extreme Anxiety Disorders (1hichamblg.wordpress.com)
- Battling Anxiety (mentalhealthspecialist411.wordpress.com)
- Panic Disorder And Your Quality Life (zirari6.wordpress.com)
- Different Types of Anxiety Disorders (healthyandalive.wordpress.com)
- Stressed? Anxious? 15 Things to Try Now to Beat Anxiety (dadditudes.com)
– submitted by Ruth Levine, MD, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston
This summary was derived from several of the articles listed in the resource list, from the suggestions of our ADMSEP colleagues, and from our own personal experience. We have not personally reviewed all of the movies on the list, and suggest you view any film before choosing it for teaching purposes.
Axis I Disorders
|Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders||Bipolar Disorder/Mania|
|Copycat (panic/agoraphobia)||Mr. Jones|
|As good as it gets (OCD)||Network|
|The touching tree (Childhood OCD)||Seven Percent Solution|
|Fourth of July (PTSD)||Captain Newman, MD|
|The Deer Hunter (PTSD)||Sophieís Choice|
|Ordinary People (PTSD)||Sheís So Lovely|
|Faithful||I Never Promised You a Rose Garden|
|The Seventh Veil||Clean Shaven|
|The Shrike||Through a Glass Darkly|
|Itís a Wonderful Life (Adjustment disorder)||An Angel at my Table|
|The Wrong Man (Adjustment disorder)||Personal|
|Dissociative Disorders||Man Facing Southwest|
|The Three Faces of Eve||Madness of King George (Psychosis due to Porphyria)|
|The Singing Detective|
|The Long Weekend (etoh)||The Days of Wine and Roses (etoh)|
|Barfly (etoh)||Basketball Diaries (opiates)|
|Kids (hallucinogens, rave scenes, etc.)||Loosing Isaiah (crack)|
|Reefer Madness||Under the Volcano|
|Long Day’s Journey into Night||Ironweed|
|The Man with the Golden Arm (heroin)||A Hatful of Rain (heroin)|
|Synanon (drug treatment)||The Boost (cocaine)|
|The 7 Percent Solution (cocaine induced mania)||Iím Dancing as Fast as I can (substance induced organic mental disorder)|
|The Best Little Girl in the World (made for TV)-Anorexia||Kateís Secret (made for TV)-Bulemia|
Axis II Disorders
|Cluster A||Cluster B|
|Remains of the Day- Schizoid PD||Borderline PD|
|Taxi Driver-Schizotypal PD||Fatal Attraction|
|The Caine Mutiny- Paranoid PD||Play Misty for Me|
|The Treasure of Sierra Madre -Paranoid PD||Frances|
|Cluster C||Looking for Mr. Goodbar|
|Sophieís Choice-Dependent PD||Histrionic PD|
|The Odd Couple-OCPD||Bullets over Broadway|
|Gone with the Wind|
|A Streetcare Named Desire|
|A Clockwork Orange|
|All that Jazz||Taxi Driver|
|Stardust Memories||Single White Female|
|Zelig||The King of Comedy|
|Jerry Maguire||Triumph of Will|
|Citizen Kane||Best Boy|
|Lawrence of Arabia||Bill|
|Patton||Bill, On His Own|
|Family||Early Adult Issues|
|The Field||The Graduate|
|Kramer vs Kramer||Spanking the Monkey|
|Diary of a Mad Housewife|
|Betrayal||Latency and Adolescent Issues|
|Whoís Afraid of Virginia Woolfe||Stand by Me|
|The Stone Boy||Smooth Talk|
|The Great Santini|
|Doctor/Patient Relationship||Boundary Violations|
|The Doctor||The Prince of Tides|
|Idealized “Dr. Marvelous” Psychotherapy|
|Spellbound||Suddenly Last Summer|
|The Snake Pit||Captain Newman, MD|
|The Three Faces of Eve||Ordinary People|
|Good Will Hunting|
University of Texas Medical Branch
summary was derived from several of the articles listed in the resource list, from the suggestions of our ADMSEP colleagues, and from our own personal experience. We have not personally reviewed all of the movies on the list, and suggest you view any