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What does trypophobia mean?

Trypophobia is an intense emotional reaction to clustered patterns of holes or bumps.

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Related words

nomophobia, Blue Waffle, fun fact, rabbit hole, glory-hole

Where does trypophobia come from?

India TV

An Irish person named Louise claims to have coined trypophobia in 2005. On a website dedicated to “all of us weirdoes who have an irrational fear of HOLES,” Louise says?she settled on trypophobia as a name for this fear, featuring the Greek word trypa, meaning “hole,” and the Greek combining form –phobia, meaning “fear.” The word is modeled on other phobias (e.g., arachnophobia, claustrophobia).

Interest in the term on Google Trends took off in 2011 with popular media coverage. In 2016, trypophobia made headlines when celebrity Kendall Jenner said she suffers from it.

Despite the name, research suggests that trypophobia is more accurately described as an experience of disgust in response to clustered patterns of holes or bumps. Lotus pods are a common trigger, as are sponges, coral, fungi, honeycombs, strawberry and cantaloupe seeds, animal spots, and even holes and bumps on skin.


For those who experience it, symptoms may include itching and, crawling sensations, nausea, and shakiness. The reaction, according to scientists, seems to be more of disgust than fear, as seen with established phobias. While trypophobia may sound uncommon and unusual, a 2013 study found up to 15% of participants experienced a negative reaction to trypophobia-triggering images.

The condition is highly controversial. Until 2012, Wikipedia refused to keep a page on the proposed phobia up on the grounds that it was “made up,” deleting “hoax” and “nonsense” efforts as far back as 2009. One psychiatrist believes that trypophobia is the result of priming or conditioning as a result of internet exposure … basically the internet created your symptoms by mocking up really disturbing pictures of people with holes in their skin.

Some researchers have proposed possible evolutionary or even mathematical roots for trypophobia, though. Trypophobia-inducing images tend to include small, high-contrast patterns, which might recall the patterns of dangerous animals and disease symptoms such as skin lesions. Childhood events may also help explain trypophobia: A clustered or holey object may trigger in them traumatizing memories, such as the bumps of a serious allergic reaction from a bee sting.

Examples of trypophobia

blahgjksdaksdjaskdja just saw a post on facebook that triggered my trypophobia ughuhguhgu i'm itchy all over
@LiviDol, April, 2017
…. i have lowkey trypophobia, unsure why i am simultaneously freaked out and love this…
buttercupsticksntricks,?Tumblr,?March, 2017
So the best way to combat trypophobia when you see strange clustered holes on a human body is to look away; they’re not real.
Rick Andreoli, First to Know,?March, 2016

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Who uses trypophobia?

As with other phobia words, someone who experiences trypophobia can be called trypophobic, a trypophobe, or trypophobics.

While it is not a clinically recognized phobia, trypophobia does describe a real negative reaction that some people experience.

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This is not meant to be a formal definition of trypophobia like most terms we define on, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of trypophobia that will help our users expand their word mastery.