Home » Online Therapy » Phobias and fears » Trypophobia (hole phobia)

We are all afraid of something, but usually we can handle it. A phobia, on the other hand, is an extreme fear that can limit our lives. Here we explain what trypophobia is and how you can get help if you have a fear of small holes or patterns.

What is trypophobia?

Trypophobia is a type of phobia that can be described as an intense, irrational fear or dislike of clusters of small holes or patterns. People who suffer from trypophobia may feel discomfort or fear when they see objects with small holes grouped together, such as honeycombs, lotus seeds, foam, or certain types of coral. It is not an officially recognized phobia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) used in health care, but can still cause suffering for the person with the problem.

Why do people get trypophobia?

The causes of trypophobia are not fully understood and research on this phenomenon is still limited. However, there are some theories that try to explain why some people develop trypophobia. There may be evolutionary reasons where the holes are reminiscent of infection or disease and therefore there is a strong reaction to it. Other theories are that certain patterns in nature over-stimulate our visual system and therefore create discomfort. There are also explanatory models that describe that life experiences, learning and difficult events such as trauma linked to the patterns could be the cause. It is also unclear whether trypophobia is actually a phobia, as it is discussed that it is a feeling of disgust and not actually fear.

According to Beyond Blue, 3 million Australians are living with anxiety. Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. 1 in 4 people will experience anxiety at some stage in their life.

How common are phobias?

According to research in the field, around 8-12% of the population suffer from one or more phobias in their lifetime. These can range from common phobias such as fear of heights and social phobia to lesser known ones such as trypophobia. It is unclear how common trypophobia is but some research shows that up to 15% of the population suffers from the phobia.

Characteristics and symptoms

If you suffer from trypophobia, there are certain symptoms that most people tend to have. They can vary in severity with some having milder symptoms while others have more severe ones. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Feelings of discomfort or anxiety at the sight of clusters of small holes.
  • Emotional reaction, such as nausea, skin crawling, or a feeling of “creeping”.
  • Physical symptoms, such as sweating, shaking, or heart palpitations.

Phobias can also lead to avoidance behaviours where you may start to limit your life in different ways. It is therefore important to seek help and treatment if you have problems that affect your quality of life.

Treatment for trypophobia

Trypophobia can be treated and if you have symptoms, you should not be afraid to seek help. The treatment is adapted to each person and the severity of the problem. There are certain parts that the treatment usually contains and these are among others:

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT): This is one of the most effective treatment methods for phobia. CBT focuses on identifying and challenging negative thought patterns, managing emotions linked to triggering objects, and changing behaviours that contribute to anxiety. The therapy helps individuals to gradually expose themselves to these in a controlled and systematic process, reducing anxiety over time.

Medication: Some people with trypophobia may be helped by medication, such as antidepressants (especially SSRIs) or anti-anxiety medication for more severe problems. These medications can help control anxiety symptoms, making it easier to participate in therapy and daily activities.

It is important to remember that treatment is individualized. It is also important to seek help from a qualified health professional to get effective treatment for your phobia.



How therapy can improve your life

Seeking professional help can significantly improve your quality of life. As it gives you effective tools to manage phobias and can change the pattern you have developed that causes anxiety. Seeking help for psychological problems can be embarrassing, but talking to a psychologist can be extremely liberating and helpful if you are living with a phobia that is hindering your daily life.

Take the first step to booking a therapy session

Life is too short to let phobias limit you. Therefore, therapy is a step in the right direction to help you live a full and rich life. If you or someone you know is living with phobias, professional therapy can make a real difference. Our therapists and psychologists offer a confidential and safe environment to explore and treat your phobias.



12 common questions and answers about trypophobia

What is a phobia?

A phobia is an irrational and intense fear or anxiety about a particular object, situation or activity. This fear is usually long-lasting and can be very limiting in daily life.

How are phobias different from ordinary fears?

Ordinary fear is a natural reaction to an actual danger, while a phobia is an exaggerated fear that has no rational explanation. Phobias can be triggered even when there is no actual risk.

Are phobias common?

Yes, phobias are one of the most common forms of mental health problems. It is estimated that a significant proportion of the population suffers from at least one form of phobia.

What is trypophobia?

Trypophobia is an intense, irrational fear or dislike of clusters of small holes or patterns. People suffering from trypophobia may feel discomfort or anxiety when they see objects with small holes grouped together, such as honeycombs, lotus seeds, foam, or certain types of coral.

What are the symptoms of trypophobia?

If you have trypophobia, you may experience feelings of discomfort or anxiety at the sight of clusters of small holes. You may have emotional reactions, such as nausea, skin crawling, or a feeling of ‘creeping’. You may also have physical symptoms, such as sweating, shaking, or heart palpitations.

How is trypophobia treated?

Treatment involves cognitive behaviural therapy (CBT) and, if necessary, medication.

What is exposure in treatment?

Exposure is a tool used in CBT to gradually approach a fear in a systematic and safe way.

Can phobias lead to other mental health problems?

Yes, untreated phobias can lead to other problems such as depression or other anxiety disorders. You may start to avoid things, which can make you feel depressed.

What causes trypophobia?

It is unclear what the cause is, but there are a few theories, including evolutionary causes, where the holes are reminiscent of infection or disease, and that certain patterns in nature over-stimulate our visual system and therefore cause discomfort. Life experiences, learning and difficult events can also be the cause. It is also theorized that it is mainly a feeling of disgust and not fear, and therefore would not be classified as a phobia.

Is it possible to get rid of a phobia?

Yes, with the right treatment and support, phobic symptoms can be treated. However, it usually requires the help of a licensed psychologist or qualified therapist.

How common is trypophobia?

It is not fully understood but some research suggests that up to 15% of the population may suffer from the phobia.

Where can I seek help for my phobia?

If you suffer from a phobia, we recommend that you contact a licensed psychologist or qualified therapist. You can book a first appointment with one of our therapists here at Lavendla. We make the hard things easier.

Treating trypophobia with cognitive behavioural therapy

This is what treatment for trypophobia can look like and it can be overwhelming, but remember that you are not alone in overcoming your fear. There is help available and here is an idea of what treatment might look like:

Understanding and assessment

The first step is to understand that you have a phobia and that it is okay to seek help for it. A licensed psychologist can help you assess your situation and understand what is causing your fear. You may also be asked to complete assessment forms.

Psychoeducation

You will learn about your phobia and how it affects you both physically and mentally. It is important to understand what happens in your body, thoughts and feelings when the fear occurs.

Tools to change behaviours and patterns

You will work on identifying and changing patterns of thinking that are linked to your fear. This will help you develop a more nuanced picture and increase your ability to manage the phobia. Exposure therapy can be scary, but it is an effective way to gradually face your fears. Together with your therapist, you will explore situations that trigger your phobia and learn how to deal with them. You will also be given homework to practice between sessions.

Medication (if needed)

In some cases, doctors may suggest medication to help with anxiety symptoms. This is something you and your doctor can discuss if appropriate.

Follow up and evaluate progress

You will have support from your psychologist throughout the process. At the end of the treatment, you will also receive a plan to continue practicing and maintain your progress over time.

Involve specialists (if necessary)

If you have severe symptoms, it may require more specialized care. Your psychologist can help you find the right help if necessary.

Book a first session with one of our licensed psychologists or therapists to see how we can help you.


Written by melissa

Melissa is a Certified Kinesiologist who focusses on a client-centred, holistic and integrative approach to health and wellness. She has extensive experience in managing stress, anxiety, fears, phobias and trauma in her clients. Melissa uses visual and auditory feedback to directly access and solve the cause of psychological stressors in the body so that optimal well-being and balance is achieved.