I thought I’d write something a bit more personal about myself this time. My phobia. It’s called trypophobia and it’s a fear of clusters of holes, particularly (though not exclusively) things in nature like honeycomb. It’s particularly disturbing if there are things coming out of the holes, like lotus flower seed pods – a while ago there was a spate of people Photoshopping images of lotus flower seed pods onto photos of people’s skin to look like they had a horrible disease, and those pictures are about as bad as it can get for a trypophobic. It’s not just holes though, it’s also certain textured patterns, like when glass shatters but stays in place, and things like clusters of seeds inside a melon or a pepper. It’s quite hard to define exactly which type of hole clusters or patterns are going to disturb me, because they don’t all, I just know it when I see it. Even the word ‘cluster’ sets me off a bit, as does the word ‘tubes’ for the same reason. Just thinking about it, and writing this piece is actually quite stressful.
So how does this fear manifest itself? Well, it makes me feel very stressed and angry ‘How dare that thing have holes in it like that!’. My heart starts racing and I tense up and feel this strong urge to destroy the thing I’m looking at. It’s also a bit like driving past an accident; you don’t want to look, but you feel compelled to do so.
I’ve had this for as long as I can remember, but I always thought it was just an odd quirk of mine. I only discovered a couple of years ago that it was a proper phobia with a name. Well I say that, it’s not yet been officially recognised as a phobia, but the fact that somebody recognised it enough to name it, is good enough for me.
It’s not a serious phobia, in that it doesn’t rule my life in any way, or prevent me from doing things, I can just turn away, but I would say that at least once a day I see a disturbing image somewhere, often on TV adverts; like toothpaste adverts that zoom right in to show the porousness of a tooth.
I tried to keep it from my children because I didn’t want to pass my fear onto them, but in the end I had to tell them a bit about it to explain some of my strange behaviour. Like the time my daughter brought home a present she had made for me at school; it was a beeswax candle made from rolled up honeycomb. I clutched it with slightly trembling hands, and whilst looking up at the ceiling, I proclaimed “It’s beautiful darling, thank you”.
“But you’re not even looking at it” she said, sounding a little bit hurt and bemused.
“Oh that’s ok” I said “I’ve already seen it”.
I think we can laugh a little bit at phobias when they’re not of the debilitating type. Like my friend’s husband who has a phobia of carrots. Apparently the most disturbing thing for him is carrot cake because he feels people are trying to hide the carrots from him. I always have this image of him pointing angrily at a piece of carrot cake and saying “I know you’re in there!”.
I was going to be brave and put a few offending images of holes on this page, but I don’t want to scare off any fellow trypophobics who may happen upon this page (yes, you’re quite correct, that is just my excuse). But if you’re interested, go to Google Images and search for ‘Trypophobia’, and you will see plenty of horrific images. Just don’t tell me about what you find ok?
Photograph of Fear word, courtesy of Kriss Szkurlatowski.