In this article, I will discuss fear of holes. What it is, common symptoms, what causes it and common treatments. I will also give you a nine step plan to reduce the phobia of holes.
As a hypnotherapist in London, I’ve helped clients with this phobia and similar phobias. I will also tell you about a particular client, who I am very pleased to say reduced completely his phobia of holes in just one session of hypnotherapy.
What is fear of holes (trypophobia)?
There is some discussion amongst health professionals regarding whether a fear of holes is indeed a real phobia. It does not often appear in official books of anxiety disorders or phobias. However, as mentioned, I have helped a client with their fear of holes and they completely reduced it. As such, I think it’s clear that this aversion and anxiety around clusters of holes or bumps is indeed a very real fear or phobia.
What is a fear of holes?
As well as having a fear of holes, people may experience anxiety when seeing bumps or other hole like structures. This can include certain fruits and vegetables, collections of dots, or even repetitious patterns of dots or circles. For example, somebody may find that the small round holes in the shower plug filter causes a shuddery feeling. Someone may feel anxiety when crossing the road, and seeing the bumps that often appear by traffic lights, there to help people who are blind.
A fear of holes is a very real fear, with common examples of trigger situations being all sorts of objects and situations. For example, even condensation, fruit seeds, bubble wrap, dents in diseased or decaying flesh, honeycomb, insects, pomegranates or strawberries can prompt anxiety.
To someone who hasn’t experienced this fear, it’s easy to think this phobia is a bit of a joke and not a serious phobia. However, if you speak to somebody with trypophobia, it’s certainly something very real and something very distressing.
Symptoms of fear of holes
This phobia will have quite common anxiety type symptoms. These can include a racing heartbeat, sweating, palpitations, and a general feeling of anxiety or light-headedness. Fear of holes will differ from person to person, but can also include a general feeling of anxiety and emotional distress, itching, panic, rapid breathing, shaking, even vomiting, or just a general aversion or repulsive feeling.
When seeing or thinking about holes or bumps, as is common with other phobias, somebody with fear of holes will experience some behaviour changes as well. In particular, they may wish to avoid situations where they might see holes. They may wish to cover up or hide places in the home where holes or dots or clusters of dots may appear.
This avoidant behaviour is a very common feature with many phobias. It also makes sense. Somebody with a strong phobia will want to avoid situations, events or people that trigger or prompt fears. However the anxious feelings which cause a fear of holes is something which little is truly known about. Why this phobia exists or what really causes this phobia is a little unclear. If we compare it to other phobias it even can appear to be a little irrational. For example, somebody with a fear of dogs may have had an unpleasant experience with a dog when they were a child. Perhaps they were chased by a dog in a park, or they were bitten by a dog. This memory and experience is then stored away. Then when they next see a dog, they, of course, will have a heightened anxious feeling, now fearful that the past event may get repeated.
Some have suggested that there is an evolutionary cause to fear of holes. That it’s related to seeing things that remind the subconscious of disease, infections, parasites, or dangerous creatures that may have holes or bumps. As such it represents an early human reaction to such sights. Another theory suggests that fear of holes is related to dangerous animals, such as dangerous snakes. There is some research that points in this direction as well. A study carried out in 2013 examined how people with a fear of holes phobia reacted to certain stimuli compared to other people. Subjects in the research were shown honeycomb, honey bees and other bumpy sights.
The researchers concluded that it’s possible that seeing bumps or collections of holes or dots reminded the participants of dangerous organisms, such as snakes, and these common characteristics leads to a feeling of fear or even distress. As such, trypophobia may be related to experiences with animals in the past.
Another theory suggests that a fear of holes or dots is related to the transmission of disease or viruses. As such, it’s an adaptive evolutionary response to keep a person safe. A fear of disease or illness means that when one sees these dots or holes, a person instinctually steps back and tries to avoid them, since they wish to avoid becoming ill.
The bottom line is that whether this phobia has a basis in science or not, it certainly is a real phobia. This I can testify to from clients who have approached me. And as mentioned, I have indeed successfully helped a client completely remove this phobia in one session.
Treatments for fear of holes
Though, no one particular treatment has been proven to be the hands down winner, there are a number of useful approaches that people take.
Exposure therapy involves slowly and progressively exposing a person to their feared event or situation. This therapy involves a slow exposure over time, in order to help the person be more able to tolerate being in the presence of the fearful situation. This might start off with simply seeing images or pictures of bumps or holes. This might progress to slowly being in real life situations. The aim being for the individual to learn to live with their anxiety.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) involves working with a CBT therapist to look at and examine thoughts and behaviours that may contribute or maintain this phobia or fear of holes. Charts, plans and goals will be formulated in order to help the person reduce their feelings of anxiety around situations that were previously a bit scary.
As mentioned, I have used hypnotherapy, in London, successfully to help a client completely remove this phobia. Hypnotherapy is very effective since, in the peace and quiet and safety of the consulting room, I’m able to guide you using visualizations and simply talking with you to slowly expose you in your mind to the phobia. Also, most importantly, we look at the underlying causes that may be producing or creating this fear response.
As with other phobias, it may be that the fear or anxiety is related to something else going on in your life. The anxiety might be connected to losing control elsewhere or fears about family or career. Sometimes a phobia may be related to bereavement or another anxiety related issue or concern. We look at that in detail in order to see how the mind is, in some way, trying to help you out by creating this phobia around something that it considers to be dangerous.
Hypnotherapy is very effective since it means that you can also feel empowered and more confident. Some of the hypnotherapy interventions will involve raising confidence and assertiveness and feeling that you are able to master and control thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
Though perhaps not to the first line of treatment, you may find antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs helpful to reduce depression, anxiety and phobias. If so, this will be a discussion that you would have with your doctor.
A client’s experience with a fear of holes
Let me just mention a few words about the client that I helped completely remove his fear of holes. This person was a bright young man who came to me in really quite high distress. He had suffered for a number of weeks or even months with this phobia and nothing seemed to help. After a discussion of different stresses and anxieties in his life and also about previous anxiety experiences, I set to work to help him using hypnosis, to reduce his fear of holes.
I used a number of hypnosis techniques and tools, approaching it, during hypnosis, from a number of angles. As can often be the case, I’m not always a hundred percent certain whether my work and efforts have paid off. It’s not until the person faces their fears that we see the results. However, I was very pleased to hear just a few days later that the phobia of holes had completely disappeared. And indeed, after a number of months, he reported that it had not returned.
How to overcome a fear of holes (trypophobia) in nine steps
Of course, I recommend that you seek treatment. However, by following the following nine steps, you can, through self-help, reduce significantly your anxiety.
Step one – Understand your fears
Though it may feel a bit insulting to be told this, your fear of holes is an irrational fear. This simply means that it’s a fear which isn’t based on something clear and obvious as a source of fear. For example, a fear of flying may be viewed as exaggerated and in many senses, irrational, because flying is the safest form of travel. However, for many people they’ve had a bad experience on a flight. There might have been a lot of turbulence or there was a drop in cabin pressure. So, there is a clear reason why they then might be apprehensive in the future. However, a fear of holes or dots is irrational, in the sense that a dot or a circle can, in no way, possibly hurt you.
However, for some reason, the brain has connected this image to another experience or something that really is truly scary. That’s why a fear of holes will result in severe anxiety, for some people, even feeling physical trembling or nausea. The phobia will be something that will dominate their thoughts and be very distracting. Understand that a fear of holes does have a basis in human evolution. As we mentioned earlier in in this article, scientists have come up with a number of theories, in particular evolutionary ones, to explain why people have a fear of holes. It seems to be a reaction based on an early response or need for human survival, in particular around dangerous situations, be that based on animals or disease.
Step two – Identify your trigger situations
If you do have a phobia of holes, you may already be very aware of those places, situations or events that trigger your feelings of anxiety.
You may wish to note them down in a list, to see if there’s any commonality. You might be bothered by pebbles, honeycomb or might be upset by seeing animals with certain patterns. Note them down and describe how you feel and the symptoms that you have when you’re in those situations.
Try to rank items as well. Which particular situation or object creates the highest anxiety? Which creates the lowest reaction for you?
Step three – Consider what might be the underlying cause of your anxiety
You might not have any idea why this phobia has appeared in your life. However, you may remember the first time you experienced trypophobia phobia. Does it feel like another feeling? What’s the overall emotion you get when you do see a hole or cluster of dots? Everyone is different, but try to discover what it is that truly disturbs you. Is it a bad experience, a feeling of disgust or as a reminder of a bad memory?
Step four – How do you deal with general anxiety?
To do well with your fear if holes, it’s important to look at how you deal with anxiety in general. How do you deal with stress and anxiety? When does it commonly show up? How do you manage it?
Step five – Confront your fears
I would recommend really spending a good amount of time evaluating and identifying the reasons and causes first. Then slowly and gently confront your fears. Do so in a way that is manageable. It is extremely important not to jump from zero to 100. Go first of all to a situation that feels just a little bit out of your comfort zone. This means that when you notice that that was manageable, you will have evidence that you are able to survive and do well. You managed a situation which you had previously thought was extremely scary. Slowly but surely you may feel that you’re able to expose yourself to more fearful situations. Only do this in a gentle way and do not rush.
Step six- Practice meditation and relaxation techniques
A phobia can be difficult since there may be an overall systemic high level of stress. To do really well with a fear of holes phobia, it’s good to notice your overall stress levels. To reduce overall stress levels, consider relaxation techniques and consider practices such as yoga or Mindfulness. Go for walks or take a little bit of extra time when you have a shower. Perhaps cut out caffeine or alcohol from your diet. Meditation, in particular, is very helpful to reduce anxiety or phobias.
Step seven – Take care of yourself
Look at your exercise routine, how much sleep you get. Ensure that you’re able to lower the overall stress and anxiety levels in your life. Lowered anxiety levels will mean that when you are near something that causes a fear or phobia of holes, your reactions will be less pronounced than they would have been.
Step eight – Get support
Of course, as mentioned, I work as a hypnotherapist in London. I use hypnotherapy to help people with a fear of holes. You may wish to seek another therapist or visit your doctor, if you have concerns.
Step nine – Relax. It’s going to be okay
Last but not least, don’t get overly panicky about your situation. You are not alone. There is help available and indeed many many people have experienced this very strange anxiety. Like you they have felt that emotional response, itching, or goosebumps, even headaches, nausea, or other anxiety feelings.