Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 3 December 2020

What’s behind a phobia of holes?

Fear of clusters of holes and cracks, called trypophobia, may be evolutionary in origin. But as details are shared, it is becoming a social contagion.


Julia was around 11 years old the first time it happened. She let herself into her dad’s apartment in Malmö, Sweden, dropped her schoolbag and flopped on to the sofa. She switched on the TV and turned to her favourite channel in time for the cartoons. The screen filled up with a cartoon man with a huge head. On his chin, in place of skin or a beard were huge cracks. Suddenly, she felt like she was going to throw up in disgust. She screwed up her eyes and fumbled for the button to turn off the TV.

Every few months or so after this, she would see something that she just could not bear. Something that made her feel utterly disgusted and terrified. Sometimes it was cracks, but other times it was patterns of holes or dots, or scenes from nature programmes showing things such as groups of barnacles. She would shake, pour with sweat and end up lying on the floor in tears. One time, she was chatting on the phone when she saw something so awful she threw her mobile across the room. No one else she knew seemed to have this strange reaction. What was going on?

Updated: November 19, 2019 04:56 PM

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