Does the sight of honeycomb repulse you? Are you unable to touch pumice without feeling seriously creeped out? If looking at holes — irregular, gaping, crater-like holes — makes you sick, relax, because science is here to diagnose your fears. The bad news: You're a trypophobic, and you are terrified of holes because, from an evolutionary standpoint, they represent biological danger. Think disease (as in pustules) and poison (as in, ever notice how the dart frog sports an eerie circular pattern?).
The good news: You're not alone, and you're not crazy. Up to 16 percent of people experience this fear, with slightly more females (18 percent to males' 11 percent) admitting a fear of "clustered" holes. According to a new study published in Psychological Science there may be an ancient evolutionary part of the brain telling people that they are looking at a poisonous animal when they see circular patches or spots, says researcher, Geoff Cole. In general, "clusters" are a trypophobe's worst nightmare.
To prove this, Cole and researcher Arnold Wilkins showed different types of images to patients, and established a connection between a fear of "holes" and a fear of poisonous animals. When a sufferer noticed that the image of a poisonous blue-ringed octopus upset them in the same way that a trypophobic image did, the researchers confirmed their suspicion: The dangerous animals all had similar "clusters" and freaked out the patients accordingly — as well as non-patients.
"We found that people who don’t have the phobia still rate trypophobic images as less comfortable to look at than other images," concludes Cole, adding that even those not aware of it probably are at least slightly afraid of holes, sometimes.