Asked by: Theresa Green, Sheffield
It’s called trypophobia and it’s not a fear of open man-holes or caves. Rather, it is the revulsion some experience when they look at asymmetric clusters of small holes, or dark spots on anything from skin to wood or a plant. If that doesn’t sound horrifying, try Googling trypophobia. You’ll see real or Photoshopped images of people with clusters of pockmarks dotted on their face or hands. Some are simply dark holes, others might be eggs or larvae. Severe trypophobes are also revolted by much more innocuous things like the bubbles in a Nestlé Aero.
The term trypophobia was only coined in 2005 and the reasons for it are still poorly understood. One theory is that it might be a behaviour that evolved to make us avoid people with skin parasites. Another study at the University of Essex published last year found that the clustered patterns that tend to trigger trypophobic reactions are also found on some very dangerous animals, such as the spots on a blue-ringed octopus.
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