Word of the Day: trypophobia?

– supposedly “an irrational aversion to the sight of clustered holes”. Does this picture of a lotus pod squick you at all?

Lotus pod
(modified to a teeny thumbnail because the answer appears to be a strong yes for some folks)

Lindsay Beyerstein explores what makes a phobia versus a non-phobic unpleasantness.



Categories: Sociology

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30 replies

  1. The damn things feel like they’re watching me when I walk around the room.

  2. an irrational aversion to the sight of clustered holes

    So don’t watch question time.

  3. To the point that it has made me nauseous and reduced my ability to function, and I’m really glad I didn’t read this post before 11pm my time. I felt worse again when I went to my feedreader and didn’t realise the photo was still on top in my post. Maybe it’d be good to put the photo behind a link – so that people who know they’re trypophobic can avoid it. To me it feels almost cruel to post a photo asking “Does this make you feel worse” – given how strongly the answer, for me, is yes.

  4. I’m experiencing a similar kind of non-phobic unpleasantness to Lindsay.

  5. @Maia, I confess that I obviously didn’t take the possibility seriously and I apologise for trivialising something that affects you so strongly. I’ll reduce the size of the image to the minimum so that it’s not so overwhelming for folks who find it disturbing.
    If it’s still too much at that thumbnail size, please let me know.

  6. It is creepy and blech but that is about it. It’s like there are stacks of little eyes staring at me and yeah, creepy.

  7. Fuuuuuck that’s creepy – and there is a word for it? Feel like I’m going to be sick. Always thought I was just a bit over-sensitive. The bit in The Simpson’s Movie with the fish with lots of eyes had me nearly hiding under the couch.
    BAD Hoydenz!! ;-(

    • Sorry everybody, this was obviously a total failure of imagination on my part – I find these sort of structures in nature quite fascinating and also visually appealing, and it simply never crossed my mind that the negative reaction to such an image could be so extreme, even though I’d read Lindsay’s post I obviously hadn’t fully processed it. I thought this was just going to be a fluffy post about a new word and a rare quirk that would be lucky to get 2 or 3 comments.
      I deeply regret being so inconsiderate as to post the large image originally in the OP (I note Lindsay had a small image right from the start), and I’ve learned something from it. Again, sorry.

  8. Well I thought it was cool. Mind you, I was expecting a big fat syringe needle in someone’s arm for the trypanophobics, and most photographs would have been more pleasant than that..

  9. It reminds me of a scam email I got once bt wmn wh bght br vrss nd wre t wtht wshng t nd ndd p wth smthng smlr hppnng t hr. Of course it was all crap and only the type of thing that someone who didn’t have regular contact with a person who ctlly wrs br would think was true. That and the terrible photoshopping.
    [have disemvowelled the bit making people squicky ~ M]

  10. Very squicky. Youtube surinam toad for real horror.

  11. I was alright until Mindy reminded me of that horrific image, then I scrolled back up and saw the similarities *many vomiting noises* thanks Mindy, that image haunts me every time I remember it.
    The image in the post isn’t too bad for me despite this, I can scroll past it fine, and if people hadn’t reminded me I wouldn’t have even been bothered by it.

  12. I am fine with lotus heads (they make for a nice photo subject when dried out, incidentally), but barnacles give me the creeps (not to a phobic level) for similar reasons. There’s a vertical barnacle sculpture attached to a building on Swanston Street, Carlton, Melbourne, that I despise for this reason.

  13. Would replacement with an image of crumpets help solve the problem? (Also, mm, crumpets.) Or do people here have a full-blown phobia of any clustered holes? I’m still not quite clear whether this is a holes phobia or an alienesque-images squick. Or both.
    I confess to finding even the video of various images utterly fascinating from a sciencey-biology/photoart point of view, except for one drawn image, which I found mildly squicky but I think anyone would. It was hardly the “test” for phobia that it claimed to be, because at least several of the images were clearly designed to give almost everyone the screaming heebie jeebies.

  14. It reminds me of parasites that burrow into the skin, so that’s an unpleasant connotation. But as a thing in itself, it doesn’t really bother me.
    Some pictures of small holes do evoke mild but utterly inexplicable revulsion in me; but it’s more akin to the unpleasantness of hearing nails on the chalkboard or seeing particularly ill-matched colors
    I’m intrigued that colour combinations could make people feel so queasy. I’ve never heard of that.

  15. Depends on the colour combo. For me, I don’t care about aesthetics, but a certain magenta or red right up against a certain blue or green on the computer screen jangles back and forth in front of my eyes. I gather the fancy word for this is Chromostereoopsis – the colours are perceived at different depths. There are some illustrative examples of text/background issues in web design here, including the red/blue problem.
    (And yet, people sometimes still use these combos for text/background. WHYYYYY?)

  16. My apologies Katherine.

  17. I’m still not quite clear whether this is a holes phobia or an alienesque-images squick.

    Lauredhel, in my (not phobic) case, it’s not exactly either: it’s because some patterns of holes look like a very itchy skin condition to me. Curiously, I’ve had episodes of eczema and didn’t find it horrifying/compelling in this way, but things like clusters of barnacles and similar nevertheless make my brain respond in an compulsive-itchy kind of way, although not to the extent of experiencing a physical itch luckily.

  18. Also, I think it has elements of parasite-fear for me. (Again, I wouldn’t describe my reaction to the idea of a colony of barnacles growing on me as phobic, but squicky, hell yes.)

  19. Yes. The back of my calves prickle and I’m squirmy.
    It reminds me of the Suriname toad. (Search for it in google images if you’re curious.) And of the “South American larvae” spam-email that was a mash-up of a breast and a lotus seed pod. Gad, ew, blar!
    Not to mention parasites, as people have mentioned above, but while I have a morbid fascination of those (mild gross out factor) the toads just are foul.
    ylarylarylar herhehre *shudder*

  20. I think it’s the sensation of being looked at, not the holes per se. Maybe that’s just me, though. Fascinating.

  21. Lauredhel, re comment #14: ”I confess to finding even the video of various images utterly fascinating from a sciencey-biology/photoart point of view, except for one drawn image, which I found mildly squicky but I think anyone would.”
    Which video is this?
    And for the record, my daughters both dislike bunched holes, L far more than S, and are even bothered by the dots of spores on the undersides of ferns. I don’t know if that is related, but I suspect it might be.

  22. Hi Vicki – I had kinda deliberately not linked to it because I figured most readers who were interested and unsquicked had probably found it on a quick google, and I didn’t want to freak people out.
    It’s here, but please do be warned that I think pretty much everyone will find at least one or two things in it squicky, disgusting, and/or scary.

  23. That video certainly delivers as promised, L. And the internet’s ability to include Japanese schoolgirls in the most unpleasant sequences never (or is it always?) disappoints.

  24. I don’t know… I realize that all of this is VERY subjective, and I am certainly not arguing with anyone who felt at all freaked out by any of it, but,
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    I’m going to discuss some of these images, so please feel free to stop reading.
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    while the toad made me want to barf, I became inured to the lotus seeds very quickly, and then the photomanipulated pictures left me cold. The girl with the lotus seeds photoshopped onto her arms? That’s what it looked like to me, almost like a tattoo. It was so unreal that it didn’t bother me.
    But I had to block out the toad and wait for the image to change.

  25. I was expecting to be grossed out by the toad based on what everyone else had said, instead the thought that popped into my head was “Huh, cool.” I think I’m a little weird.

  26. Argh, I just recognised the other time I get this sensation: it’s breastfeeding, at the end of some feeds (I think when the milk runs out, but since I can’t feel it flowing I’m never sure). It’s much worse now he’s a toddler, I think because he no longer fills his belly and goes to sleep but instead suckles for comfort. Probably also a skin thing. I really really wish it would mount more slowly in the breastfeeding case, it’s really rough on me and my son that I go from zero to “ARGH OMG GET OFF ARGH” in about a second.

  27. “Dear Surinam Toad.
    I disagree with your parenting methods. Please do not do them in public.”
    I am less likely to make that statement than to be squicked out by someone else making it, since it’s more familiar to me to cop flack about parenting.

  28. “Dear Surinam Toad.
    I disagree with your parenting methods. Please do not do them in public.”

    Furthermore, it was doing them at the bottom of a swamp anyway…

  29. Finally a name for that fear! I’ve always had it, not to the point of being an actual phobia but certainly that picture at the top makes me nauseated. The holes on crumpets/pancakes makes me feel vaguely squicked. I can’t look at the pores on my skin in those beauty magnifying mirrors. It makes no sense- for me its not about eyes or aliens, more a creepy parasites feeling.

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