About 10 to 15 percent of people find these images uncomfortable, according to Nate Pipitone, an associate professor of psychology at Florida Gulf Coast University who has studied trypophobia for several years. It says.
Images can cause disgust and disgust, as well as itching and nausea. It can occur in children as well as adults, even as young as 4-5 years old.
Researchers have explored two main evolutionary theories as to why this aversion exists. Some venomous organisms exhibit trypophobic patterns, such as the eight eyes of a tarantula, and some skin diseases, such as smallpox, form clusters of circular lesions.
Small circles may be offensive enough for some people in any situation, but Pipitone says they’re particularly responsive when superimposed on images of dangerous animals, and people like hands. We found that the response was even stronger when superimposed on an image of human skin.
“This suggests that the extreme discomfort seen in people plagued by trypophobic images may be an adaptive response to avoid infection,” he said. .
Pipitorn believes trypophobia has to do with how certain people process basic visual information. Studies have shown that the images of holes that make people most uncomfortable tend to have the distinctive visual property of high contrast.
Think of it as a dark hole in a light background. Even if the hole looks faded, it usually doesn’t cause any discomfort.
Circular patterns are also an important factor, added Phipitorn. For example, images of palm leaves have similar sized light and dark bands, but they don’t startle people.
Many venomous organisms, such as the blue octopus, have characteristic visual traits, and some researchers have argued that this response is not a learned fear response, but a subconscious reflex.
For this reason, Pipitorn is unsure whether trypophobia is susceptible to psychological interventions such as cognitive-behavioral therapy.
The easiest solution is to avoid these images as much as possible. In fact, Mr. Pipitorn told me that students in his own lab are opting out of trypophobia projects because of their own reactions.
Another theory about trypophobia is less Darwinian and instead relates to the power of suggestion. If you are perhaps ready to search for images of trypophobia after I hinted that it causes itching, you may be itching simply because you were prepared to do so.
Had I seen this image in a different context, I probably wouldn’t have blinked.
Also, calling this phenomenon a phobia is not accurate.
Trypophobia, which first appeared in the medical literature a decade ago, is most often associated with disgust rather than fear.
It does not fit any psychiatric diagnosis. To be diagnosed as a phobia according to the criteria of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders (a guide used by clinicians to diagnose mental disorders), a fear or anxiety about a particular trigger must result in significant distress or impairment of function. It must be strong enough to cause it.
“For most people, seeing images of trypophobia can be distasteful, but they can still go about their daily lives,” said Pipitorn.
However, it affects us all.
Researchers work to decipher specific configurations of clusters, textures, and colors to provide positive information for the design of items such as clothing and buildings. On the other hand, some filmmakers seem to value the impact of trypophobic patterns on people.
Take villain Jason Voorhees from the horror series Friday the 13th, for example. He wears a hockey mask with small holes in it, which is strangely disturbing. Others reported that 2018’s Black Panther villain Killmonger had small keloid scars on his torso that triggered his trypophobia.
What we want our patients to know
Trypophobia is a great example of how we all perceive and process the world differently. The same visual input causes distress in some people, but not in others. Now consider many medical conditions that may not be apparent, such as migraine headaches or long-term COVID-19. It is possible that the triggers of the everyday environment do not bother others at all. For many people, the constant struggle to be believed and heard is frustrating.
Physician Profile: Trisha Pasricha is a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, a medical lecturer at Harvard Medical School, and a medical journalist.
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