Looking at honeycombs has always made me feel anxious, uneasy, and squirmy, and it has nothing to do with the bees.
If I see a pumice stone in someone’s shower, my skin starts to crawl.
A picture of a lotus seed pod is enough to make my temperature rise, my chest feels heavy, my scalp starts to itch, and I feel immediately nauseous. Sometimes, it triggers a full-blown panic attack.
I have been like this my whole life. I can’t stand clusters of little things (like ants, just typing that gives me a shiver), and I especially can’t stand clusters of holes.
I have a visceral, immediate response upon seeing these things, and the effects the stress has on my body can last for hours. Sometimes, I can’t sleep because the images seem to creep back into my mind to haunt me. I will keep my eyes open and my mind busy, so that I don’t have to see holes.
Because holes, like a bunch of holes in a small space (think lotus pods, sponges, bugs tunneling into wood, etc.) are my nightmare.
I have trypophobia.
And if you have been nodding along with me, then you might have it too.
I discovered that I wasn’t completely losing my damn mind when, as a college student, I admitted to my doctor that one of my anxiety triggers was “holes, anything with lots of little holes, just picturing them in my mind makes me short of breath and kind of dizzy.”
To my surprise, he didn’t just stare at me and walk backward, slowly, out of the room. He simply nodded his head, typed a few words into his laptop and spun it around to show me the definition of trypophobia.
There was no magic cure, but at least I knew the feelings that I had been having for damn near my whole life were valid and real. I had no idea. I truly thought I was the only one. But this thing had a name. An official name.
You hear about it more now, of course. Several viral quizzes (think Buzzfeed) have made the rounds lately and present you with images to help you measure how trypophobic you are. I will take a hard pass on these quizzes because I’m already well aware of what those images will do to me. But I do think there’s something to be said for having this phobia to varying degrees. I think you can get creeped out by certain images without getting the more visceral physical and mental reactions that some of us (me) have.
The good news is, for the most part, this doesn’t stop me from living my life. It has a real impact on me in the moment to be sure, especially if it triggers a panic attack, but I’m not constantly bombarded with triggers and my generalized anxiety is otherwise well managed (this is crucial), so I’m doing fine most days.
It’s not something to be underestimated though. Just thinking about various experiences I’ve had as I typed this made me feel panicky and overheated because those images have a way of crawling back into my brain. It’s a real thing. It’s not fun.
It has been speculated that there is a deeper meaning to this phobia. That there is a fear of falling into the holes and being trapped or stuck in the dark. This doesn’t seem to be true for me — I think I just really freaking hate clustered holes, but it is logical that there is a deeper psychological meaning to having this response to certain things.
If you think you have trypophobia, I would not recommend a Google search unless you are looking to torture yourself — or practice your own form of immersion therapy. If it is impacting your life, or increasing your anxiety, I’d obviously recommend talking to your doctor or therapist. As with all mental health-related diagnoses, there’s no clear-cut path or magical cure, but there’s management and avoiding triggers (when possible) and coping mechanisms.
And it certainly helps to know that you’re not alone, right? I’m here too. I get it.
Screw you, lotus pods.