Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Trypophobia - fear of holes

Trypophobia inducing seed head of sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera)
Trypophobia inducing seed head of sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera)

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Arnold Wilkins, professor in psychology at the University of Essex, who sought permission to reproduce the above image of a lotus seed pod in a scientific publication on trypophobia. I had never heard about trypophobia before but a quick investigation revealed that the term was coined recently, combining the Greek trypo (punching, drilling, or boring holes) and phobia (an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something). Research on trypophobia is still limited and the condition is not recognized in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Still, thousands of people claim to be fearful of objects with small holes, such as beehives, ant holes, and lotus seed heads. There's even a website dedicated to trypophobia with loads of pictures of stuff with holes in it. Trypophobia is also called repetitive pattern phobia.

I always found my lotus seed pod image nothing but beautiful and couldn't (still quite can't) understand that a picture like this would cause anxiety in anybody. Anyway it will soon appear in an academic article on trypophobia and I'll bring an update when it's published.

I know it's entirely unscientific but I set up the poll below to get a better understanding of how many people are actually disturbed by the sight of the lotus seed head:

The image originally appeared in a post on Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

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