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Fear of Holes: Scientific Explanation of Why You Have Trypophobia (and How to Cope With It!)

Fear of Holes: Scientific Explanation of Why You Have Trypophobia (and How to Cope With It!)

If you have trypophobia you will certainly know all about the irrational and intense fear of clusters of holes which make you feel extremely uncomfortable. You may feel nauseous, have panic attacks, hot sweats, or have very itchy skin when you see these clusters of holes. Aerated chocolate, a cheese grater, a honeycomb, or even soap bubbles are likely to set you off. This post will attempt to explain the scientific background and also offer some ways to help you cope with it. If you have never heard of this phobia, read on.

“(I) can’t really face small, irregularly or asymmetrically placed holes, they make me like, throw up in my mouth, cry a little bit, and shake all over, deeply.” —Trypophobia sufferer.

Is trypophobia a real condition?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the bible of all mental disorders, does not list trypophobia at all. All the other common phobias such as fear of spiders, heights, crowds are all there but not a fear of holes. Wikipedia refused to run a page on it until quite recently.

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It seems that an Irish blogger called Louise invented the term ten years ago by combining the word for “boring holes” and “fear.” Thus, trypophobia was born. In spite of this rather doubtful start, trypophobia has been the subject of a few research studies. If we look at some of these, we may come up with a possible explanation of what can be a very disturbing condition and some ways to cope with it. Look at this video to see if you are actually suffering from this disturbance. If you know you are trypophobic, don’t watch the video!

Scientific Research to Convince You

Before you dismiss any of the above as a fad, let me explain how researchers have shown that this is a real phobia although it is not recognized as such yet. We will be going into more depth than just acknowledging that a Facebook group for trypophobia has 12,000 members.

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Geoff Cole and Arnold Wilkins of the University of Essex (UK) have carried out an interesting study. As a result of their research, they are convinced that up to 17% of the population may suffer from trypophobia. They explain the phenomenon as a mental process whereby one part of the brain sees a seed pod but another part of the brain sees a poisonous animal. Fear and loathing are the reaction when the latter reaction predominates. It is an evolutionary survival response which we still possess. This is telling us that certain patterns could represent a dangerous animal and we need to escape!

“We argue that although sufferers are not conscious of the association, the phobia arises in part because the inducing stimuli share basic visual characteristics with dangerous organisms, characteristics that are low level and easily computed, and therefore facilitate a rapid nonconscious response.” —Cole and Wilkins, University of Essex.

Martin Antony a psychologist at Ryerson University, Toronto has done a lot of research on phobias and anxiety in general. He is convinced that trypophobia is easily explained by the fact that any visual image which is pockmarked is associated with disease and decay.

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We must not forget the power of suggestion. Carol Mathews, a psychiatrist at the University of California is convinced that this is the more likely explanation. The role of social media should not be underestimated, she says.

A lot more research still needs to be done and the University of Essex team are moving ahead with trying to analyze and manipulate the characteristics of everyday objects which may lead to a deeper understanding of how ingrained trypophobic tendencies may be.

How to Cope With Trypophobia

The best way is to try to reduce the effects these objects and images have on you. A useful strategy is to examine the triggers and try to reduce exposure to these. If you happen to be in company when you are affected by trypophobia, try to explain it to the person with you. This will help you to come to terms with the phobia and its negative impact will be reduced.

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Some people will have a severe physical reaction which can be similar to a panic attack. You cannot control this at all but you can begin to control how you deal with it. Owning the experience without terrorizing yourself is a good first step.

Choose your images wisely! If you know that something is likely to have holes or pockmarks, you can choose not to go there. Why risk another negative and uncomfortable reaction?  Limit your exposure at all times.

Featured photo credit: items we carry/James Lee via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on June 20, 2019

Science Says Guitar Players’ Brains Are Different From Others’

Science Says Guitar Players’ Brains Are Different From Others’

There’s nothing quite like picking up a guitar and strumming out some chords. Listening to someone playing the guitar can be mesmerising, it can evoke emotion and a good guitar riff can bring out the best of a song. Many guitar players find a soothing, meditative quality to playing, along with the essence of creating music or busting out an acoustic version of their favourite song. But how does playing the guitar affect the brain?

More and more scientific studies have been looking into how people who play the guitar have different brain functions compared to those who don’t. What they found was quite astonishing and backed up what many guitarists may instinctively know deep down.

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Guitar Players’ Brains Can Synchronise

You didn’t read that wrong! Yes, a 2012 study[1] was conducted in Berlin that looked at the brains of guitar players. The researchers took 12 pairs of players and got them to play the same piece of music while having their brains scanned.

During the experiment, they found something extraordinary happening to each pair of participants – their brains were synchronising with each other. So what does this mean? Well, the neural networks found in the areas of the brain associated with social cognition and music production were most activated when the participants were playing their instruments. In other words, their ability to connect with each other while playing music was exceptionally strong.

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Guitar Players Have a Higher Intuition

Intuition is described as “the ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning” and this is exactly what’s happening when two people are playing the guitar together.

The ability to synchronise their brains with each other, stems from this developed intuitive talent indicating that guitar players have a definite spiritual dexterity to them. Not only do their brains synchronise with another player, but they can also even anticipate what is to come before and after a set of chords without consciously knowing. This explains witnessing a certain ‘chemistry’ between players in a band and why many bands include brothers who may have an even stronger connection.

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This phenomenon is actually thought to be down to the way guitarists learn how to play – while many musicians learn through reading sheet music, guitar players learn more from listening to others play and feeling their way through the chords. This also shows guitarists have exceptional improvisational skills[2] and quick thinking.

Guitar Players Use More of Their Creative, Unconscious Brain

The same study carried out a different experiment, this time while solo guitarists were shredding. They found that experienced guitar players were found to deactivate the conscious part of their brain extremely easily meaning they were able to activate the unconscious, creative and less practical way of thinking more efficiently.

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This particular area of the brain – the right temporoparietal junction – typically deactivates with ‘long term goal orientation’ in order to stop distractions to get goals accomplished. This was in contrast to the non-guitarists who were unable to shut off the conscious part of their brain which meant they were consciously thinking more about what they were playing.

This isn’t to say that this unconscious way of playing can’t be learnt. Since the brain’s plasticity allows new connections to be made depending on repeated practice, the guitar player’s brain can be developed over time but it’s something about playing the guitar in particular that allows this magic to happen.

Conclusion

While we all know musicians have very quick and creative brains, it seems guitar players have that extra special something. Call it heightened intuition or even a spiritual element – either way, it’s proven that guitarists are an exceptional breed unto themselves!

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Featured photo credit: Lechon Kirb via unsplash.com

Reference

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