There are situations that cause fear or phobia in our minds and it could be anything from living in a small space (claustrophobic) or having a fear of water (Aquaphobia). In fact, there’s a phobia, though not officially assigned the tag, which makes you go queasy on seeing closely=packed holes or round shapes. We are talking about tryophobia, a rarely studied but definitely existing phobia in the world.
In this blog, we have discussed about what is tryophobia and everything from its triggers, symptoms to treatment.
What is Tyrophobia?
Tryophobia is a disgust or fear of closely-packed holes. People having this fear feel queasy while looking at the surfaces with small holes closely packed. For instance, you feel uneasy when looking at a lotus seed pod or a strawberry. It triggers discomfort that is disturbing for people.
Even though this phobia is not yet recognized officially, there are some limited studies on tryophobia that considers whether or not it is an official condition.
Procedure of tryophobia test
In this test, individuals are made to see different images, out of which some have disgusting stimuli and some don’t. When you take this test, you will see an image for an interval of 1.5-8 seconds. After an image is shown, you will have to guess the display time. The same rule follows for each image you see. Experts believe that the accuracy of the felt time duration gets distorted when you are disgusted and overwhelmed with a picture. At times, it takes people around 5-7 minutes to get out of the effect.
Note: While you see the images, ensure to consider each one properly and do not count the seconds. Your guesses of the time duration of the display of an image should be based on for how long you felt it and not on counting.
Purpose: The tryophobia test provides educational references only. It is not a test performed professionally and doesn’t belong to any specific kind. The results are used for research purpose and your participation remains completely anonymous.
There are YouTube videos which help you diagnose tryophobia on your own. You need to keep a few things in before watching the video:
- Relaxed posture, shoulders & elbows close to body
- Arms should be parallel to floor and place on the armrests
- lower back gets support of the backrest
- the seat should be at an angle of 105 degree to support your back
- Top of screen should be at eye level
- the thighs must rest on chair completely
- the calves (back of the legs) must be at a 90-110 degrees angle to the inner thighs
- feet should be flat on the floor
When you see the images, make sure you sit in the right posture as mentioned above and adjust the screen to the correct eye level. You will see a slideshow of pictures which are triggers of tryophobia, such as a picture of a honeycomb or an apple. There will be terrifying pictures of various things and creatures like baby toads coming out from their mom’s body. There are even videos having pictures that you can’t even imagine to be disgusting or causes a sense of fear, like bubbles in a coffee cream aerated chocolate, bubbles in a dough, etc. Some videos include pictures of photoshopped human skin showing skin diseases causing major reactions.
People who are vulnerable to having tryophobia
Back in the year 2015, Geoff Cole and Arnold Wilkins, reputed psychologists from the University of Essex Centre for Brain Science in England, carried out one of the first scientific studies on tryophobia. The goal of their study was to find out the vulnerability and origin of tryophobia. They organized experiments to know the susceptibility to tryophobia and the reason behind it. Their study proved that tryophobia is a result of evolution by natural selection.
They reasoned that the existence of dangerous animals like crocodiles, alligators, insects, spiders and venomous snakes with high-contrast colors, holes and bumps on the skin bothered our ancestors. The small clusters if hole on the bodies of these animals scared people. As per this reasoning of the psychologists, these people survived, reproduced and [passed the traits to the next generations. This lead to generations of individuals having the fear of closely-packed holes or round shapes and objects.
Tom Kupfer and An T.D Le of University of Kent researched further on this evolution idea of tryophobia in 2017. You can find the detailed study in Cognition and Emotion journal. They inferred that as the danger of venomous animals exists, tryophobia is mostly an extended biological response to the natural protective tendency avoiding infectious diseases like measles, smallpox and parasites such as ticks and scabies.
Triggers of tryophobia
Although there not much information about tryophobia online, but some common triggers can include:
- lotus seed pods
- a cluster of eyes
- aluminum metal foam
Animals of the species insects, mammals, amphibians and other types of creatures with spotted fur or skim can also triggers tryophobia symptoms.
Symptoms of tryophobia
Tryophobia symptoms trigger when a person sees a surface or object having small clusters of shapes or holes. On seeing a surface or object with closely-packed holes, people with this phobia show fear or disgust.
Some of the common symptoms of tryophobia are:
- feeling repulsed
- feeling uncomfortable
- xbody shakes
- visual discomfort such as illusions, eyestrain or distortions
- panic attacks
Research on tryophobia
Researchers studying tryophobia are not yet sure to consider it as a real type of phobia. In one of the initial studies on tryophobia of 2013, scientists recommended that this phobia can be a result of an extended biological fear of dangerous things. The experts concluded that the symptoms of tryophobia are high-contrast colors of a specific kind of graphic arrangement. There was a discussion stating that people with this fear or phobia subconsciously associated harmless items such as strawberries or lotus seed pods with harmful animals like blue-ringed octopus.
A study of 2017 published facts that showed disputes of these findings. Researchers tested preschoolers to ensure if the fear upon seeing an object or image with clusters of holes depends on the fear of wild/dangerous animals or just a response to some visual traits. The results recommend that individuals with tryophobia doesn’t show any kind of non-conscious fear of poisonous creatures. Moreover, the fear is the result of the appearance of some creatures.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association sis not recognize tryophobia as a real phobia. There ‘s a need of extended research to understand the concept of tryophobia and its causes.
Risk factors of tryophobia
Again, there’s no string evidence of risk factors associated with tryophobia. In a study of 2017, experts observed that there is a chance of a connection between major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and tryophobia. As per the evidence by researchers, individuals having tryophobia were more exposed to experience GAD (Generalized anxiety Disorder) or a major depressive disorder.
Another similar study of 2016 stated that social anxiety links to tryophobia.
Diagnosis of tryophobia
If you think you have tryophobia, it is essential to see a doctor for a quick diagnosis. The doctor will ask you some relevant questions about the symptoms you experience to diagnose a phobia or fear. They will also ask you about your psychiatric, medical and social history. They may also refer you case to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) for help in the diagnosis process.
So, tryophobia is not a general diagnosable condition as the phobia is not yet recognized as an official condition by the mental health and medical associations.
Treatment of tryophobia
If you show any symptoms of tryophobia during diagnosis, there are several ways of treatment of the phobia. Another thing to keep in mind, one of the most efficient ways include the exposure therapy. It is a type of psychotherapy that records the changing response of an individual to the surface, object or situation leading to the fear or phobia.
Another treatment for tryophobia is CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). CBT is a combination of exposure therapy and several other techniques that helps manage anxiety and restrict your thoughts from turning overwhelming.
Other common treatment options that handle phobia include:
- General talk therapy with a psychiatrist or counselor
- Relaxation techniques such as yoga and deep breathing
- Medications like sedatives and beta-blockers to reduce panic symptoms and anxiety
- Mindful breathing, listening, observation and other mindful strategies to cope with the discomfort and stress
- Exercise and physical activity to handle anxiety
While experts test these medications, types of stress and anxiety disorders, there are not 100% efficient for tryophobia. That is to say, not much evidence is available to support their efficacy for this unofficial phobia.
However, the following things might also help managing the situation of tryophobia:
- Eat a balanced and healthy diet
- Get good rest
- Avoid consumption of caffeine and other food items that trigger anxiety
- Talk to your friends about your condition or connect with a support group or individuals handling the same fear or issues
- Face the situations of fear and distress head on as often as possible
Scientists talking about tryophobia
Tryophobia is not one of the official fears that the American Psychiatric Association recognized and there are no concrete answers from studies to prove this kind of phobia. In the recent years, a psychological theory suggested that tryophobia is the result of different deadly diseases that have been affecting individuals since long. There are some infectious diseases like measles, rubella and typhus that lead to round marks on the skin and most individuals find it uncomfortable because of its appearance. Some studies show that this fear of round shapes and holes is evolutionary.
Venomous animals like snakes are the sign of danger and alertness for people with tryophobia. You may also fear the image of an octopus taking it for a lotus seed pod. Scientists also suggest that it is called a phobia or fear because people require higher amount of oxygen and effort to process such images. The psychologists at Emory University conducted one of the recent studies on tryophobia in which they used eye-tracking technology to measure any kind of change in the size of an individual’s pupil while seeing images that tend to trigger tryophobia. According to the results, ‘’ the physiological underpinnings for these reactions are different, even though the general aversion may be rooted in shared visual-spectral properties. The phenomenon, which likely has an evolutionary basis, may be more common than we realize.”
What they conclude
Even though the researchers didn’t find answers to the concrete questions about tryophobia, there are ways to treat the condition (because it exists). According to scientists, the most beneficial ways of treatment of tryophobia include exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), systematic desensitization combined with other psychological therapies.
Psychological therapies for tryophobia deal with the changing response in individuals that trigger the fear. Gradually, patients of tryophobia expose to such triggers to minimize stress, anxiety and discomfort caused by closely-packed holes. If you are a tryophobe, seek help from a psychologist and practice some relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises, start exercising and indulge in different physical activities. This helps managing anxieties and stress disorders.
The Bottom Line
Tryophobia is not recognized as an official phobia, but there are a few symptoms supporting the condition. Experts inferred little evidence of its existence in one form or another. It has got real symptoms that can affect an individual’s daily life when exposed to triggers.
However, you should speak to your doctor or counselor to get treatment and ideas of managing the issue. A doctor can help you identify the root cause of your fear and suggest ways to manage the symptoms of tryophobia