Get those disgusting holes away from me

Madame Weebles —  June 12, 2012 — 125 Comments

Hello.  My name is Madame Weebles and I’m a trypophobic.

I’m going to go ahead and assume that most of you haven’t heard of trypophobia.  It isn’t one of those phobias that everyone knows about, like claustrophobia or acrophobia.  But it’s real.  Peculiar, but real.  Google it.  You’ll see.

Trypophobia is basically a fear of holes.  Or, more accurately, it’s an extreme aversion to holes.  Or clusters of holes.  Or other clusters of things clumped together.  It’s hard to explain.  Things like honeycombs.  Cracked earth.  Spores.  Seed pods.  Wasp nests.  Holey cheeses.  Closeup images of pores or cells.  Clusters of alien eggs in horror and science fiction movies.  The bubbles that form on the top of pancake batter as the pancakes start to cook.

I’m not just saying that these things gross me out or that I hate looking at them. It’s waaaayyy beyond that. I’m saying that they affect me on a visceral level.  I get physically and mentally repulsed.  I get angry.  I panic and squirm.  I feel nauseated.  I desperately want to flee and wash off all the cooties.

This isn’t something that affects me on a daily basis, fortunately.  If I were a beekeeper I would have a big problem with all those honeycombs, but ordinarily I can go about my days happily, free from offending visuals.  Although every once in a while a television show will sneak in a honeycomb or cracked earth or some other nasty hole-riddled item and I have to close my eyes.  And I have to prepare myself when I watch movies because you never know when they’re going to show some sort of pods or insect sacs or vampire eggs or something.  But I can safely watch cheese commercials because I’m okay with most cheeses.  Most.

This cheese does not upset me.

Yeah, I know, it sounds strange and silly. But hey, if you’re going to have a fear/intense aversion to something, it may as well have some comedy value.

I didn’t even know it was an actual thing until a few years ago.  I assumed it was just my own personal weirdness. Then Mr. Weebles found an article about trypophobia on the Internet—he showed it to me and said, “I think this is what you have.” And sure enough, that was it.  After years of getting wigged out by all kinds of dots and holes, I finally learned that my weirdness had a name!

Nobody really knows what causes trypophobia or why these images trigger this reaction in some people.  There seems to be a genetic component to it because it tends to run in families.  My mother has it too, and I didn’t even know it until I mentioned it in passing several years ago and she said she had the same problem. There are theories that it involves genetic memory—a primitive, instinctive understanding that things with holes can indicate decay, disease, or danger, and should be avoided.  But I don’t know that this sufficiently explains such an intense revulsion.

If you want to have some fun, do an image search for “lotus seed pod” or “Surinam toad.” But be warned: they’re really disgusting, even to a lot of people who don’t generally have an issue with this type of stuff.  But just the idea of them is making me sick and creeped out right now.  It makes me wish I could scrape my retinas to rid myself of those images forever.  Unfortunately, I will always have pod- and toad-related flashbacks.  Those horrific little fuckers will haunt me until the day I die.

Okay, I have to go and throw up now.

125 responses to Get those disgusting holes away from me

  1. 

    Okay, so I had to do it and now I can’t scrape the image off my retinas either…The ST thing that you mentioned above, in the last paragraph, on the second line. That is truly disgusting! And I’m a health care professional! Thanks a lot, MW! And I thought we were friends! :)

    • 

      Sorry Cathy!!! I know, it’s horrifying, isn’t it?? Maybe we should try doing self-reiki with the intention of cleansing our brains of those images. It’s either that or getting a priest to exorcise them.

  2. 

    Oh, and here’s another one – My Eyes! My Eyes! – Cathy

  3. 

    I don’t have this but I relate because I have an intense aversion to other normally inoffensive things. So I do sympathize. So now I’m going to google image those things…I’m scared Mme. Weebles, I’m scared…

    • 

      Interesting — what sort of normally inoffensive things set you off? These sorts of issues intrigue me.

      • 

        You notice how I didn’t mention them… These things disturb me that much. Part of it too is that I don’t want to offend anyone with my aversions — okay well dirty toilet seat covers and dirty bathroom carpet — Arrghhhhh! Also I don’t like wool hats with pom poms on them — I think there’s bacteria hiding in them! — Okay so now you can stamp me officially nuts!

  4. 

    I’m back from google imaging — okay so now I can see why you might have this phobia…little creepy yes…

  5. 

    I did as instructed and searched using my immense google-fu abilities to scan the intranets from Z to A. I have seen the images. And I don’t get it – a frog and a pod is not gross or icky at all. But then I saw that 2 girls 1 cup thing – and that…ewwww. Don’t go there.

  6. 

    I got goose bumps just by reading…. Most things with holes -like honeycombs or cheese, don’t do anything but the seed pods and the spores.. holy crap. Now, try seeing things under a microscope. Holey things under a microscope are truly terrifying… gaaaaaah

    • 

      You’ve probably seen all sorts of nasty stuff under a microscope, SSG—how are you not scarred for life???

      • 

        Yeah, some really nasty stuff. But that only grosses me out for a while and then I forget. What has me scarred for life is the things I’ve seen with my own eyes. Seeing a child die because of lack of food. A baby girl victim of sexual abuse….

        If I told you about the horrible things that people do to each other and that we have to fix after. I once almost punched a mother. I know that we doctors are not supposed to get involved but really, when you see the abuse..

  7. 

    ~shudder~ those toads totally gross me out…. I think I need to go puke now!

  8. 

    Ewww. I googled it and now I’m traumatized. It’s not so much the holes but what could be inside those holes. I think of that movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers where the mean aliens came from seed pods. Keep your mouth closed around all those holes. That’s all I’m sayin.’

    • 

      I know!!! For me it’s the holes AND what could be lurking in them. And for that reason, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a perfect example of Movies I Can’t Watch Without Covering My Eyes.

  9. 

    I don’t have this phobia, but can sympathize. Saw a photo where someone photoshopped a pod into a human body part to remain un-named here…very disgusting.

    My phobia is spiders. But I wonder…is it a true phobia, genetically passed on by some rogue genome in our DNA? Or is it taught to us, however subtly, by a parent (in my case, as yours for your phobia, Mom) who has a that fear? I’ve no answer, but do give it an occasional ponder.

    • 

      Welcome aboard, Gnukid! I know which photo you’re talking about but I won’t look at it. Nope. Can’t do it.

      And you raise an interesting point about inherent phobia vs unconsciously/subconsciously learned behavior. I don’t *think* mine was learned because I don’t recall my mom ever making any comments or observations about dotty/holey things, not once. But who knows, I might have blocked it out. It’s food for thought, though. Disgusting food, but food.

  10. 

    New weebles? That’s the only image I’m lookin’ at!

  11. 

    Those toad are disgusting, but Swiss cheese is delicious! Naturally, my kids won’t eat it… because of the holes. :)

    • 

      I’m not a fan of Swiss cheese mainly because of the taste, but usually it doesn’t bother me holewise. Fortunately donuts and bagels don’t bother me either—otherwise I’d be in trouble.

  12. 

    Yeah, I feel for you. Things like the pile of slimy eggs in Hellboy, the Toad, those are legitimately disgusting. But I think cracked earth looks awesome.

    You may be weird, but you’re my kind of weird.

  13. 

    Thanks for adding another grotesque image to my mental house of horrors. I hadn’t thought of the whole aphids thing but now thanks to you…

    Bees, eh? We’d both be really shitty beekeepers. Or we’d have to tag team—I could deal with the bees themselves and you could handle the honeycombs. Because I’m not going near those things. I can’t even look at jars of honey if they have bits of comb in them.

  14. 

    You don’t want to go near my sock drawer then

  15. 

    And you sure don’t want to see what’s in my head!

  16. 

    My girlfriend has this too! I forget where she thinks it stems from. I like to torture her with pictures of beehives.

    • 

      Ooh, you’re evil. I had a boyfriend who did shit like that too. He used to cut pictures out of magazines and show them to me and say, “How about this, does THIS gross you out?” You guys are demented.

  17. 

    I know, I know, you already have all the awards because you are the awesomest, but here’s another one anyway. Reader’s Appreciation Award! http://dontforgettofeedthebaby.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/my-head-is-all-splodey-because-of-the-awesome/

  18. 

    There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a little healthy, irrational fear. I have a lifelong fear of elevators because of watching some disaster movie with my gramma as a small child, but that’s learned. My fear of being buried alive is probably more genetic.

    And now I’m gonna go google the disgusting things you told me about because I cannot resist a good mental train wreck.

    • 

      That’s an interesting twist on the fear of elevators. Most people I know who don’t like elevators don’t like them because they’re claustrophobic. But the disaster movie angle is an interesting one.

  19. 

    Update: I feel a little bad for the surinam toad. He’s not cute, so if he’s horribly endangered, no one will want to save him. (I always root for the underdog, or toad in this case.) I get why he freaks you out. I don’t suffer from trypophobia, but I sympathize.

  20. 

    Oh my gosh, I TOTALLY have that!! I have always just called it “my hole and bubbles heebie jeebies”! Kid you not, it’s one of the most horrible things I can think of the way I feel around those things. Makes my skin crawl just thinking about it. I’m actually writing down “trypophobic”. Thank you! There is more than just me out there with the same affliction. Comforting!
    Anne

    • 

      HIGH FIVE, SISTER! You’re the only person I’ve ever “met” besides my mother who has this. It’s freaky, isn’t it?? I think you’ll find it very interesting to read more from other people who have this thing. It’s kind of comical, really, but comforting to know that there are others who are royally creeped out by the same odd things! :D

      • 

        Aw shoot, my reply deleted! What I was keying, is that I forwarded your post to my husband –a huge, “I TOLD YOU IT’S REAL!” (being this horrible wigged out affliction :)) BTW, I did google the lotus bud (BLECH! Still have goosebumps and shudders, and am passing on googling the toad, thank you very much) :)

  21. 

    Trypophobia. Who knew? Hope you don’t work in an office building with those perforated acoustic tiles… or is it just naturally-occurring holes that bother you?

    • 

      I think it’s just naturally occurring holes that bug me, really. Otherwise I would definitely have a problem because my office ceilings are, in fact, made of that perforated stuff (which I didn’t even realize until I checked after reading your comment). So I’ve got that going for me, at least.

  22. 

    I can relate — not on the holes thing, but on how you found out. I have misophonia, which means that I become bizarrely enraged by irritating sounds, like gum popping and ticking clocks. I always just thought that I was crazy, and intolerant, and maybe with weird-ass anger management issues (which might still be the case); but then my mother tells me that she found out she has misophonia, and what it is, and everything clicks into place. Apparently it’s genetic as well. Maybe we should form a club for people with weird genetic neuroses who always thought they were bonkers.

    • 

      How intriguing–we should definitely form a club, we’d be soooooo cool. I mean, anyone can be afraid of the number 13, or heights or whatever. But it takes a certain kind of oddball to be set off by weird noises or holes.

  23. 

    I think you are making this up. Tee hee.

  24. 

    I owe you for the Surinam toad. Jus’ sayin’.

  25. 

    My only phobia is “Fear Of Having A Phobia”
    It causes problems.

  26. 

    stunned when i read this last night. sent gnukid here. i’ve told him about this ‘thing’ i have… this disgust/fear/phobia of holes. i am absolutely astonished that it has a name… that other people have this same reaction… don’t know if i’m comforted or more disturbed. and no… i don’t look at the images. because i’ll itch and vomit….

    • 

      So that makes you, me, and Zen & Genki (see her comment above) with this. I’m in good company! I was stunned too when I found out it had a name—it just sounds so bizarre that you figure it’s GOT to be just you, right? Pull up a chair, daisyfae!

      • 

        i’m still a little rattled. mine has been – on a few occasions – debilitating. i will see something that gets in my head, and i CAN’T shed the image. even with the extensive collection of cute kittens, puppies and baby otters on the interwebz. stops my thinking processes… and i need all of the neurons i have, firing happily in the direction that keeps me employed, thankyouverymuch.

        so it has a name. other people have this aversion. great. BUT I STILL CAN’T LOOK AT THIS SHIT WITHOUT FEELING MY GUTS ROLL INTO A KNOT AND MY SKIN ITCH AND MY BRAIN MELT. (oooh. sorry. i’m fine. really. just fine.)

  27. 

    Not gonna look at the pictures…they would give me the willies. I have normal phobias…snakes, crowded elevators and some bugs (look up camel spiders). They are annoying but not debilitating. There are not many snakes where I live. I can talk myself into a crowded elevator (but if it stalls I’ll go nuts), and if I don’t touch the bugs I”m OK. My abnormal thing is a loathing of certain sounds. I hate the sound of the word “moisture” and the sound of people eatting corn on the cob. When I hear those things, I appear calm on the outside but on the inside I am punching the culpret in the mouth. I think my kid has it too. He frequently comments that he likes/dislikes the sound of certain words and when I told him about my corn thing he agreed whole heartedly. There is a name for that condition too.

    • 

      See Kathy V’s comment above –she has misophonia too. I love that so many of us have all these wacky little quirks—I’m going to call them quirks. And Mr. Weebles also hates the word “moisture.” I can practically see his blood pressure go up whenever he hears the word.

  28. 

    I have a friend who suffers from Koumpounophobia. Still boggles my mind.

    • 

      That’s a new one on me, meizac, I had to look it up! Fear of buttons—now THAT’S interesting. Your poor friend, that must be rough trying to get through a day without seeing any buttons, because they’re all over the place. I guess he/she wears a lot of zippers, snaps and velcro, eh?

  29. 

    That doesn’t sound silly to me at all!
    In fact, I think you should send any/all holey cheeses you find to me as soon as possible. And rest assured that I will consume them just as quickly. Because I do for others, you know. :)

  30. 

    Eeeerkk…I think I’ve just been infected with this malady! *goosebumps*

  31. 

    My husband totally has this, glad to know there is a real name for it! thanks for sharing, looking forward to reading more of your blog :)

  32. 

    Love your blog! So strange and funny. Keep up the quirk!! :)

  33. 

    I always thought that was me being over sensitive or just plain weird, but I guess I have the same sort of thing. Things like honeycombs or those dried flowers with seed pod holes just make my skin crawl.

    And no, I’m not searching for those terms. Urrrgggghhh.

    Cheers!

  34. 

    Curious thing. Not only that, but it looks like it is not that rare. Or do the people with this phobia share a similar attraction to something that is satisfied via your blog? I myself saw nothing wrong with the toad or the seed pod, but I do have illogical adverse reactions to other things on occasion. I wonder if there are people who truly don’t have any sort of phobia. Or maybe they just haven’t been confronted with it yet to know.

    • 

      Hmm. Perhaps somehow people with the same freaked-out DNA gravitate towards each other and don’t even realize it. Interesting concept.

      I guess it’s possible that there are some entirely rational people out there with no phobias whatsoever, but I bet it’s unlikely. Humans are too weird.

  35. 

    What a comfort it must be to find that your own personal weirdness has a name! …And that you can be united with others in common weirdality. You have given me a personal challenge now, Madame W., and that is to name my weirdness–so thank you for that affirming quest.
    At least your weirdness is a holesome one.

  36. 

    Dear Madame,
    The picture:
    I am not afraid of this cheese.
    That makes me laugh so hard!!!!!!
    I’m sorry about the Holes.
    I really just hate Assholes…as in people who act like asses.
    WE ALL got our thing. Right?/
    Funny awesome post, as usual. :)

  37. 

    I love unusual phobias. Mine is high ceilings. I know people who are afraid of stickers, tattoos, and seeing people brush their teeth. But holes (no pun intended) is a new one for me.

  38. 

    Yeah, it’s an weird one. I’ve always had a hard time explaining it, but it’s as if I’m scared of being sucked up by/falling towards the ceiling. I get the same feeling when I look up at the stars (when I’m far enough from the city to actually see them).

  39. 

    I suppose. I usually embrace my weirdness. It just makes me a little uncomfortable when I know that I can’t turn it off.

  40. 

    Well, I was going to say that it doesn’t affect me, but then I thought of tapioca. And guess what – hubby’s doing sushi rice for dinner tonight. I love the flavour but, oh, they look like tapioca!

    • 

      Strangely enough, tapioca doesn’t bother me. I can eat it with no problem. But I do know that tapioca greatly bothers some other people with this weird phobia, so I guess it’s just an odd exception for me.

  41. 

    I just want to say thank you so much for writing an article about trypophobia and not actually INCLUDING A FREAKING IMAGE OF A LOTUS POD OR SOMETHING ELSE THAT WILL MAKE ME WANT TO CRY WHERE I SIT. Oh god. Seriously these people have no regard. I can’t even research my own phobia that I discovered yesterday! Thankfully my phobia is not extreme. I do get canker sore clusters in my mouth from time to time and I have adapted to being okay with something like that that I have to deal with. But recently I almost couldn’t eat a slice of pizza because the cheese was creating some funky little hole man!

    • 

      I know what you mean, Whitney–every time I found a website about trypophobia, I’d click on it and freak out because they’d have some horrific photo up there. What the fuck?? I mean, if you had a website about people with a fear of spiders, you wouldn’t plaster the page with photos of spiders, right? Idiots. May your future slices of pizza be hole-free!

  42. 

    The toad. It’s like big, living pimples. I am simultaneously repulsed and fascinated. I also want to go find a toad back to squeeze.

  43. 

    Aww, poor surinam toad! She’s just trying to keep her babies all safe so they don’t get eaten before they hatch! She probably looks at our smooth backs and thinks “Ugh what horrible neglectful mothers.”
    I think the problem is that lots of holes looks like a disease to us. But to the toad, it just looks like good parenting!

  44. 

    Does this fear extend to polka dots?

  45. 

    I just happened to spot this old post of yours, and I have it too! I did a post on it myself back at the end of 2011 with a very similar title to yours! – http://vanessa-chapman.com/2011/11/06/get-them-holes-away-from-me/

    • 

      That is so funny, great minds think alike! It’s such a bizarre fear, isn’t it? I accidentally clicked on a link yesterday that had a picture of a honeycomb and I almost vomited. Off to read your post now!

      • 

        I suffer from this phobia. I have cried myself to sleep because of images I can’t get out of my head. Lotus seeds, pancake batter,shower heads, bell peppers, cabbage when it’s cut in half the bottom of sneakers with tread marks..I can go on forever.once my eye catches the cluster I become fixated and repulsed. It’s like watching a car accident. I was told that I have to look at images in order to overcome the fear. I’m too afraid. And by the way that cheese you have posted eeeeww I had to scroll past it. I like Swiss cheese I just can’t look at it. If anyone can offer me some advise please help. Tanya

  46. 

    Okay, both those things you asked me to image search are REPULSIVE. Why would you do that to me?
    And I had never heard of a fear of holes until now. Thank you for educating me, and I hope you and your phobia can coexist peacefully in a world filled with tiny clusters of holes. But I am unfathomably glad that most cheeses do not upset you. That in itself would be devastating.

    • 

      You see??? Even people who DON’T have this phobia think those things are vile. Such things should not exist.

      Fortunately most of the cheeses I like are hole-free. But if they start putting holes in cheddar, I’ll cry.

      • 

        I thank the Lord every for most cheeses being hole-free. And if they start putting holes in cheddar, we shall have to start a revolt. Les Miserables style. With flags and cannons.

  47. 

    Your not alone ive had this for as ling as I can remember but until a few weeks ago I didnt know it had a name I to thought it was just my weird thing.. seeing cluters of holes… makes me sick, terrified, I want to run away, cry and god does it make me itch I want to rid of this serious phobia….

    • 

      I understand, Stephanie, it ain’t fun! It makes me profoundly uncomfortable and queasy. It doesn’t make me itch but I know others who get really itchy when they see gross stuff like that. Of course the best thing to do is stay away from them as much as possible!

  48. 

    I’d put money on it that it has to do with past life trauma. If you ever get tired of it and want to explore getting rid of it, find a hypnotherapist who does past life regression for stuff like this. It’s amazingly powerful. And depending on how relaxed you let yourself get, you can be rid of this in just a few hypno sessions. (Usually I love being flip and trite here with you- but past life regression therapy is one of the best kept secrets there is- don’t let the medical community find out or they’ll want to regulate it to death).

    • 

      It could be, M2M. I’ve already read that it could have to do with primitive genetic coding, that we’re hardwired to be fearful of things with holes/bumps because they’re often associated with decay, rotting or spoilage, or poisonous animals. So it could be primal instinct run amok. Or, I had a run-in with a lotus pod in a previous life and can’t shake it now. :)

  49. 

    I have trypophobia, too, along with my sister. I was 3 when my mom made me a pb&j sandwich and I had a full blown meltdown because the bread had a hole in it. I then always had to obsessively check the bread before I’d let her make me a sandwich.

  50. 

    Just now I saw something on the internet, it was a pic of what looked like a finger with some small circular dents and some of these even had some white particles in it…I am so grossed out..i googled because I wanted to know if more people had these issues and if there is any way to cure this feeling after seeing such sights. Now my hairs standing on their ends..I never knew it was called tyrophobia..I wonder what kicks in these kind of disgusts. However I think i am ok if the holes are not too close together and are fewer, like on cheeese..thank god for that..i would have been driven insane otherwise if there were too many of these sights…. :’(

    • 
      Deeanna Daniels June 26, 2014 at 3:33 pm

      I just saw that too!! I can’t get it out of my brain. My hairs won’t stop standing on end. I don’t even want to be on the internet anymore. I’m not that grossed out by holey cheese or honeycombs, but there are these pumpkins that have large nodules on them that gross me out or if I see someone with large pocks on their face, that makes my hairs stand on end as well. I’ve had this problem for the last 4 years or so and I did not know why until now. Blech!! I wish I hadn’t seen those finger things. Blech!!

  51. 

    I totally get this. I never had an issue with small holes before but recently some “Share This” virus… fake… THING started popping up on my Facebook timeline and the cover of it is this freaky-ass picture of a lotus seed pod photoshopped onto someone’s breast and I can’t get it out if my head and it makes my skin crawl and it keeps POPPING UP and I can’t shake this damn feeling. It pisses me off, makes me grind my teeth and I just don’t get it!

    • 
      Raven Philips July 8, 2014 at 6:51 pm

      God, i too saw that bloody share thing on Facebook. I can honestly say that thats the single most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen in my life. And I’m not a person who’s usually put off by disgusting things. wolfe0913, i got the exact same reaction u got. Cant get it offa my head and it keeps on popping… POP! LOTUS SEED THING ON SHOULDER! POP! POP! Uguaahh! And alongwith the irritation and teeth grinding, it makes me shudder at intervals too.. And i know its a photoshopped picture and its not real but god, that doesn’t matter to my brain.. It makes me go shudder, teeth grind, shudder, teeth grind and so on….

  52. 

    I just saw a photo of that disgusting lotus pod, and my brother just casually showed it to me too on Facebook some days back n I was repulsed and disgusted for a whole hour I think. N now I saw that pod thing again, and it really creeps me out! So I thought I might as well google if my “fear” has a name, and this blog came up! Good that I now have a definition of this weird fear and I wont have to explain it to people. I could just tell them to google Trypophobia. N by the way, I remember I have this fear from childhood. I still remember looking at a small cactus plant somewhere and it was holy and it creeped me out. N I was a kid back then, n to still remember that scene definitely means thats one thing that reallllly bothers me. Ive lost my appetite just writing this :/ But thanks for the blog, and the comments … good to know there r people all over the world sharing my fear!

  53. 

    The lotus pod thing is really disgusting. I saw it once and then every circular shaped thing would remind me of that. Someone who shared it on facebook had also mentioned a big title on it “You will never use this soap again” and that mean’t even soaps remind me of that picture. For one whole day I couldn’t take it out of my mind and everything and any thing made me angry and frustrated. I remember the way I drove back home honking on every instance of someone moving slow ahead of my car.

    Well thanks to this post now I know its called Trypophobia….

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. What’s your kryptonite? | Fear No Weebles - July 29, 2012

    [...] Disgusting holes—we’ve discussed these. [...]

  2. Bees! | the rollergiraffe - August 13, 2012

    [...] (Madame Weebles, stop your reading right here because this post is all about bees, honey, and disgusting holes.) [...]

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