What is trypophobia and why are sufferers being triggered by Apple’s new iPhones?

·5-min read
The designs of the new iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max are triggering people's trypophobia [Photo: AP/Tony Avelar]
The three-camera design of the new iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max is triggering people's trypophobia [Photo: AP/Tony Avelar]

Apple has unveiled its latest iPhones, and while many people can’t wait to get their hands on the shiny new gadgets, some are concerned that the triple-camera design of some models could trigger people with trypophobia, the fear of closely spaced holes.

The standard new iPhone 11 models contain two camera lenses on the gadget’s back.

But on the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max models, the tech giant has added a third lens – with the end result a closely packed three-camera corner.

While photography fans will no doubt be raving about the three-camera feature, those who suffer from trypophobia have taken to social media to express their concern about the potential “triggering” effect.

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What is trypophobia?

The term trypophobia was reportedly coined in 2005 by internet users who blended the Greek words for hole and fear.

Although it is yet to be officially defined as a condition, the Association for Psychological Science describes it as the fear of irregular patterns or clusters of small holes or bumps.

If you suffer from it, reactions from looking at things with clusters of holes or bumps can vary from just feeling uncomfortable to causing a full-on panic attack or even throwing up.

There isn’t a huge amount of research on trypophobia, but a study of 300 men and women published in 2013 in the journal Psychological Science revealed that it could be more common than you might think.

Sufferers of trypophobia have a fear of small holes in a regular pattern [Photo: Getty]
Sufferers of trypophobia have a fear of small holes in a regular pattern [Photo: Getty]

For the study, conducted by the University of Essex, researchers showed around 300 men and women photos of things that could set trypophobics off, and found that nearly one in five women and one in 10 men had an adverse reaction to the photos.

The research says the severity of the reaction seemed to vary. While some people found the clusters of holes only caused them to feel uncomfortable, others reported shaking all over in fear.

What causes the condition?

Researchers are somewhat puzzled by the potential condition due to the lack of research.

But some studies have raised some theories. In the University of Essex study detailed above, by the University of Essex, scientists suggested the fear could be linked to the patterns of holes that you can find on some of the world’s most poisonous animals.

The feelings of fear could therefore result from our natural survival instinct telling us to get away.

Alternatively, a 2018 study conducted by the University of Kent theorised that the condition could be attributed to our response to certain infectious diseases that manifest themselves as clusters of rounded shapes on the skin, such as smallpox, measles and rubella.

Star sufferers?

Earlier this year Love Island star Yewande Biala was praised for opening up about suffering from trypophobia during an episode of the show.

"Do you know there's some weird sponges and they have loads and loads of little circles? It creeps me out,” the 23-year-old scientist said.

And she certainly isn’t the only person in the public eye to open up about the unusual fear; reality TV star Kendall Jenner has also previously admitted that she struggles to look at clusters of holes.

Trypophobia sufferer Kendall Jenner arrives at the DKNY 30th birthday celebration on September 9, 2019 in Brooklyn, New York. [Photo: Xavier Collin/Image Press Agency/Sipa USA]
Trypophobia sufferer Kendall Jenner arrives at the DKNY 30th birthday celebration on September 9, 2019 in Brooklyn, New York. [Photo: Xavier Collin/Image Press Agency/Sipa USA]

“Anyone who knows me knows that I have really bad trypophobia,” the model shared in a blog post.

“Trypophobics are afraid of tiny little holes that are in weird patterns. Things that could set me off are pancakes, honeycomb or lotus heads (the worst!). It sounds ridiculous but so many people actually have it! I can’t even look at little holes – it gives me the worst anxiety. Who knows what’s in there???”

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Treatments for trypophobia

A phobia is described by the NHS as an overwhelming and debilitating fear of an object, place, situation, feeling or animal.

If a phobia sufferer doesn't come into contact with the source of their problem, it may not affect their life - but in some cases even thinking about the thing they fear can give a person "anticipatory anxiety".

If a phobia becomes very severe, the person suffering may organise their life around avoiding the aspect that’s causing distress.

But some treatments could help, including cognitive behaviour therapy, which can help people to change their thought patterns about the object of their fear.

Counselling and hypnosis could also potentially help.

If you find that you have trypophobia, or any other phobia, and it’s negatively affecting your daily life, it is important to seek help from a medical professional.

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