What is trypophobia, the unusual phobia Love Island star Yewande Biala suffers from?

Love Island contestant Yewande has opened up about suffering from trypophobia [Photo: ITV]
Love Island contestant Yewande has opened up about suffering from trypophobia [Photo: ITV]

Love Island’ viewers have been praising contestant Yewande Biala for opening up about her unusual phobia trypophobia, a fear of small holes.

When it comes to phobias there are many we’ve heard off, spiders, heights and clowns for a start, what’s slightly less common is that of trypophobia, which is triggered by looking at things with clusters of holes or bumps.

On Sunday evening's episode Yewande opened up to fellow contestant Michael about her phobia of small holes.

"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.

It might sound a little strange, but Yewande certainly isn’t alone in suffering from the fear and following the airing of the episode viewers took to social media to share their own similar battles.

And former ‘Love Island’ contestant Dr Alex George also took to Twitter to reveal that the condition is very real, with some reports suggesting up to 11% of the population may suffer from the phobia.

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 one 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.

For the study, 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 goes on to explain that severity of the fear seem to range from person to person.

While some found that clusters of holes caused them to feel uncomfortable, others reported shaking all over in fear.

Trypophobia is a fear of small holes [Photo: Getty]
Trypophobia is a fear of small holes [Photo: Getty]

What causes tryphophobia?

Researchers are somewhat puzzled by the potential condition thanks largely to a lack of research in the area.

But some studies have raised some theories. In the 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 further 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?

Yewande 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.

“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???”

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 very often it may not affect their life - although 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 congnitive behaviour therapy (CBT) which can help sufferers to change their thought patterns about the object of their fear and hopefully distinguish that their fear is in their imagination.

Counselling and hypnosis and hypnosis could also potentially help.

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