Does the sight of cantaloupe make you cringe? Does looking at Swiss cheese make you feel itchy and anxious? Then you might have "trypophobia," an irrational fear of clusters of holes, pods and cracks — or so the Internet says. Is this a real condition or a case of web-based mass hysteria?
NPR's The Salt looked into this bizarre self-reported condition, which is not listed in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but is apparently gaining steam online, where websites like Reddit have boards dedicated to photos of "triggers" like lotus seed pods and crumpets. There is also an Instagram hashtag, which includes some genuinely creepy photos alongside very innocuous pictures of macaroni and car speakers. (I guess I don't have trypophobia.)
Psychiatrist Carol Mathews of the University of California, San Francisco believes trypophobia can be attributed more to social media and the power of suggestion than a genuine phobia:
Intermixing truly yucky pictures of parasites and skin conditions with innocuous images of cantaloupes and crumpets, she says, could also make you feel grossed out by your breakfast. This is a type of conditioning, in which one emotion — disgust, uncomfortableness — gets associated with something that normally doesn't evoke that emotion.
→ Read more: Fear Of Cantaloupes And Crumpets? A 'Phobia' Rises From The Web at NPR
I've assembled a small slideshow of trypophobia-triggering photos above. What do you think? Do these images disturb you or are they just...photos of hole-filled objects?
Related: Misophonia: The Unbearable Loudness of Chewing
(Images: Matthew Benoit; Nancy Kennedy; lev radin; StudioSmart; Valentyn Volkov, all via Shutterstock)