Is Trypophobia Synesthesia?

Today in class, we discussed the concept of synesthesia, and how it refers to experiences where input from one sensory system produces a conscious experience in that modality and in another. For instance, when you hear a certain sound, you see a certain color.

When I heard this, I asked myself “Is trypophobia a form of synesthesia?”

Trypophobia is the fear of looking at closely-packed holes. However, for me, the fear is beyond just holes. I react upon seeing certain holes, textures, color gradients, landscapes, and much more. When my eyes are exposed to these things, I get an overwhelmingly, uneasy feeling all throughout my body. I get a physical reaction all over. I feel super uncomfortable, and repulsed as painful goosebumps spread all over my skin, specific parts of my body start to shake, and my skin feels like its crawling! I know, it’s weird!

Here are some of the images that make me “whig out!”






I did some research and found that Trypophobia is actually considered a form of Tactile-Emotion Synaesthesia. Where certain emotions are evoked when specific textures are seen or touched. An experiment was conducted on two women in their 20s. From their childhood up till now, they both had experienced strong emotions brought on by certain textures. For example, they would have a rush of disgustful as well as, depressive feelings when the texture of denim was present. I thought that this was all very interesting and intriguing. It makes me wonder what it will take for trypophobia to be considered an actual condition.

More information can be found in the following links:

19 thoughts on “Is Trypophobia Synesthesia?

  1. cwehner

    Wow, this is absolutely fascinating! It must be so inconvenient and frustrating to have such a strong reaction to visual stimuli for no apparent reason.

    I had no idea that synesthesia could apply to emotions as well as to physical sensations. I’d always understood synesthesia as a purely physical phenomenon — but as I thought that, I realized that experiencing emotion is in many ways just as physical as experiencing any other sensation. For example, when someone hurts you, you can literally feel your stomach drop — or when your crush tells you that they like you back, the rush of happiness makes you feel the physical sensation of lightness and energy. I wonder if these physical experiences have any relationship with the connection of texture and emotion you have in your brain.

    1. iloaiza Post author

      That’s such a good point! Great examples! And who knows what else we will learn about the connection of texture and emotion to our brains!

    2. ellsonke

      I completely agree! I didn’t even know this was a thing – it’s amazing how unique the human mind can be. I’m not sure if the description primed me, but those pictures definitely made me a little uncomfortable.
      I’m not entirely sure if synesthesia applies to emotions, however. I’m thinking in terms of psychosomatic reponses, where emotional conditions cause physiological effects. If you’ve ever seen BBC’s Sherlock, think Watson and his limp – it was completely psychosomatic. Maybe psychosomatic responses and synesthesia are the same thing? (I could also be completely overthinking this.)

  2. scampbellharris

    I didn’t respond to you in class but I have the same thing! however instead of having the “fear” I just want to destroy it. When I cook with mushrooms, I flip them over and have the urge to rip out the pattern. I haven’t met anyone else who has it too! I could barely look at those photos without wanting to reach through my computer and destroy it (in a nonviolent way).

    1. iloaiza Post author

      YESSSS! SAMMMEEEEE! AHHHHH I honestly HATE looking at my blog post because I have a reaction every time I slightly gaze at those images! Glad to know I’m not the only one! 🙂

  3. Sydney Wayne

    I really enjoyed hearing about this connection you brought up. I would have never made it on my own but now the whole thing makes a lot more sense.
    I read the article that you cited and find it very weird that those women had different reactions to different textures depending on different parts of their body. The author mentioned it could be associated with a memory. Do you remember a specific incident that initiated your Tactile-Emotion Synesthesia? The article also mentioned how the women can touch an object they find satisfying and their emotions are instantly boosted. Is there a texture or something that has the opposite of closely packed holes for you?
    Honestly, I find some of these images satisfying. Sorry but look at how nice and even and clean those strawberries are!! This phobia was included in an American Horror Story season and they found some unsettling pictures of closely packed holes so I can see where you are coming from. Do not watch season 7.

    1. iloaiza Post author

      During my freshmen year here at UMW, my roommate and I went to Vocelli’s and we walked in and I saw the pepperoni pizza and literally screamed and sunk into a ball. My whole body reacted to the sight and it felt like there were a bunch of needles stabbing me. My roommate freaked out and asked what happened. I simply responded with “the pepperoni… IT TRIGGERS ME!”

  4. victoriarulapaugh

    This is honestly so interesting to hear about and understand! Today when we learned about this topic, I had no idea what it was, so to know that other people in the class actually experienced it personally, was really fascinating to me!

    I like how you made your blog post about this because you can discuss it in a personal level and I think that is what makes it so interesting. I find pictures like the ones you posted to be satisfying to look at, so it is amazing that you cannot and that you actually get a reaction from it!

    Thank you for sharing this was really cool to understand!

    1. iloaiza Post author

      Yea! I totally agree that it is pretty fascinating how we all can interpret those images differently. Some people might think they’re beautiful, while others (like me) want to pull out their hair from looking at such a freaky sight!

  5. rpauley

    I myself don’t have trypophobia, but some of my closest friends do, and it’s been interesting to learn more about from this post! I was very interested in the topic of synesthesia when we discussed it in class, and I’ve enjoyed reading posts about it. I’m cracking up at the picture of Vocelli’s pizza because let’s be honest, the little pepperonis are a little unsettling whether you have trypophobia or not! I think your question of when the condition warrants a diagnosis is interesting. I wonder what the benefits of it being recognized as an official condition would be. I wonder that even if it had benefits, who would go through the process of being recognized.

    1. iloaiza Post author

      YES. The pepperonis are the true killers of trypophobia. That would be a very interesting finding if it would be considered an official condition. Or even looking into possible cures for it besides exposure therapy.

  6. sbalenger

    This is so interesting!! I had never heard about tryophobia though until the iPhone 11 came out and I myself don’t have it. Personally, I am super sensitive to the sound of metal scraping and even the thought of it is awful, but I don’t know what type of sensory disorder/phobia it might be considered. I’m putting that on my to do list so I look it up now, lol. Anyways, if I hear metal scraping such as utensils clanging together, or a utensil being scraped on a dish I feel a pain in my jaw and ears, and my body shakes, and I clench my jaw. Sometimes I get a weird taste in my mouth so I guess that would classify it as synesthesia.

    1. iloaiza Post author

      That’s very interesting that it was not too long ago that you heard about Trypophobia! I too and super sensitive to specific textures and sounds. I despise with my entire soul… STYROFOAM. I hate hearing it when someone buys a carton of eggs. I hate seeing it in the store. I just can’t stand it! So I understand your pain with the clanging metal sounds.

  7. carmennichols

    Wow…I never knew that there could be a fear of this. It’s strange but really interesting. The images themselves make me feel weird to look at, especially after reading your article. After discussing what synesthesia was in class and reading your information, I can definitely see the comparison between the two. I think trypophobia could be a potential form of synesthesia. Looking at those closely packed holes and textures gives me an uneasy feeling too, which can relate back to what the definition of synesthesia is.

    When you think about the concept of what synesthesia is, it’s pretty weird. Like… how can something like hearing a sound make you see a certain color in your head? Or like with trypophobia, why does an image of something make some people freak out? I didn’t even know about this fear until now and those pictures creep me out. Even the pizza one is kind of weird when you think about it.

    To me, I can see a close similarity between trypophobia and claustrophobia. The two of them deal with closely packed things, which is sort of what claustrophobia is. Perhaps, that could also be a form of Tactile-Emotion Synaesthesia since the feeling of tight spaces induces a fear or panic feeling. That would be an interesting study to research. I really liked your post and the personal touch you added to it!

    1. iloaiza Post author

      That is a very good comparison to claustrophobia. I think both claustrophobia as well as trypophobia can be similar, however the symptoms may be different. Someone with trypophobia may look at a drought texture and have the desire to shrivel up and vomit. While someone with claustrophobia may encounter a small space and freeze up, or have an anxiety attack. These phobia are both very interesting and your comment intrigues me into doing some research about these phobias.

  8. magalyy

    This post really caught my attention. I would say I have some form of trypophobia. Seeing these images just gives me chills through my entire body and it completely freaks me out. I say I have trypophobia to a certain severity because for some odd reason I watched a video with multiple images with holes and while some images really just give me the worst sensation ever, images like the pepperoni pizza do not really effect me. Crazy huh? Even though I thought synesthesia was something interesting and I could not really believe someone could feel or hear a color, realizing trypophobia is a form of synesthesia is really interesting. Now I can relate to this new information!

    1. iloaiza Post author

      Very cool! Nice to hear that I have a Trypophobia ally out there! Yea, it fascinates me how different textures or things make people react while others might not react. Like some people like the sound of styrofoam while other sane people (like me) find the sound of styrofoam revolting!

  9. ccragun

    This is really interesting! Growing up I had a friend with synesthesia, she could see words as colors. I always thought it was really cool and wished it was something I had. I never thought of trypophobia, or really any other phobia, as anything related to synesthesia. I had always thought of it as something really cool and positive but now I see it might not always be good. After reading this I’m starting to wonder what else synesthesia can be present in? I might have to look more into it! Great post!

    1. iloaiza Post author

      Very interesting! I would love to hear more about what words would trigger her synesthesia! And what colors did she see?

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