Warning – if you’re afraid of holes, don’t visit Siberia and don’t look at the pictures in this post.
Many people fear going to see a dentist. Most often, they’re suffering from odontophobia (fear of dentists) or algophobia (fear of pain). Dentists generally ignore these fears, knowing that the suffers will be forced to come in and get their tooth problems taken care of eventually. The same is true for the tiny group who avoid dentists because they fear seeing the tiny holes being drilled in their teeth. While that phobia (trypophobia) is also not bothering dentists, it’s unexpectedly hurting the viewership and potential ad revenues of a certain television show which made abundant use of holes in its preseason previews and is now suffering a backlash.
The show is the popular series American Horror Story, which enters its seventh season with a collection called “Cult.” While the main theme will center on the 2016 US presidential election (that’s scary enough, even for people not suffering from politicophobia -- fear of elections and politics), the shows will also center on actress Sarah Paulson’s character, Amy, who is affected by trypophobia, coulrophobia (fear of clowns) and hemophobia (fear of blood). Suddenly, politics isn’t quite so scary.
Unfortunately for trypophobias, the ads for the premier show pictures of women with holes in their faces, their heads and their tongues. (Is the woman with a hole in her head a politician? That’s too easy.) The photos quickly triggered a tweet-storm by those whose trypophobia was triggered by them Many said they would not be able to watch this season’s series as a result. That could be bad for the FX network, since the show has won numerous awards and regularly attracts 3 million viewers per episode. How many of them are trypophobiacs?
That could be difficult to determine since trypophobia is not recognized as a valid phobia in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. This is despite the fact that thousands of alleged suffers flock to websites and social media pages devoted to it. While some psychiatrists think it’s merely disgust that these people are feeling, Arnold Wilkins of the University of Essex's Centre for Brain Science is one or the first scientists to research it and believes it’s rooted in an evolutionary response to holes and bumps which are often signs of disease on animals, plants and other humans that would sicken or kill those who consume or even just touch them. That makes sense when you think about certain diseases like measles, chicken pox or leprosy. To those who scoff at the fear of holes, Wilkins points out in an interview with Buzzfeed that symptoms can be severe -- sweating, increased heart rate – and long-lasting, sometimes incapacitating the sufferer.
"It's not yet understood exactly why some people experience trypophobia and others don't, or why some people's reactions are far worse than others. But we theorize that the reaction is worsened by the spacing of the holes/bumps, how far away you are from the stimuli, and how big the stimuli is."
If you’re a fan of American Horror Story and also a trypophobiac, how far should you sit from the TV in order to watch it without nausea? Wilkins doesn’t say. Perhaps we won’t know until the ratings are in for the premier episode, scheduled to air on September 5th. Will viewers stay away? Will sponsors pull their ads? Will emergency rooms be filled with nauseous people avoiding signing any form that’s perforated?
Will anyone notice the clowns, the blood or the politicians?