Some people are so afraid of snakes or spiders that the sight of these creatures makes their hearts race, their breathing speed up and their palms sweat. But other people have similarly uncontrollable reactions to seeing clusters of bubbles. Their skin begins to crawl, they become nauseated and they may even throw up.
Why clusters of bubbles — or circles or holes — that pose no threat can elicit such strong feelings of disgust has been discussed since the condition, called trypophobia (which means “fear of holes” in Greek), was first documented in 2013. Some scientists have suggested that the extreme reaction to round shapes occurs because they resemble spots or circles found on poisonous animals, including snakes and the blue-ringed octopus.
But now, new research suggests that the intense anxiety is likely linked to fears of parasites and infectious diseases. Diseases, including smallpox and measles, as well as parasites, like mites and ticks, produce patterns on the skin that look like clusters of round shapes.