Do you feel distressed or disgusted by the sight of lots of tightly packed holes? If so, then you may suffer from trypophobia – the fear of small holes or bumps. Those who suffer from phobia feel sensations of sickness, anxiety, or repugnance in response to porous objects or speckled patterns. In extreme cases, trypophobia can be debilitating and disrupt everyday life.
During a hair transplant, many tiny incisions are made in the scalp. This is required in order to remove hair follicles from one area of the head and re-implant them into another. However, the sight of these tiny holes can be very distressing for patients with trypophobia.
In this article, we will cover everything that you need to know about hair transplant trypophobia, and provide some useful tips on how to overcome the fear so that you can still achieve the head of hair that you desire.
What is Trypophobia?
Trypophobia is a fear or aversion to clusters of closely packed holes or bumps. Those who suffer from the phobia experience feelings of anxiety, discomfort, or disgust when they see these types of patterns. In some cases, these feelings can manifest as nausea, dizziness, rapid breathing, an increased heart rate, goosebumps, sweating, shakdxing, or even panic attacks. Nevertheless, the primary symptom of trypophobia is a general sense of revulsion, queasiness, or distress.
Trypophobia can also cause behavioral changes because a person who suffers from the phobia is likely to avoid coming into contact with trigger objects. Common trigger objects are bubble wraps, shower heads, seed pods, coral, honeycomb, sponges, insect eyes, or concentrated images of the pores of one’s skin. People who suffer from trypophobia may also avoid eating certain foods, such as swiss cheese, pomegranates, corn on the cob, strawberries, or aerated chocolate.
What Causes Trypophobia?
Trypophobia is a relatively new disorder. In fact, the term first came into existence in 2005. As a result, research into phobia is limited, and experts are yet to identify a clear cause.
There are several theories, however. For example, some scientists contend that the brain is programmed by evolution to associate patterns of holes with danger. This is because many hazardous animals in the natural world are characterized by perforated or holey patterns, such as the king cobra, poison dart frog, blue-ringed octopus, or deathstalker scorpion. When clusters of holes create feelings of stress or fear, therefore, it is because the brain is associating these patterns with these deadly creatures.
Alternatively, some experts suggest that the brain associates patterns of bumps or holes with skin diseases. The brain has been conditioned by evolution to feel revulsion at the sight of illness and infection so that we avoid coming into contact with contagious diseases. Consequently, we are programmed to feel distressed at the sight of bumps or holes, because these shapes are reminiscent of scabs, rashes, and diseased skin.
Both of these theories suggest that there is an evolutionary basis for trypophobia. However, other experts believe that phobia is a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), whilst some studies have found links between trypophobia and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and depression.
Who Is Most Likely to Suffer from Trypophobia?
Once again, research into trypophobia is relatively limited, and so it is not conclusively known why some people are more susceptible to the disorder than others.
However, trypophobia has been related to various mental health conditions, as we discussed above. Consequently, those who suffer from depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder may be more susceptible to trypophobia.
Moreover, you are more likely to have the condition if you have a family relative who suffers from it. According to one study, 25% of people who had trypophobia also had a close relative with the disorder. This suggests that the phobia may be acquired through observational learning: those who repeatedly witness others expressing an irrational fear of something are more likely to develop the same fear.
How is Trypophobia Diagnosed?
Trypophobia is not medically recognized as a disorder, which means that there is no official process for diagnosing the phobia. However, completing the online trypophobia test could help to determine whether you have this aversion.
Moreover, if trypophobia is having an impact on your everyday life, it might be worth talking to a mental health professional. Although a therapist cannot officially diagnose you with trypophobia, they can help you to develop methods to cope with and combat its symptoms.
What Does Trypophobia Have To Do With Hair Transplants?
If you have trypophobia, then it is possible that the incisions that are made during a hair transplant could trigger feelings of discomfort or disgust.
During a hair transplant, hair follicles are removed from an area of the scalp known as the ‘donor site’. These are then implanted into the balding regions of the head, which are called the recipient areas. This process involves cutting lots of tiny holes in the recipient area using a needle or a knife. The extracted follicles are then inserted into these holes.
Patients with trypophobia may find that the sight of these holes elicits feelings of anxiety or queasiness. This phenomenon is sometimes colloquially referred to as ‘hair transplant trypophobia’.
In addition to the holes in the recipient area, the scars that are created during the surgery have the potential to trigger unpleasant symptoms in patients with trypophobia.
Trypophobia and Hair Transplant Scars
Scarring is an inevitable side effect of any form of surgery, and all hair transplants create scars in the donor site. However, the size and shape of these scars depend on the technique that is used to harvest the hair follicles during the procedure.
There are two techniques for extracting hair follicles: Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) and Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT). During an FUE hair transplant, the donor site is shaved, and hair follicles are extracted from it one-by-one using a micropunch. This instrument makes lots of small punch incisions in the donor site, each of which will create a circular scar around the harvested follicle. These scars look like tiny red dots, as they are no larger than 1 millimeter in diameter.
When the hair in the donor site grows back, these scars will be concealed. However, it can take roughly one month for the hair to grow back, and during this time the many circular scars could trigger feelings of anxiety or queasiness in patients with trypophobia.
By contrast, a FUT hair transplant harvests hair follicles by removing a small strip of skin from the donor site. The surgeon then removes the follicles from this strip and inserts them into the recipient areas.
The removal of this strip of tissue will create a single linear scar in the donor site. This scar will not trigger patients with trypophobia, because it is linear rather than circular in shape. Moreover, FUT transplants create a single scar, rather than many small scars. Consequently, the procedure is unlikely to unsettle trypophobic patients, since the disorder is triggered by the presence of a cluster of many holes or bumps.
As a result, FUT hair transplants may be more suitable for patients who suffer from trypophobia. However, patients should bear in mind that both FUE and FUT transplants involve creating lots of holes in the recipient area, and consequently both types of surgery have the potential to evoke a phobic reaction in patients with the disorder.
How Long Does it Take for FUE Hair Transplant Holes to Disappear?
The small, circular scars that are created in the donor site during an FUE hair transplant will disappear when the surrounding hair regrows and conceals them. This takes roughly one month to happen.
Similarly, it will take approximately one month for the holes in the recipient area to disappear completely. During this time, the transplanted hair follicles will be taking root in their new location, and some scabs will form around the incisions as your skin heals. After one month, the scabs, dried blood, and holes will have completely disappeared, though your new hair will not have sprouted yet. Instead, your scalp will resemble the way it looked prior to the surgery.
How Can I Speed Up the Rate at which My Hair Transplant Holes Disappear?
With the right care, hair transplant holes will heal within a month, and unfortunately, there is not much that patients can do to accelerate the healing process. Nevertheless, taking good care of your body by drinking plenty of water, avoiding smoking and alcohol, and eating a nutritious, balanced diet will ensure that the body is healing at its maximum pace. Similarly, reducing stress as much as possible will help to quicken the healing process.
The attention that patients pay to the pre-and post-surgical care instructions given to them by their surgeon will also ensure that their hair transplant holes heal as quickly as possible. For example, patients must avoid taking certain medications, such as antidepressants, blood thinners, beta-blockers, and anti-inflammatory medicines, for two weeks prior to the surgery.
After the surgery, patients must avoid activities that cause sweating, such as vigorous exercise, for one week. Saunas, hot tubs, and direct sunlight should also be avoided. This is because sweat can increase the risk of infection, and infection will slow down the rate at which your hair transplant holes heal.
For the same reason, patients must avoid scratching or picking at their scabs, and refrain from brushing or washing their scalp for four days after the procedure. If the body is left to heal in its own time, the hair transplant holes will heal as quickly as possible.
Should Someone with Trypophobia Avoid Get a Hair Transplant?
It is natural for patients with trypophobia to worry about whether a hair transplant is right for them. However, this problem is not insurmountable, and, if you would like a hair transplant, there is plenty that can be done to help you overcome your fear – as we discuss below.
How Can I Overcome Hair Transplant Trypophobia?
There are various methods that can be used to help patients beat their trypophobia, from exposure therapy to stress management techniques.
1. Choose an Experienced Surgeon at a Reputable Clinic
One of the most important things that you can do to ensure that your trypophobia is not triggered after a hair transplant is to choose a skilled medical professional to conduct the surgery.
A hair transplant should never create wide, sunken holes in the scalp. This happens when inexperienced surgeons employ older methods to perform the surgery, which creates large punches in the scalp.
Experienced surgeons, meanwhile, use modern techniques and technology during the procedure to produce hair transplant holes that are no larger than 1 millimeter in diameter. Consequently, there will be very small red dots and scabbing across the recipient area. These tiny dots are less likely to trigger a trypophobia reaction than broad, deep holes.
Furthermore, skilled surgeons will be careful not to remove too many hair follicles from a single, concentrated area in the donor site. This will ensure that there are not too many scars clustered in one area together, whilst also ensuring that the scars can be easily concealed by the surrounding hair. Inexperienced surgeons, by contrast, may take too many follicles from one area, resulting in a cluster of circular scars, which could trigger a phobic reaction in trypophobic patients.
At Aventus Clinic, our excellent and experienced surgeons use the most advanced and up-to-date tools and techniques to administer hair transplants. This means that the holes that are produced during the surgery are tiny and will heal quickly, making them less likely to trigger a trypophobic reaction.
2. Exposure Therapy
In addition to choosing a reputable clinic to perform your hair transplant, exposure therapy can help you to overcome trypophobia in the weeks or months leading up to the surgery.
Exposure therapy is a type of behavioral therapy that is used to treat anxiety disorders and overcome phobias. In fact, some studies have found that only a single three-hour session of exposure therapy can be effective at eliminating a phobia.
The process involves gradually exposing a patient to the source of their anxiety in a safe environment and in the company of a therapist. Over time, this exposure reduces feelings of anxiety and distress.
At the beginning of the process, a therapist will help you to identify your trigger objects, such as shower heads or honeycomb. Then, your therapist will encourage you to recognize the symptoms that you experience when these objects trigger a trypophobic reaction: do you feel nauseous, or do you simply feel a general sensation of disgust? It is only then that the exposure will begin in order to help you defeat these symptoms.
3. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a talking therapy that is used to treat various mental health conditions, and it is another effective method for treating trypophobia.
CBT works by helping a patient identify the early signs that they are experiencing a trypophobic reaction to an object. Then, a therapist will teach you some relaxation techniques to combat this early anxiety before it spirals and increases. Over time, patients learn to use these methods on their own in order to overcome their trypophobia.
Additionally, CBT can involve reflecting on and adjusting the negative thoughts that are prompted by trigger objects, which decreases the sense of threat that is associated with these objects and enables patients to regain control over their fear.
Although there are no medicines that are specifically designed to treat trypophobia, there is medication available that can treat anxiety. Your doctor may prescribe these if the feelings of anxiety that are triggered by your trypophobia are debilitating and interfere with your everyday life.
In these cases, beta-blockers may be prescribed to treat trypophobia. Beta-blockers reduce blood pressure and decrease the heart rate, which reduces feelings of fear, stress, and anxiety. Alternatively, antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs (such as alprazolam, diazepam, or clonazepam) may be used to treat the symptoms of trypophobia.
However, it should be remembered that medication will only treat the symptoms of the disorder, rather than the cause. This means that – though medicine should be used if trypophobia is having a negative impact on one’s life – it is best to take this medicine alongside therapy in order to heal the cause of the condition as well as the feelings of anxiety that it produces.
Additionally, patients must not take beta-blockers or antidepressants for two weeks prior to a hair transplant, as this can interfere with the surgery. If you are taking any form of medicine around the time of a procedure, it is best to alert your surgeon to this so that they can ensure that it is safe to conduct the treatment.
5. Stress Management Techniques
Feelings of anxiety can be soothed or treated without the use of medication. Mindfulness, deep breathing, and yoga can all help to bring down levels of stress, which will, in turn, help to reduce the intensity of trypophobic reactions. Spending time in nature and engaging in gentle exercise can also help to achieve this.
Trypophobia can be very distressing, but so can hair loss – and patients who suffer from the phobia should not be deterred from arranging a hair transplant. If the above solutions are put into practice, then patients can overcome their fear and achieve the head of hair that they want.
If you are worried that a hair transplant may be triggering for you, then you can arrange an appointment with one of our friendly consultants, who will discuss your worries with you. If you are happy to, the consultant can also show you images of the scalp after a hair transplant. This will reassure you that the holes that are created during the surgery are exceptionally small.