Hair Transplant Trypophobia: Causes, Symptoms & Ways To Cope

Hair Transplant Trypophobia: Causes, Symptoms & Ways To Cope

Undergoing a hair transplant isn’t easy for many people due to different reasons. One of them is trypophobia. For years, trypophobia was nothing more than an internet phenomenon. However, since then, some research has been done, especially to understand why it occurs. And if it is even a phobia, to begin with.

As many people already know, trypophobia has to do with “holes” or other circular patterns. In a hair transplant, the surgeon will have to make some holes in your scalp to redistribute the hair follicles. This can trigger trypophobia in people, which can prevent them from undergoing surgery. But there are ways in which you can cope with it so that you can grow your hair back. 

What Is Trypophobia? 

Trypophobia refers to the irrational fear of clusters of holes, irregular patterns and bumps. The term “trypophobia” is a combination of the Greek words “trypos,” which means drilling holes, drilling and punching and “phobos,” meaning phobia or fear. 

It should be noted that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), does not recognise trypophobia as a disorder. Additionally, its status as a “phobia” is questioned. Many believe that trypophobia is simply a feeling of discomfort or disgust caused at the sight of closely packed holes or a similar pattern. These could be things such as:  

  • Honeycomb 
  • Lotus seed pod 
  • Corals 
  • Strawberries 
  • Sponges 
  • Skin of some reptiles and insects 
  • Corn 
  • Holes in cheese 

This list is by no means exhaustive. Even wallpapers with circles on them can trigger this. According to the first study that was published in Psychological Science on trypophobia (back in 2013), this phobia has a prevalence rate of 16%. Also, people with anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and substance use disorder may be more prone to developing trypophobia. 

What Causes Trypophobia? 

Not much is known about trypophobia. Different studies have given different explanations for the causes of this phobia. These are as follows: 

Evolutionary Survival Response 

It is believed that trypophobia is an evolutionary response to protect human beings from dangerous animals or diseases. One study suggested that people experience this fear of holes because their brain is telling them that they’re looking at a venomous or poisonous animal that can harm them. 

Similarly, some diseases can cause holes or protrusions to appear on the skin. Looking at them, the brain might be signalling to the person that they should protect themselves by staying away from the diseased individual. According to the researchers of that study, it is an “unconscious” association that results from an “ancient evolutionary part of the brain.” 

Another study published in Cognition and Emotion found that individuals with trypophobia felt like their skin was itching and crawling when viewing clusters of circular holes. They associated the sensation with that of ectoparasites (parasites that live outside the body) and pathogens transmitted through the skin. These explanations point toward an evolutionary basis for the presence of this disorder. 

Aversion To Geometric Patterns 

The other explanation for trypophobia is that it results from the discomfort caused by the characteristics of a particular geometric pattern. Therefore, it doesn’t have anything to do with the object itself; the pattern is the problem. However, according to that explanation, trypophobia isn’t actually a phobia. 

Why Does Hair Transplant Cause Trypophobia? 

Hair transplant can cause trypophobia because circular holes and incisions are made into the scalp for the extraction and implantation of hair grafts. The sight of these holes can evoke sensations of disgust, discomfort or fear even if you haven’t had the surgery. 

In an FUE hair transplant, the surgeon extracts hair follicles from the scalp’s donor area using a micro-punch tool of 0.7-1.0 mm. The size of the punch is large enough to extract the hair graft without extracting too much of the surrounding tissue. After the extraction of the hair grafts, the surgeon uses a blade ranging from 0.8-1.5 mm to create small incisions in the bald areas of the scalp to insert the hair follicles. 

Keep in mind that the size of the incisions can vary depending on the size of the graft. If the follicular unit contains just 1 hair, a smaller incision will be made compared to the incision for a follicular unit with 4 strands of hair. Consequently, you’ll end up with an irregular pattern of circular holes on your scalp, which can trigger trypophobia. 

However, it’s only temporary. Because if the hair transplant takes place successfully, your hair should start to grow after 3 months. Your circular scars will also fade significantly. And the growing hair will camouflage them anyway. It may be a little difficult for a while, but as your recovery progresses, it will get better and better. 

Will Hair Transplant Holes Always Go Away?

Understandably, if you have trypophobia, you’d want the circular wound holes to heal and fade as soon as possible. The possibility that they might never go away can be scary. However, it’s true for some people. 

For instance, back in the 1960s, when the technique and surgical tools of hair transplant were not refined, people ended up with large incision holes on their scalp. The donor areas were badly scarred, and the results in the recipient areas were also less than satisfactory because the size of the follicular units was very large. It looked “pluggy,” like the head of a barbie doll. 

hair phobia
Image source: ISHRS

Fortunately, that’s not how hair transplants look anymore. Micro-holes and incisions are made on the scalp. They heal quite quickly and do not leave visible scars. Still, you need to be careful about your choice of surgeon. 

Because a failed hair transplant can leave you with permanent curricular scars on your scalp. This can happen if improper tools are used or the incisions are made correctly. Also, if the donor area is overharvested, you can end up with a visible circular pattern on the back of your scalp, which can cause significant distress. In such cases, patients can usually benefit from a scalp micropigmentation procedure to cover the bald spots.  

What Are The Signs & Symptoms of Hair Transplant Trypophobia? 

Those who have trypophobia are disgusted by or fearful of anything that’s circular and in clusters. However, seeing it can also cause some other symptoms, such as: 

  • Vomiting 
  • Panic attacks 
  • Itching 
  • Rapid heart rate and breathing 
  • Sweating 
  • Shaking 
  • Lightheadedness 
  • Goosebumps 
  • Discomfort 

It can be quite disruptive. And even though trypophobia isn’t considered a disorder, you may be recommended therapy for its management. This can help you be prepared for your hair transplant. 

How To Cope With Trypophobia Triggered By Hair Transplant? 

You can cope with hair transplant trypophobia in the following ways. 

Undergo Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) 

Before undergoing a hair transplant, you can undergo CBT for your trypophobia. The therapy works by identifying and changing the thoughts and behaviours that are contributing to this phobia. It is also possible that you undergo exposure therapy. You might be shown images of things which have closely packed circles in them. 

Or you may be asked to imagine the pattern in your mind. Gradual exposure can eventually lead you to feel less distressed when you see the circular pattern somewhere else (like on your head!). Keep in mind that this therapy can last from a few weeks to as many as 5 months, so plan in advance. 

Relaxation Techniques 

These can help you during the recovery phase after the hair transplant. This can include art therapy, music therapy, aromatherapy, deep breathing, and mindfulness. You can also try visualising your happy places so that you don’t focus on the holes in your head. Try to stay engaged (in non-strenuous activities) so that you’re peacefully distracted. 

Medications 

If you have trypophobia, it’s a good idea to inform your hair transplant surgeon in advance. To reduce the anxiety, you may be given anti-anxiety medicine (SSRI, benzos, or beta-blockers) before the surgery takes place, so you’re not stressed when the surgeon is extracting the hair grafts and implanting them into your scalp. 

Concluding Remarks 

Trypophobia has been much talked about on the internet. You’ll find quite a lot of anecdotal evidence about it. Many people claim that they have this phobia. However, it is possible that instead of feeling fearful, many people just feel disgusted at the sight of these clusters of circles. This response may be triggered by an evolutionary survival response so that the person is protected from a dangerous animal or an infectious disease. However, it’s also been suggested that this response is triggered because of the weirdness of the pattern itself. 

No matter what, trypophobia can cause distress in a person who wants to have a hair transplant. That’s because the surgery cannot be carried out without making holes in the scalp. However, you can rest assured that due to modern surgical techniques, the size of the holes is very small. They heal quite quickly and will also fade with time. You won’t even see them once your hair starts to grow. However, to prepare yourself for the time immediately after the surgery, you can consider medications, therapy, or trying out various relaxation techniques.