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The Reason Why Those 'American Horror Story' Posters Make You Shudder

By Leah Groth ; Updated April 05, 2018

Those who suffer from coulrophobia — the scientific term for fear of clowns — aren’t the only ones getting traumatized by the latest round of ads for “American Horror Story: Cult” featuring clowns and other creepy-looking people with small holes puncturing their faces, tongues and brains. There’s a lesser-known phobia out there being majorly triggered, and it’s called trypophobia.

Not officially recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, some medical experts believe trypophobia to be — get this — a fear of holes. Sufferers claim that just seeing little clusters of holes in different formations can lead to feelings of disgust or fear and, in more serious cases, panic attacks. Such things as honeycombs, strawberries, coral, pomegranates and condensation are common triggers for people with the phobia, along with certain insects, amphibians and mammals with spotted skin and fur.

People who claim to suffer from the condition are not happy about the show’s phobia-triggering ads, which are obviously intentional. Season 7’s entire plot line centers around fears and phobias, so expect to see a lot of clowns, blood, confined spaces and, yes, holes. Social media users have been blocking the show’s Twitter account and expressing extreme outrage over the promos. One user even deemed it “disgusting and irresponsible” to air them.

According to a recent study conducted by psychological scientists Geoff Cole and Arnold Wilkins, around 16 percent of participants reported trypophobic reactions when viewing images of holey objects. They believe there is a less-than-obvious “ancient evolutionary” root of the condition: When people view the clusters of holes, “part of the brain is telling people that they are looking at a poisonous animal,” explains Cole. They also maintain that all of us may react to this type of images without even knowing it. “We think that everyone has trypophobic tendencies, even though they may not be aware of it,” says Cole. “We found that people who don’t have the phobia still rate trypophobic images as less comfortable to look at than other images.”

If these images are making you feel more anxious than usual, you should probably talk to a medical expert. And if you do suffer from trypophobia, you may want to think about avoiding this season of “American Horror Story.”

What Do YOU Think?

Have you ever heard of trypophobia? How do you feel when you look at the latest “American Horror Story: Cult” promotional materials? Do you suffer from any phobias?

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