Clowns Through The Ages
Clowns have existed way before the silver screen, or even the circus. Royal entertainers have been referenced in ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome and China, though the word clown did not come into use until the 16th century.
Around this time in Italy, Commedia dellarte gave the Harlequin archetype to the world. Harlequin – or Arlecchino – was a witty and wily servant character dressed in colourful diamond patches . The actor playing the Harlequin was often an acrobat or magician, performing stunts and slapstick.
In the 1800s, English performer Joseph Grimaldi made the clown role more central in the theatre. Grimaldi was responsible for the pantomime tradition of audience participation and was a master of physical comedy. Clowns known as Joeys – with the brightly-coloured face paint we know today – were affectionately named after Grimaldis clown character.
What If Medications Or Lifestyle Changes Dont Improve My Symptoms
If your symptoms dont improve, your healthcare provider may recommend more specialized therapies:
- Iontophoresis: You place your hands or feet in a shallow tub of tap water. A special device emits a low electrical current through the water, blocking sweat glands over time. Each treatment takes 10 to 20 minutes. You may need repeated treatments. Insurance may cover the equipment, enabling you to do the therapy at home.
- Botox® injections: Injecting botulinum toxin into an overactive nerve can stop sweat production for months at a time. Treatments must be repeated and can be costly.
- Microwave therapy: Your provider places a high-tech device against the affected area. The device emits thermal energy , which destroys sweat glands permanently. Providers perform this hour-long procedure in their office. It can significantly reduce underarm sweating for good.
How Clowns Are Portrayed In History
According to the Smithsonian, clowns have been around for centuries in every culture. In some eras, clowns were the only people allowed to mock the powers that be. They were given leeway to make light of the faults and shortcomings of nobility. They were the embodiment of pure mischief. Perhaps their mischievous roots have paved the way for the more terrifying clowns of our century.
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The Symptoms Of Coulrophobia
Common symptoms that can occur with people having coulrophobia are:
- Intense and irrelevant fear of clowns and coming across one
- Fleeing away from a clown immediately even when it doesnt pose any danger
- Instant reactions such as crying and screaming
- Avoiding amusement parks, parades and fetes to avoid clowns only
- Fear is triggered even by seeing accessory such as a hat or shows of a clown
- Realizing that the fear is irrational
- Panic attacks upon such fearful experience
- Physical symptoms such as trembling, trouble in breathing, increased heart rate, sweating and clammy hands, nausea or vomiting, dizziness or fainting, abdominal uneasiness and feeling hot
The Uncanny Valley Effect
Its important to remember that clowns are people. People in elaborate costumes, but people nonetheless. As a result, they have human bodies and faces, like everyone else. But this is where problems arise.
The uncanny valley effect is a phenomenon whereby things that look human but arent quite there are incredibly unsettling. It appears to be a fundamental reflex. Slap a pair of googly eyes on a sock and youve got yourself a loveable puppet that nobody has any issue with, but a highly-realistic android with an almost-but-not-quite-identical face to that of a real human is often very off-putting. Ventriloquist dummies share a similar scary reputation to clowns, likely for this reason.
One theory is that they make us think of death and corpses which should be avoided due to danger and risk of illness. But whatever the underlying cause, human faces that deviate from the norm are upsetting. And clown faces differ in very elaborate ways the huge painted-on smiles, the crude colours, the greatly-exaggerated eyes, all of these and more combine to provide a recognisably-human face which doesnt behave as it should, which is very unsettling on a deep subconscious level.
This is doubly true if the painted-on expression doesnt match the actual one. The brain doesnt deal with such inconsistent stimulus very well, which would cause further discomfort.
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Unhappy And Evil Clowns: Another Possible Origin Of Coulrophobia
The first modern clown was a British entertainer named Joey Grimaldi who lived at the beginning of the 19th century.
He painted his face white and used rouge to stain his cheeks red. He also used paint to exaggerate his facial features.
Grimaldi was well known, a celebrity of his time, and because of this everyone knew the sad story of his life, hidden underneath his entertaining shows.
Grimaldis wife died giving birth to their first son, who eventually became an alcoholic and died when he was only 30 years old.The acts Grimaldi performed in his shows eventually weakened his joints, leaving him in pain. He also had respiratory problems.
This example shows how a life filled with misfortune can be hidden under a funny mask and a clowns silliness.
When he wasnt acting, Grimaldi was extremely melancholic and suffered from depression.
He died bankrupt in 1837, and Charles Dickens wrote about his story.
However, Dickens s story was much more horrifying than the real one, and people started to make associations between clowns and sadness, thanks to Dickenss publications in The Pickwick Papers.Another character with a gloomy life was the mime Jean-Gaspard Deburau, a Frenchman who went by the stage name Pierrot.
The story goes that Pierrot once killed a child by hitting him with a cane. Deburau was acquitted, but it is believed that he attacked the child after he shouted insults at him in the street.
What Causes A Fear Of Clowns
Phobias often come from a variety of sources usually a deeply traumatic and frightening event. Occasionally, however, youll come across a fear with roots you cant identify, meaning you dont know why youre so intensely afraid of the thing in question. You just are.
In the case of coulrophobia, there are a few likely causes:
- Scary movies. Theres a connection between scary clowns in media and people being intensely afraid of them. Viewing too many scary movies with clowns at an impressionable age can have a lasting impact even if it was just once at a friends sleepover.
- Traumatic experiences. Having an experience that involves a clown where you were paralyzed with terror or were unable to escape the situation could be classified as a traumatic experience. Your brain and body would be wired from that point on to flee any situation involving clowns. While this isnt always the case, its possible that your phobia may be tied to traumas in your life, and its important to discuss this as a possible cause with a trusted therapist or family member.
- Learned phobia. This one is a little less common, but its equally possible that you may have learned your fear of clowns from a loved one or trusted authority figure. We learn rules about the world from our parents and other adults, so seeing your mom or older sibling terrified of clowns may have taught you that clowns are a thing to fear.
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Coulrophobia A Fear Of Clowns
A fear of clowns, or to give it the correct name Coulrophobia, is something very much in the news at the moment with newspaper reports of people dressing up as clowns to scare others. To many people this may seem like good wholehearted fun but when you bear in mind that a fear of clowns is one of the most common phobias this is no laughing matter. So, why is Coulrophobia so common and what exactly is it based on?
Fear Of Clowns And Mimes
Important Note: This article was written prior to 2010 and is now outdated. Please use my newest advancement, Optimal EFT. It is more efficient, more powerful and clearly explained in my free e-book, The Unseen Therapist. Best wishes, Gary
Jo-Anne Eadie gave a group EFT presentation where she met a mid-20’s lady with an EXTRAORDINARILY INTENSE phobia of clowns and mimes. Jo-Anne shares her insights, language and the use of humor in this detailed case. The article is very professionally done and the approaches are useful for a wide variety of issues .
I recently demonstrated EFT to a Government Sponsored Group. After one of the breaks, a mid 20’s woman asked to clear a very severe phobia to “C”. She could not say the word, or write the word and her friend told me that “C” stood for clowns.
On a scale of 1-10, she was a 100+
We began with “Even though I am terrified of clowns, I deeply love and accept myself” With small reminders of all the different things about clowns that she didn’t like. Her intensity was now at a 9 1/2.
“Even though my father didn’t mean to scare me with the movie”
“Even though my mother tried to reassure me”
“Even though I thought about it all day”
“Even though I had nightmares that wouldn’t go away”
“Even though I think they will kill me” She was down to nine
“Even though other people think that C’s are funny, I know they are going to get me”
“Even though I feel this fear in my solar plexis and my heart”
Total time: 35 minutes
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Coulrophobia: Fear Of Clowns
Remember that ailurophobia is the irrational fear of cat? Well, coulrophobia is the irrational fear of clowns. It comes from the Greek word kolobathristes meaning one that goes on stilts and phobos meaning fear .
Clown phobia is quite common in small children, but in some, the fear persists well into adulthood. I’ve read that up to 1 in every 7 people have it to some degree, though the exact number is very hard to pin down.
It’s easy to make fun of clown phobia But it can be quite a dramatic and overpowering fear in adults. Like this lady who is scared to death of clowns:
So why are people afraid of clowns? Most phobia started in childhood, but in some, fear of clown is sparked by reading about one or watching one in horror movies, even campy ones . Indeed, the theme of evil clown is quite common in American pop culture.
Perhaps some clowns are truly evil. Like serial killer John Wayne Gacy aka The Killer Clown. Gacy, who was convicted for the rape and murder of 33 boys and young men in the 1970s liked to dress up as “Pogo the clown” in neighborhood block parties to entertain little children. After he was caught and convicted, Gacy spent his days on death row painting – you’ve guessed it – clowns.
John Wayne Gacy’s Pogo and Clown Skull
People are apt to overanalyze coulrophobia, though they can come up with interesting reasons. Kathryn Cillick at Phobialist came up with this explanation:
Now I don’t find clowns scary. I find them creepy. How about you?
What Does Coulrophobia Mean
Coulrophobia is the abnormal fear of clowns.
Some people have phobias, which are fears associated with specific objects or activities. These abnormal fears are typically considered irrational because the object of the fear isnt usually harmful. Often, these fears are formed around a traumatic event.
Many people have a fear of clowns, but usually it doesnt rise to the level of true coulrophobia.
Example: I could never go to the circus because I have coulrophobia.
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Where Does Coulrophobia Come From
Coulrophobia follows the same pattern as many words for specific phobias, such as arachnophobia . The -phobia part comes from a Greek word meaning fear. The first part of coulrophobia is likely based on the Greek word kolon, meaning limb, perhaps in reference to stilts, which many clowns walk on in circus acts.
The concept of the fear of clowns has been magnified by pop culture, with many horror movies based on this idea. But clinically diagnosed coulrophobia is uncommon. Many behavioral psychologists suggest that coulrophobia symptoms, such as fear or discomfort, are found in many people, but not many people actually experience the crippling anxiety and dread associated with the condition.
The fear of clowns is not fully understood, but research suggests that their exaggerated facial makeup may be to blame.
Coulrophobia, like other -phobia words, is more often used in formal settings, since the more straightforward phrase fear of clowns usually suffices.
Why Do Some People Seek Pleasure In Being Scared
As part of the fight or flight response, we not only experience the release of cortisol, but also opioids and endorphins chemicals released by the body in times of fear, stress, pain and pleasure. Some people really like the feeling of heightened arousal and therefore the pleasure overrides the negative feelings of fear and stress, so they actually enjoy feeling on edge.
An example of this is going on a rollercoaster. Some people experience pleasure, laughter and an adrenaline rush while others hate it and just feel scared. It is all about how you manage your emotions and the reason why people seek pleasure from experiences such as this is because they are better able to regulate or understand their emotional responses.
The same goes for haunted houses and ghost trains, or zombie experiences, some people are more easily able to switch on and off from what is real and not real they are able to experience the arousal without the fear. In other words, some of us enjoy aspects of the body and brain threat response in a safe environment while others still hate it!
Fearful experiences such as rollercoaster rides or scary movies can also increase bonding with friends as you share increases in arousal but in a positive way emotions are contagious so you can share being scared but in a fun safe way.
The rush of pleasurable chemicals and hormones can also become very addictive and thats why you get pleasure seekers.
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What Causes Hyperhidrosis
Sweating is how your body cools itself when it gets too hot . Nerves tell your sweat glands to start working. In hyperhidrosis, certain sweat glands work overtime for no apparent reason, producing sweat that you dont need.
Focal hyperhidrosis commonly results from:
- Certain odors and foods, including citric acid, coffee, chocolate, peanut butter and spices.
- Emotional stress, especially anxiety.
- Severe psychological stress.
- Some prescription drugs, including certain antidepressants and insulins .
In secondary hyperhidrosis, a medical condition or medication causes you to sweat more than usual. Medical experts havent uncovered what causes the body to produce extra sweat in focal hyperhidrosis.
How Are Phobias Diagnosed
Most phobias are diagnosed by talking with a therapist or mental health professional, who then consults the diagnostic guidelines for that particular phobia in order to decide the best treatment moving forward. In the case of coulrophobia, things are a little trickier.
Since coulrophobia is not listed as an official phobia in the DSM-5, you may simply need to meet with a therapist to discuss your fear of clowns and the ways that fear seems to be impacting your life. Talk through what happens in your mind and body when you see a clown shortness of breath, dizziness, panic, or anxiety, for example.
Once your therapist knows your experience, they can work with you to find a way to treat and manage your phobia.
Most phobias are treated with a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and at-home remedies or techniques.
Some treatments you can discuss with your therapist include, but are not limited to:
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Scared Of Clowns Coulrophobia Is More Common Than You Think
A phobia is the irrational fear or hatred of something. Phobias tend to involve such an intense fear that they lead the individual to avoid certain situations in which they may encounter the things they fear. It even has the potential to heavily impact a persons overall quality of life, especially if the person begins avoiding certain activities or events they might enjoy because of their phobia. Coulrophobia specifically refers to the condition of having an overwhelming fear of clowns. It might include seeing a picture, encountering a clown in person, or even thinking of one.
Clowns Have One Archetype That Is Seen As Evil
Probably one of the greatest contributors to the fear of clowns is the bad clown persona. Clowns are used in horror movies and as scare tactics throughout different cultures. In literature, it was seen in Edgar Allen Poes 19th century short story Hop-Frog. As a jester, he takes revenge over the king and his cabinet by murdering them in front of his guests.
Stephen Kings IT has been brought to the film industry on several occasions to create lasting and disturbing memories with the clown Pennywise. The Joker has been an iconic character in comic books, television, and movies. His psychotic, trickster humor is mixed with a sadistic nature that has made him compelling and terrifying for decades.
One of the more classic horror movie scenes includes a clown terrorizing a child as he tries to fall asleep. Poltergeist pairs the creepy clown concept with the natural discomfort kids tend to face when laying in the dark as they attempt to fall asleep. There have even been examples of the evil clown coming to life in a sense. In the 1970s, John Gacy sexually assaulted and murdered over 30 boys and young men. He was eventually convicted and executed for those killings. Gacy was dubbed the Killer Clown because he would dress up as a clown for special events and even childrens parties.
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