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What’s The Phobia Of Clowns

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Phobia Of Clowns: Treatment

Why Are We Afraid Of Clowns?

Like any type of phobia, it can be treated by following a certain type of therapy which reduces your anxiety. 15Minutes4Me is an online self-help program which has been developed to treat anxiety, and it thus guides you to reduce your anxiety. You can reduce or overcome your phobia of clowns by following this program.

Can You Be Diagnosed With Coulrophobia

If your fear of clowns is beyond reason or affecting your quality of life, it might be best to see a mental health specialist who can help determine if you have coulrophobia. 

They will ask how you feel when you see a clown, when your fear of clowns started, and if you always respond this way. Theyll also ask if you actively avoid clowns and how behaviors related to the phobia affect your life.

Your provider will also want to rule out any other possible medical conditions that could explain your symptoms, such as paranoid personality disorder and panic disorder .

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.

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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.

The Fear Of Clowns May Result From The Belief That A Clown Is Hiding Something

6. COULROPHOBIA.........."Fear of Clowns"

So what is it about clowns, which are ostensibly a form of children’s entertainment, that can strike fear in up to eight percent of Americans ? Psychologist Dr. Rami Nader told Time that part of the reason clowns instill fear is because they wear makeup. That face paint effectively disguises the person wearing it. “You have a clown with a painted face and a big smile, but you don’t really know what they’re actually feeling. There’s this inherent mistrust that what they’re presenting to you isn’t what they’re actually feeling,” he said.

Similarly, as Britannica author Amy Tikkanen notes, the exaggerated facial characteristics of clown makeup portray the performer as human, yet simultaneously, vaguely “off” to the human brain. What’s more, clowns are, by their very nature, impish, unpredictable, and prone to pranks. “Are they going to squirt water at you or give you a flower?”

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The Uncertainty Of Clowns

If you go to a circus as an adult, you pretty much known what to expect. Lion tamers tame lions. Jugglers juggle. Acrobats perform impressive stunts. And clowns clown around. But that last bit isnt quite as predictable as the others. In a way, the whole point of clowns is that they do things which defy normal behaviour. Unpredictability is something which causes knee-jerk distrust and apprehension in humans. The drunk on public transport, the homeless person yelling in the street, these figures are desperately avoided/ignored by those around them because they clearly arent conforming to societal norms, and thus present a possible threat.

This is even worse if were in a social context, as clowns invariably are. Social anxieties are among the most common in humans, we genuinely fear being judged and mocked by others, whether we know them or not. Have you ever gone to a comedy gig and actively not sat in the front row? Most people do this, for fear of being spoken to and addressed, possibly ridiculed, by the comedian on stage.

A comedian is just a person, but they still prove scary enough in the right context. Lump all the upsetting visual qualities of clowns on top, and youve got a genuine and potent fear reaction.

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Do you feel anxious when you are near clowns? Do you not know the cause? Could we help you? Read more in this article about the symptoms of phobia of clowns and even possible treatment forms to treat your phobia of clowns. Phobia of clowns is a phobia which does not occur often. Sometimes you feel misunderstood when you respond in an anxious way when you see a clown. Still, this is a phobia which you should take seriously.

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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.

The Uncanny Valley Effect

Coulrophobia / Scary Carnival Clown Make-up Tutorial

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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Don’t Paint Clowns With The Same Sponge

Disliking something is not the same as having a phobia. Pennywise could make you jump at the cinema, for example, but a phobia of clowns might cause intense fear and distress at just the sight of one. According to the NHS, phobias might not have one specific cause, but are often acquired in childhood.

Most phobias are created when there is a sensitising event, Adam explains.

A child seeing a stranger dressed up in a strange costume with unknown motives is the likely trigger for the phobia in most people.

But a phobia can also be learned from another place – e.g. from our parents, siblings or from media portrayals, which might be the case with clowns nowadays.

Culturally, there is a general feeling that clowns are creepy, which creates the association of them being something for fear, Adam adds.

The human brain is very good at pattern recognition and generalisation – so once you have an association that clowns are evil or sinister, that association can stick and apply to all clowns.

Psychopathology Life And Society: Coulrophobia: Are You Afraid Of Clowns

Psychopathology, Life, and Society: Coulrophobia: Are you afraid of clowns?

When we think of clowns, one of two visions usually come to mind. Its either the playful, friendly clown at your birthday party or the evil, scary clown that haunts you in your nightmares. The recently release of the movie It inspired me to write about an issue anecdotally reported to psychiatrists by their patients but rarely discussed in the psychiatric literature: coulrophobia, or the phobia of clowns.

What about treatment? There is no literature data specifically addressing the treatment of coulrophobia, although we can possibly infer that, similarly to other specific phobias, it would respond well to cognitive-behavioral therapy. Techniques such as systematic desensitization would probably be of benefit. Despite the curious and unique nature of this condition, we can surely state that patients experiencing enough distress associated with it should surely be encouraged to seek treatment and its importance should not be, by any means, minimized.


  • American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Arlington, VA, American Psychiatric Association, 2013
  • American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. Wahsington DC, American Psychiatric Association, 1994
  • van Venrooij LT, Barnhoorn PC. Coulrophobia: how irrational is fear of clowns? Eur J Pediatr. 2017; 176:677.
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    Terrifying The Master Of Terror

    But if you’re spooked by clowns, you’re in good company. Writer Stephen King, famed master of the horror-fiction genre and creator of the demonic clown Pennywise in the novel “It,” told the Bangor Daily News on Sept. 9 that “clowns really can be terrifying.”

    Does everyone have an inner monologue?

    King admitted that seeing a clown outside of the character’s typical context, such as a circus or a birthday party, could be unnerving yes, even for him.

    “If I saw a clown lurking under a lonely bridge , I’d be scared, too,” King said.

    Clown phobias aside, a typical circus or birthday party clown is unlikely to cause anyone harm. However, officials in Greenville are still on the lookout for people behaving suspiciously while dressed as clowns, and have announced plans to arrest and charge anyone violating standing city ordinances against wearing costumes and identity-concealing masks in public spaces.

    Unless, of course, it happens to be Halloween.

    Originally published on Live Science.

    Never Fear Phobias Can Be Treated

    Dit zijn de allerengste horror

    While phobias are not formally diagnosed, most phobias can be successfully treated and cured. It is best to go to your GP if you have a phobia which you feel interferes with your day-to-day life. They might recommend a combination of psychotherapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy , which aims to change patterns of negative thoughts and behaviours.

    Adam shares a tip for phobics who have a fear of clowns specifically:

    The key is to acknowledge that there is a real person behind the mask – and they often they are very shy, he said.

    Most people that want to be clowns genuinely want to make people laugh and smile, but dont feel they can do it as themselves. The clown costume gives them a persona in which they can be more extroverted.

    Attending a clowning workshop where you watch a person become their clown persona might be an example of a way to unlearn fear associated with clowns.

    Once the phobic connects with the shy and vulnerable person behind the clown costume, then they might feel sorry for the person rather than fear,” Adam adds.

    But he also reminds us that context is important: Obviously, this doesnt apply to those that feature in killer clown videos, as their motive is to create shock or fear as a result of their costume.

    Depending on the type of phobia, avoidance of or exposure to the thing youre scared of might make the phobia worse – so it is always best to consult a GP, as they can recommend the best path to take to treat it.

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    What Causes Coulrophobia

    As stated above, representations of evil clowns in media is a big contributor for instilling this phobia in young or anxious minded adults.

    Clowns and court jesters have been around for thousands of years. Even Emperors and kings in Egypt, China and Europe allowed their court Jesters to mock them where no else could. It was a pretty important position in court. The clown or the Fool was the village idiot who was allowed to be blasphemous. He might have been a harmless eccentric who was obscenely humorous or uninhibited in his sexual acts. In fact: in many Pueblo tribal celebrations, clowns performed sexual acts like masturbation, intercourse, sodomy etc in front of the entire tribe. These associations are known to exist in modern pop culture and media representations.

    Psychologists also believe that, like in case of other specific phobias, the fear of clowns could be deeply rooted in childhood, mainly because children below the age of 4 years are highly reactive to familiar body type and unfamiliar faces. One phobic, for example, recalls having visited a fair as a young girl where she encountered a foul-smelling, yellow-teethed clown who got in her face.

    Can I Take Medicine

    Medicine can be prescribed, but please note that these medications can have side effects and/or withdrawal systems that can be severe. It is also important to note that medicines do not cure phobias, at best they only temporarily suppress the systems. Unfortunately, some people turn to illegal drugs and alcohol to treat their symptoms, which also do not treat phobias, but can cause the person to form an addiction to them. Thankfully, there are treatments for phobias, additional information regarding treatments can be found on the Treatments page.

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    What Is A Phobia

    A phobia is described by the NHS as an overwhelming and debilitating fear of an object, place, situation, feeling or animal.

    They are more pronounced than fears and tend to develop when a person has an exaggerated or unrealistic sense of danger regarding a situation or object.

    If a phobia sufferer doesn’t come into contact with the source of their problem very often it may not affect their life – although in some cases even thinking about the thing they fear can give a person “anticipatory anxiety”.

    If a phobia becomes very severe, the person suffering may organise their life around avoiding the aspect thats causing distress.

    Physical And Psychological Symptoms Of Coulrophobia

    The Roblox fear game…

    Physical and psychological symptoms of this phobia include but are not limited to the following:

    Profuse sweating Crying or screaming from fear Anger or agitation from being near a clown Shortness of breath Anxiousness, anxiety or a severe panic Shaking from fear

    Managing these symptoms are one way of dealing with your fear of clowns, but you can attempt to overcome the phobia by going a bit deeper.

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    What Is Behavioral Therapy And Who Is It For

    Cognitive behavior therapy is a well-studied, effective form of treatment. CBT teaches strategies to help change how your brain reacts to seeing whatever it is that triggers your fear. A therapist will work with you to identify why you fear clowns and cultivate a more rational perception. 

    Another component of CBT is exposure therapy. With exposure therapy, youd likely be shown pictures of clowns. The aim of this is to get you familiar with clowns by exposing you to them. Once you see them more regularly, the idea is you wont be as anxious when encountering a clown in real life . 

    There arent any medications that will treat the underlying cause of coulrophobia. However, if you experience panic attacks, anti-anxiety medications and propranolol can help. 

    If medications are part of your treatment regimen, carry them with you if youre going somewhere you might be triggered. You might feel dizzy or drowsy from the medication, so plan accordingly .

    Harmless Harlequins Or Killer Clowns

    Monsters, ghosts and ghouls, oh my!

    Halloween is right around the corner and people are getting spooked at haunted houses, going out trick-or-treating and looking their scariest for Halloween parties.

    For some people, though, theres one costume that may be more unnerving than the rest: Clowns.

    But why are people afraid of clowns? How did the modern-day jester become a scary Halloween costume and movie icon? Having a clinical phobia of clowns is rare, but it does exist. For most people, a fear of clowns is probably a combination of human psychology, mixed signals and pop culture.

    CoulrophobiaIf you or someone you know experiences extreme fear and panic of something that is ultimately harmless, you may have a phobia.

    A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that fixates an irrational fear on an object thats not actually harmful. Phobias can cause panic attacks, sweating and nausea. There are many types of phobias and many different triggers. General phobias such as agoraphobia are triggered by being in crowds of people, leaving home or traveling alone. Things like heights, blood, animals, spiders and more can trigger isolated phobias. Coulrophobia or literally a fear of someone who walks on stilts, is the unofficial word for the irrational fear of clowns. This term arose sometime around 1980, but is not yet an officially recognized phobia by the World Health Organization.

    And you might want to steer clear of that sewer grate.

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    A Brief Overview Of Coulrophobia

    This week saw the opening of the film sequel to IT . This is one of over 50 films to date rooted in individuals’ fear of clowns, known as coulrophobia. Obviously this is not my specialist area and the only article Ive ever written about clown psychology was a previous article on coulrophilia and an article on the psychology of fancy dress. However, over the past few years I’ve appeared in a number of stories about the British police being inundated with clowns scaring people by jumping out and chasing them. A BBC story for which I was interviewed claimed:

    “Clown costumes tend to exaggerate the facial features and some body parts, such as hands and feet and noses. This can be read as monstrous or deformed as easily as it can be read as comical. The significant aberrations in a clowns face may alter a persons appearance so much that it enters the so-called uncanny valley in which a figure is lifelike enough to be disturbing, but not realistic enough to be pleasantand thus frightens a child so much that they carry this phobia throughout their adult life. According to psychology professor Joseph Durwin at California State University, Northridge, young children are very reactive to a familiar body type with an unfamiliar face. Researchers who have studied the phobia believe there is some correlation to the uncanny valley effect. Additionally, the fact that much clown behavior is transgressive can create feelings of unease.”


    Why Are People Afraid Of Clowns

    Clown terror spreads in France

    verifiedAmy Tikkanen

    Coulrophobia is no laughing matter. This irrational fear of clowns can cause panic and nausea. Although its a rare phobia, many people find clowns creepy if not downright scary. Why? The answer lies partly in the prevalence of evil clowns in popular culturethink Pennywise in Stephen Kings It . However, according to researchers, there are actual psychological reasons why we fear clowns.

    To begin with, a clowns makeup can be unsettling. It hides not only the persons identity but also that persons feelings. Worse, the makeup can result in mixed signals if, for example, the clown has a painted-on smile but is frowning. Then, theres the uncanny nature of the makeup itself. The oversized lips and eyebrows distort the face so that the brain perceives it as human but slightly off. That oddness is heightened by a clowns bizarre costume. In addition, clowns are highly unpredictable as well as mischievous, which puts people on edge. Are they going to squirt water at you or give you a flower?

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    Certain Behaviours Can Be Creepy

    This is the case for some people, according to the work of Frank T. McAndrew, a social psychologist who has become something of an expert in clown fears. He , which can help explain the disconcerting feeling clowns give rise to for many of us.

    McAndrew and colleagues recruited 1,341 volunteers aged 18 to 77 and asked them to fill out a survey about the characteristics and behaviours they saw as creepy. The results showed men are more likely to be seen as creepy, and unpredictable behaviours made people uncomfortable, such as strange patterns of eye contact.

    Clown characteristics such as a big mouth and bulging eyes were not seen as particularly creepy on their own, but they did enhance the creepiness of inappropriate behaviours, like vulgar conversation topics, or bringing lizards to the office. The occupation right at the top of the list for creepiness was, in fact, clowns.

    “The results were consistent with my theory that getting ‘creeped out’ is a response to the ambiguity of threat and that it is only when we are confronted with uncertainty about threat that we get the chills,” said McAndrew.

    “For example, it would be considered rude and strange to run away in the middle of a conversation with someone who is sending out a creepy vibe but is actually harmless; at the same time, it could be perilous to ignore your intuition and engage with that individual if he is, in fact, a threat. The ambivalence leaves you frozen in place, wallowing in discomfort.”

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