Generally, clowns are associated with events such as children’s parties, they are characters created with the purpose of entertaining and making both children and adults laugh. However, for a small part of the population these represent less positive feelings . The fear of clowns is called coulrophobia.

This is a phobia that usually occurs in most cases in children and also in adolescents. According to statistics, in these registries there is still a prevalence in diagnoses made in people aged from 7 to 12 years. However, as with other types of phobias, it seems to have no limitations regarding the gender of the patients.

It is usually when the reasons why this condition develops in some individuals will be analyzed, they are usually related to latent emotional causes in the subconscious . This means that the single image of a clown has an important symbolic representation, in this case it has a negative connotation.

Being is a condition that can be treated by applying treatments based on cognitive behavioral therapies . But there are also various other methodologies, each of which is adapted to the needs of the patient and the characteristics of their condition. We will delve into this topic below.

What is coulrophobia? 

In order to define what coulrophobia is, an etymological analysis of this term must first be done. Its origin is found in the Greek language, specifically it comes from the union of two words, the first is κωλοβαθριστής which means “person who walks on stilts” and the second is φόβος which means fear. This word partly refers to one of the activities that clowns commonly do on stage.

Coulrophobia is the fear of clowns, rejection arises from the association with unpleasant and negative feelings of these characters. It is normal that these produce different sensations in each person, some of them may feel more affected than others. Danger is perceived in them , as well as the possibility that they may attack or do some kind of damage.

Until now, most of the registered cases of this type are found in the population made up of children. But also the young population made up of adolescents and young adults , this means that it is a condition that begins to manifest itself from an early age. In the same way, it will be presented in both men and women.

What are the characteristics of coulrophobia? 

The main characteristic of coulrophobia is fear and rejection of clowns. This means that the patient cannot observe, relate to or simply be in contact with a clown, this same one can be represented by a person disguised as this character. Even people with this condition feel rejection by the images of clowns represented in comics or cartoons on television.

The feeling of panic and anguish is generated immediately, often these people also feel ashamed. This is because it is a fear that is usually perceived as funny or ridiculous from other people’s perspective. This is a highly stressful experience for which you can suffer severe attacks of anxiety, which begins to manifest unforeseen and uncontrollable reactions.

Depending on the individual, distinctive behavioral changes can be observed . The person will stop acting as he usually does, due to the growing panic he may try to flee or instead defend himself. Taking into consideration that they perceive danger in clowns, they will carry out any action or decision that allows them to feel safe.

Physiologically, symptoms such as tremors, increased body sweating, tachycardia, irregular breathing, speech difficulties, dizziness, nausea and others begin to manifest. It is important to mention that these sudden changes also affect behavior , in addition the patient himself manifests not having control of himself.

What are your causes? 

The explanation why some people are more prone to developing coulrophobia can be found in the experimentation of certain negative personal experiences. Regarding the topic of phobias, it is common to mention trauma as the point of origin. This means that any experience that has a negative connotation will serve as an example in the future to associate new experiences with similar characteristics.

It should be taken into account that the causes are varied and that they also correspond to the personal experiences of each patient. Various hypotheses have been formulated. In clinical psychology, phobias are described as the consequences generated by the influence of the collective imagination . At present, mention could be made of the media, more specifically series and movies.

Taking into consideration the above, it has become very popular to create fictional characters that physically represent clowns; but they have negative qualities and personalities . Therefore, it is normal for some people to feel influenced by these characters belonging to popular culture. It is also important to mention movies such as It or Batman, in both are representations of this type.

It is common for these characters to have become popular in horror movies . They have ceased to be associated with entertainment and fun, today they represent the opposite, becoming the living representation of violence, psychopathy and sadism in addition to evil.

It is also necessary to consider that some people feel rejection by the physical characteristics of these characters. Classic makeup is made up of the use of bright colors, exaggerated smiles, wigs, a red nose, and big shoes combined with flashy outfits. The combination of all these elements contribute to the perception of an unpleasant character for certain individuals.

Some people describe being suspicious of these characters hiding behind masks, makeup, and costumes. Consequently, the origin of the phobia can be found in the rejection of a character who may be hiding his real intentions.

What is your treatment? 

Depending on the results obtained after conducting a psychological evaluation , exactly what is the most appropriate treatment can be identified or designed. Coulrophobia like other phobias can be treated in different ways, until now psychotherapy based on cognitive and behavioral intervention has allowed positive results.

There are different techniques and methods that are integrated into the most common treatments, together they allow to combat this phobia by drastically improving the anxiety that the patient may feel. One of the most used techniques is confrontation, this means that the person must have direct contact like a clown. This will be done progressively so that bad feelings are gradually reduced.

This technique is also called controlled destabilization . A safe way to confront the patient with his fear is by using objects, images or even virtual reality . In this way, the patient will eventually be able to control the symptoms even in the presence of a clown in the same room. Patients become familiar with their reactions and emotions during these situations, desensitization enables people to take control.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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