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Coulrophobia (fear of clowns): causes, symptoms and treatment

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Clowns tend to produce diverse sensations and emotions In us. We generally associate them with fun and endearing moments; to the pure entertainment of when we were children and we enjoyed their occurrences.

However, for a small percentage of the population, the figure of the clown is associated with sensations negative and unpleasant, to the point that they feel real dread. It is what is known as'coulrophobia'or fear of clowns.

The fear of clowns: the role of the subconscious in coulrophobia

The phobia of clowns is usually closely related to latent emotional causes in the subconscious of the person, with which there is no simple treatment to cure coulrophobia. However, there are different treatment methods and techniques that can help those who suffer from this fear with a good rate of improvement.

Symptoms of coulrophobia

The visible part of the clown phobia is panic, afraid and the anguish of the phobic in the presence of the image of the clown. Although it is common for this fear to be perceived as something ridiculous or funny by third parties, the subject who experiences the phobia of clowns can trigger severe

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anxiety attacks in the situations described.

Others associated symptoms to fear of clowns are:

  • Sensation of intense fear
  • Tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Tachycardia and an irregular heartbeat sensation
  • Difficulty in breathing

Causes of clown phobia

The causes responsible for this irrational phobia are various, and each case is unique. Most of the people affected by coulrophobia report having experienced a negative personal experience around the figure of a clown. However, most experts in clinical psychology and phobias argue that the root cause is would find in the imaginary created by the media (tv, cinema, series) about the clowns.

The figure of the clown has been used regularly in horror films as a technique to cause fear to the viewer. Thus, the filmmaker creates a very effective cognitive dissonance, using a figure commonly associated with entertainment and fun as the opposite: a sadist or a psychopath, thus surprising the public.

There is also a large consensus among mental health professionals that one of the main causes of coulrophobia is due to the characteristics of makeup used by clowns. The bright colors, the exaggerated eyes and smiles, the red nose, are shocking stimuli to the mind of a child, and they can become scary, in the same way that some children are also afraid to sit on the lap from Santa claus.

The fear of clowns, therefore, may have one of its origins in the distrust generated by the histrionically made-up face, which does not allow a glimpse of the authentic facial expression.

Treatment for coulrophobia

Many parents choose to try to prevent their children with fear of clowns from finding themselves in situations where there are clowns, such as birthday parties. This may seem like a reasonable measure if the fear is very intense, but the truth is that clowns can appear in other different contexts. The best treatment to overcome coulrophobia is the one that a professional in psychotherapy can develop based on a good diagnosis, to adapt the remedy to the causes of irrational fear.

The most common treatment techniques and methods to combat clown phobia often include psychological therapy., which through habituation, allows people with phobia to progressively make contact with the cause of fear (the clowns, in this case), so that the bad feelings gradually diminish gradual.

In the course of the psychotherapy based on desensitization, the anguish experienced should diminish. The first sessions usually revolve around discussion and reflection on fear, to later begin to see images related to the object of phobia: clowns. If the treatment is working, the patient should be able to be comfortable and without suffering any of the symptoms of coulrophobia even in the presence of clowns in the same room. The desensitization process allows people with clown phobia to gradually become familiar with their fear and, finally, to become desensitized to the phobia, overcoming it.

Bibliographic references:

  • Durwin, J. (2010). Coulrophobia & The Trickster. Trinity.
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