Overcoming a Fear of Clowns

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Everyone has some type of fear, regardless of its severity. Some people are afraid of bugs, while others are afraid of dogs or even the dark. One fear that is more common than many people may realize is the fear of clowns. The clinical term for fear of clowns is coulrophobia, and people with coulrophobia can have a mild aversion to clowns, to a full-fledged phobia that causes potentially embarrassing behavior. If you have a fear of clowns and you feel that it’s taking over your life, then the following tips should help you to cope with and possibly even significantly minimize this potentially debilitating condition.

Mild fear to severe phobia fear of clowns

Some children and adults may have a mild fear or dislike of clowns, and they are typically able to control themselves when forced to come into contact with creepy clowns. However, other individuals suffer from a much more serious form of the fear of clowns which causes them to experience severe panic attacks, including difficulty breathing, profuse perspiration and more. In order to properly diagnose your condition and its level of severity, you will need to seek the assistance of a professional.

Diagnosing fear of clowns

There is often not a need to diagnose coulrophobia, as it is quite evident when it occurs. However, if your condition is extremely severe then you might opt to seek professional help from a licensed psychologist who can diagnose and treat your phobia fear of clowns. There are psychologists who specialize in treating phobias, and if you would prefer to have a mental health professional who specializes in irrational fears, then you might need to search for one outside your local area. You might be lucky enough to have one available in your area, however.

Cause of fear of clowns phobia

There has not been a great deal of research done on coulrophobia to determine the exact cause, but according to Trinity University Specialist, Joseph Durwin, there are two probable reasons for this disorder. One of the explanations that he proposes is that a child may develop coulrophobia after experiencing a terrifying encounter with a menacing or creepy clown at a young age. His other theory is that mass media induces these fears due to the manner in which clowns are depicted in the media. Despite his two theories, neither is acceptable to him, which is why he continues to research this topic in order to learn as much as possible.

Studies regarding clowns & children

In 2008, the University of Sheffield decided to take a poll in order to determine which type of décor would be most appreciated on the children’s wing of the university hospital. 250 children between the ages of 4 and 16 were included in the poll. Researchers were astounded to discover that a large percentage of the entire group disliked clowns in some manner, and many of them were truly fearful of clowns, even if they had never had a negative experience with one. The children were shown photos of clowns, and it was noted that “friendly” clowns were feared or disliked just as vehemently as the “evil” ones.

Hollywood’s role in coulrophobia

You have probably noticed the various “killer clown” movies that have been released over the years. The extremely scary clowns in these movies certainly don’t make your fear any better, and in fact, seeing the previews of a movie with a maniacal clown as its main character can definitely trigger an episode for you.

The origin of clowns dates back to 2400 BC, when clowns were looked upon as religious figures. By the early 1800’s, the depiction of clown evolved into the silly character with white paint on its face that most people know today. By the 1900’s, writers and movie producers began incorporating “dark humor” in with their clown plots in order to entertain many audiences. Once the idea was ignited and producers discovered how much the public enjoyed the “killer clown” persona, their enthusiasm to create increasingly more only increased.

Treating coulrophobia

There are various treatments for coulrophobia – fear of clowns, and the specific treatment that will be recommended for you will depend on the severity of your condition as well as the cause. There is no treatment that specifically treats coulrophobia; however, the therapist that you choose will approach your treatment as he or she would with any type of phobia. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common treatment which can teach you more appropriate ways to cope and react whenever faced with scary clowns. It may take an extended period of time to help, if your fear of clowns is severe, but if you’re dedicated and stick with it, then CBT can be very effective, though there is no guarantee.

Another possible treatment which might invoke fear in you simply by thinking about it is exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is a specific type of treatment that entails exposing you to clowns in order to rid you of your extreme fear. The therapy would start out with a few, infrequent exposures and build up until you can tolerate being in the presence of clowns even more. There is no guarantee that exposure therapy will work, and in some individuals it can have a counteractive effect. However, if you are willing and your therapist thinks it could help, then it’s certainly worth a try.

There is no medication that is going to treat your fear of clowns, but if you experience anxiety on a regular basis as a result of your fear, then you could be prescribed one of many anti-anxiety drugs that can relieve your anxiety. You may be prescribed sedatives to take on an as-needed basis, such as if you were to unexpectedly encounter a clown which could trigger a massive panic attack.

Coping with fear of clowns

Since clowns can be seen everywhere: on television, in movies, at stores, school, work—just about any place, it can be difficult to totally avoid this popular character. In order to prevent an episode that ends with you totally embarrassing yourself if you should happen to see a clown while in a public place, here are some tips that might help.

  • Close your eyes and take long, deep breaths.
  • Imagine that you are sitting on a relaxing beach where no clowns are present.
  • Remind yourself that the clown that triggered your episode is not real and is only a ploy to scare—or entertain people.
  • Practice any tips that your therapist may have taught you, if possible.
  • Applaud yourself if you were able to successfully avert a full-fledged attack.

A fear of clowns can be a potentially unbearable condition that can have a negative impact on a person’s life, since clowns can’t always be avoided. Clowns are everywhere we go, especially on Halloween. If you feel that your fear of clowns has worsened to the point where it is debilitating and is interfering with your life, then you should definitely seek the help of a mental health professional. Your coulrophobia doesn’t mean that you are “crazy,” but merely suffer from a condition. There is hope available, and the right psychologist can help you control your fear so that it doesn’t continue to rule your life.

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