Understanding Coulrophobia (the Fear of Clowns)
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Understanding Coulrophobia (the Fear of Clowns)

A look at the fear of clowns and how to help sufferers.

There are many people who have a real fear of clowns, known as Coulrophobia (a term that only made its way into the dictionary since the past 15-20 years).  People with the phobia are filled with fear, discomfort, dread, or anxiety in the presence of clowns.


The idea of masquerading one's appearance goes back for centuries, when using tribal masks and paints to act out or perform rituals pertaining to the history or religion of a group of people.  This evolved into using masks and costumes to entertain and amuse crowds, thus establishing the role of clowns and court jesters who performed for kings, queens, pharaohs, and emperors.

Why Get Scared?

To those who have coulrophobia, it is unsettling that clowns wear falsely cheery expressions.  Not being able to see a clown's real features can make it hard to trust him or her, or feel at ease around that person.  Add a wig, costume, and bulky shoes, and you could be staring in the face of a killer without knowing it!  Of course, it doesn't help that movies like It or Clownhouse exist to make it even easier for those fears to perpetuate.  Coulrophobes may have other similarly linked fears, such as with fearing other masked or costumed characters, or have general anxiety disorder among crowds and strangers.

How to Help Those Who Fear

Speaking from experience, I can say that the best thing you can do for a person who is afraid of clowns is to not make the problem worse by teasing or tricking the sufferer into being around clowns or clown paraphernalia.  If the phobia is mild, it might be possible to only feel somewhat uncomfortable around clowns and still remain sociable with others.  If that is the case, the person with the phobia has the ability to walk away from what turns him or her off about clowns, and does not suffer long-lasting effects from seeing them. 

The real problem is when the discomfort of seeing or being around clowns is so severe that the sufferer goes out of his or her way to avoid them, or worries about being attacked or chased by clowns.  Once the mind is convinced of the danger, it is not easy to persuade a person otherwise.  Attempts at doing so may actually make it worse.  If someone you love seems paralyzed by their fear of clowns, it might be necessary to intervene with professional help.  Otherwise, just like a myriad of phobias that people experience on a daily basis to one degree or another without it hampering their quality of life, you don't have to feel the need to "cure" coulrophobes of their problem.  Just like we all have preferences, which is what makes us unique, no one should ever be forced into one mindset or the other if it isn't harming them or others around them.  After all, clowns do bring joy to countless numbers of people, celebrating the art of comedy and the gift of laughter with those who need it - they just aren't for everybody.

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Comments (1)

Interesting information about coulrophobia. I can see why people have this, I wouldn't say I have it but you hit the nail on the head with 'Not being able to see a clown’s real features can make it hard to trust him or her' I think this goes for anyone with a mask etc for me anyway.