In recent times during my kids workshops, we have ended up in our safe man-made camp fire [made of battery lights] talking about dealing with anxiety. 

Well the topic has come up more than once about clowns, and even thought we dealt with it in session, I decided it was time to write about it for anyone interested in more information.

The formal term for an extreme fear of clowns is Coulrophobia. 

This translates to fearing one who walks on ‘stilts’

The fear is irrational and you know it.  But you cannot even shake this fear off using logic!!!!

In fact have you noticed how movies have created “evil” clowns!!!

And what about the the epidemic of the scary clown sightings in America in 2016?  The panic even spread to the UK as there was perceptual threat of evil clowns attempting to lure children away. 

We know now that much of it was childish rumours, pranks or hoaxes (with some arrests).

Often it is a childhood experience that leads to a clown phobia: perhaps being terrified by a clown as a child and then the fear has built up over time into a phobia.

Clown phobia may also arise from changes in brain function as phobias develop, or from environment and genetics; where family members who are phobic of clowns pass on the fear via learning or genetics.

Someone with a phobia to a clown may experience anything from a mild form of anxiety (and fear), to a full panic attack.

Some symptoms may include:

  • Headaches
  • Abdominal pains
  • Fainting
  • Light head
  • Palpitations
  • Chest pains
  • Sweaty palms
  • Nausea
  • Crying
  • Shaking
  • Dry mouth
  • Loss of mental stability
  • Sense of unreality
  • Feeling dread
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Preoccupation or focus on clowns or mimes

Avoidance may lead to not attending children’s parties, not watching certain movies or shows, not attending shows or festivals.

One may begin to feel fear or worry about how they will act, if they encounter a clown.  This may keep them awake at night.

Current treatments for clown phobia include:

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT): 

This therapy manages the way you behave and think.

You get the opportunity to break your phobia down into manageable parts.

You also learn how to overcome any negative patterns.

With CBT you work closely with your core beliefs (of yourself, future, and others) and the path of your thoughts – feelings – behaviours.  You get to work out whether these are unhelpful or unrealistic.  You will also work out what you need to change, and then practice this every day, and every time your see or think of the phobia.  If you commit to CBT, this can be very helpful.

Exposure Therapy:

This is a type of CBT aimed at reducing your feelings of distress.  It involves reliving a traumatic experience, even confronting a clown, or dealing with your distressing thoughts in a controlled environment.  Basically, as you learn to cope with facing your fear, your phobic reaction slowly reduces.

You will benefit from also using relaxation techniques on a daily basis e.g. breathing techniques, and you will experience a feeling of control when you see or think of your fear /phobia [clown].

Relaxation Therapy:

Anything that works for you e.g. yoga, meditation, any guided imagery, breathing mindfulness etc.

Free Association Therapy:

This is a simple technique that involves you saying anything that comes to your mind.  For example, the therapist can read a bunch of clown related words, and you can respond with the first thing that comes to mind.  It is intended that repressed pieces of memory will surface.  Naturally you need to be in a trusting environment with a trusting therapist for this to work, because you should be able to say anything that comes to mind even if it feels silly.


I hope this has been helpful.  I guess any form of understanding what phobias are, where they may come from, or what treatments are available can be useful.


Amanda Dounis

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