The fear of clowns

Clowns have been around for a long time as entertainment for little kids at birthday parties and other events. Kids find them amusing, but why are many adults afraid of them? What is it about clowns specifically that causes so many people to fear them? Heres the science behind it.

Why makes people afraid of clowns?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual (DSM), the unrational fear of clowns is described as coulrophobia. It is the the unknown aspect of clowns that seems to scare people the most. You never know what they are going to do next or what they have up their sleeve. Their unpredictability of clowns is what people tend to fear. Because of this many people seem to connect then with the supernatural. Another theory is that people fear them because you never know who they truly are. They hide behind makeup, costumes, wigs, and and more and this seems to cause a sense of panic.

The science behind it

Psychologists say that the tricks that the clowns play cause a rush of emotions that many people seem to find overwhelming. They don’t like the fact that they cant wrap their head around what is happening and they do not like the feeling it causes them. On top of all of that, the recent horror movies that have come out depicting clowns as creepy killers has not helped their image. These movies turned the clowns exaggerated smile into a haunting and diabolic one. If you’re interested to see what the top 10 scariest clown movies are then click here!


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The fear of clowns, coulrophobia, can also most times be linked to anxiety. When people are exposed to clowns in a negative way they seem to have a anxiety response. Although therapists say this is very common, experiencing fear when you see a clown only a few times a year does not mean you need help.

How to treat coulrophobia

Therapists use a strategy called exposure therapy. With this technique you slowly and gradually introduce the patient to whatever it is they fear. Hopefully by the end of this process they will be able to face their fear and get over it. With treating coulrophobia, they might start with just showing the patient a photo of a clown and by the end of the treatment they should be able to watch scary clown movies and not experience a large anxiety response. Therapists have found this to be a very useful technique and is used to cure many different phobias.

Overall, the fear of clowns is not an uncommon one and if you think you may suffer from this there are ways to get help. Its not an irrational fear that only you may have its actually very common and reasonable. I definitely dont have coulrophobia myself but I find clowns a little unsettling with me. Its just the unknown aspect of them that seems a little creepy to me. For now ill just do my best to stay away from them 🙂

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2 thoughts on “The fear of clowns

  1. Melanie Noemi Campos

    Seeing this post about clowns made me relate this to the recent clown sitings in South Carolina.
    Clowns are something that are meant to bring joy to children yet i have met more people who have a fear of them. Clowns are even being used purposely to instill fear now. The clowns in South Carolina for example have been seen trying to lure people into the woods. People linked this strange occurrance to film companies trying to advertise upcoming films, yet even they have claimed it was not their doing. Is this because even they know that clowns are something that should not be joked around about? It is almost like we have been conditioned from a young age to fear them. Unlike children who fear the dentist or the dr’s and get over it when they realize nothing bad will come from it, we as adults and a society have not seemed to outgrow our fear of clowns. Below is a link to an article on the NY times about the recent clown sitings.

  2. Lauren Hile

    I’m not sure if I quite have coulrophobia, but I am, most of the time, terrified of clowns. It might be the way they’re hiding behind their makeup and clothes, or the confusing emotions they tend to cause. (I’m the type of person who feels emotions very heavily, so that might be it.) I remember when I was little my parents had to hide me from clowns, because I would start breaking down. Thankfully that doesn’t happen anymore, but it’s cool to see that there’s an actual science behind it. According to an article by KalliKids, most children are scared of clowns because they aren’t used to seeing an unfamiliar face, or a face depicted as sad or mad, as most clowns are depicted that way. (

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