Coulrophobia: Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

This is a very common type of phobia and it prevents people from going to places like fairs, circuses, and theme parks for fear of clowns.

Some people who have this phobia are even afraid of Santa Claus.

Coulrophobia is considered a specific phobia. We can define coulrophobia as the persistent and irrational fear of clowns.

The word “clown” may have evolved from “cloyne,” “clod,” or “colonus,” which means chickweed, farmer, redneck, or someone who lacks common sense.

The word coulrophobia has its root from the Greek word ‘kolon’ which means ‘stilts’ which are often used by clowns and the word ‘phobia’ comes from the Greek word ‘phóbos’ which means ‘fear’.

Causes of coulrophobia

Many believe that the cause of coulrophobia is a traumatic event in early childhood.

These can be a trigger for future events. Some of the more mundane things can be very scary in our early years, say 2-7 years of age.

Real and scary incidents may be forgotten for some time, but it can cause an anxiety or a phobia later in the individual’s life.

Coulrophobia is a specific (or “isolated”) phobia, focused on key factors, not social ones.

Such phobias tend to have some prior trauma (often in childhood and often physically damaging) as a root cause, fear of bees may stem from an injury in childhood.

Parenting can also play a role, such as parental warnings of a direct threat, which is especially notable in cases where a threat is more imminent.

An allergy to bees or peanut butter, for example, would naturally reinforce a real medical concern.

Genetics and hereditary factors can also play a role in specific phobias, especially those related to some danger of injury.

A primary “fight or flight” reflex can be more easily triggered in those with a genetic predisposition to do so.

External experiences reinforce or develop fear, in this type of phobias, especially when it is a family member or a close friend.

In extreme cases, the news, television, movies, can have a negative effect on coulrophobia.

As with most phobias, coulrophobia is a subconscious overprotective mechanism, rooted in unresolved emotional conflict.


Coulrophobia is one of the 10 most common phobias.

Symptoms can range from anxiety attacks , even panic attacks , when in the presence of people with clown suits or other strange dress and makeup, even Santa Claus costumes.

Among the most common symptoms that occur at the idea or contact with a clown are:

  • Extreme anxiety.
  • Panic.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Presence of rapid breathing.
  • Strong heart palpitations.
  • Excessive sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth.
  • Confusion and inability to articulate clearly.
  • Lack of concentration.
  • Irritability
  • The tremors.
  • Appearance of feelings of helplessness.
  • Obsession with the topic of phobia.
  • Fear or feelings of loss of control
  • Avoidance behavior.
  • Headaches.

Treatments for coulrophobia

The road to recovery begins with learning coping mechanisms such as distraction techniques, breathing exercises, meditation techniques, and habit strategies for relaxation.

Then with cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy, the patient will progress.

The first step of these therapies would be the presentation to the patient of small images of happy clowns, not the horror clowns of the movies like the clown in the movie “It”, after the person feels comfortable, they will be gradually shown. Larger images and then some of the most dramatically dressed clown images will be added.

After that it would be considered an encounter with a clown or a friend dressed in a clown costume. A person who knows each other and is very close will not cause you any additional distress.

Then, when the patient is comfortable, he will progress to encounters with unfamiliar clowns until he is comfortable in these situations.

Treatment can also include medications, hypnotherapy, and various therapies such as group therapies, psychotherapy, energy psychology, designed to deal with coulrophobia until the patient manages the situation more rationally.

Unless this phobia is extremely severe, it is likely to be a less intrusive approach to avoiding clowns and other triggers.

If it is necessary to face this fear in principle, it should be done gradually and very carefully. Don’t take the full immersion approach, but dive into the water one finger at a time.

Mental health conditions can be limiting and very painful.

There are no guaranteed cures or quick fixes, be it therapies, drugs, nutrition, herbs, or anything else.