Sunday, May 3, 2015

Coulrophobia: The Fear of Clowns

Everyone experiences a fear of something at some time in their lives. Fear is natural, but sometimes it becomes irrational and develops into a phobia. A phobia is a strong, persistent fear of situations, objects, activities or persons. The main symptom is an excessive a unreasonable desire to avoid the feared subject. One particular phobia affects as many as one in seven people. Coulrophobia, the fear of clowns, is clinically known.

Coulrophobia is the official name for the fear of clowns. This condition is one of the most remarked-upon phobias on the Internet. Coulrophobia was coined during the 1990's and is based on the Greek word Koulon or limb. Related derivatives are suggestive of stilts and stilt walking. For example the Greek word Kolobathristes means one who goes on stilts. Clowns are often known to walk on stilts and so this how the relationship developed and the word Coulrophobia was made.

Those who suffer from Coulrophobia, do so, for many reasons. The most fear-inducing aspects of clowns is the heavy make-up that is accompanied by the big red nose and different color hair. These things completely conceal the identity of the wearer. It is also possible that the costume conceals a darker personality. Although clowns are known for being happy and creating a fun atmosphere, Coulrophobes tend to fear who the clown is as a real person.

Another reason for fearing clowns, is the clowns ability to act outside social boundaries. Clowns have been around for thousands of years and they serve an unique role in many societies. In Egypt and China as early as 1800 B.C. Court Jesters were allowed to mock and criticize Kings when no one else was allowed to. They can get in your face and squirt you with water and generally make fun of you without suffering any consequences. It is because of this that some people feel uncomfortable in the presence of a clown.

Coulrophobia is most commonly triggered by a traumatic experience during childhood. Authors and Screenwriters also play a role in the fear of clowns by portraying clowns as evil. Stephen King did this best in his novel “IT”, which is now also a movie. Stephen King's starring character is an evil clown who is called Pennywise. Pennywise harasses and kills young children. Not only is the clown evil, but it is very unattractive with sharp, yellowed teeth. The movie Poltergeist also did a good job in portraying an evil clown. The clown comes to life and attempts to strangle a young boy. Try getting that out of your head while you’re at the circus surrounded by clowns. One other fictional evil clown is the Joker, Batman's clown-like nemesis.

Fictional evil clowns are one thing, but it's the real-life evil clowns that create the worst images for Coulrophobes. John Wayne Gacy was convicted in 1978 for sexually abusing and murdering thirty-three young men and boys. During the time he was doing these horrible acts, he was performing as “Pogo” or “Patches” at children's parties and also at hospitals. Gacy's favorite oil painting subject, while on death row, was also clowns.

Phobia symptoms include shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, sweating, nausea, and an overall feeling of dread. Phobias are the most common form of anxiety disorders. It is estimated that between 8.7% and 18.1% of Americans suffer from phobias. So whether you experience Coulrophobia or one of the many other phobias, you are not alone.


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