Nov 02

Clown Phobia: Getting Exposed to One’s Intense Fears

Today’s theme: clowns. The fear of clowns, that is. Clown phobia.

First, a little comic relief about clown phobia: Dr. Frasier Crane (played by Kelsey Grammer from TV’s Frasier) tries to help a client overcome her fear of clowns by using exposure therapy.

Fear of clowns can lead to a variety of symptoms associated with phobias. From “…(I)ndividuals report feeling ‘shaken and traumatized’ at the sight or even the mere thought of clowns. A study conducted by a Hospital in UK showed that decorating a children’s ward with images of clowns actually backfired when more than 250 children (in the age groups of 4 to 16) reported disliking the images.”

Having some degree of this fear, sometimes known as coulrophobia, is apparently pretty common. However, states VeryWellMind, “It is important to note that, while many people experience discomfort with clowns, those feelings don’t necessarily represent a true phobia.”

Two  who have admitted to clown-fear publicly are Carol Burnett and Daniel Radcliffe.

And Johnny Depp explained his fear of clowns to the Courier Mail: “I guess I am afraid of them because it’s impossible — thanks to their painted-on smiles, to distinguish if they are happy or if they’re about to bite your face off.”

Update, 2019: As with other types of phobias, though, not everyone who suffers from this knows why, and it’s not usually necessary to figure out the causes in order to treat it successfully. Treatment is often done with behavioral techniques via cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and relaxation therapy (

At least in part, then, because causation has not been firmly established, emphasis is on changing one’s response to clowns. Lisa Fritscher, “Until more research is performed, the causes of clown phobia will remain firmly in the realm of speculation. Fortunately, it is possible for mental health professionals to treat clown phobia, as any other phobia, without learning the precise reasons for its development.”