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Coulrophobia, the intense fear of clowns, may sound unusual or rare but it's actually quite common and often finds itself near the top of the list of common phobias. For instance, it is the third most common fear in Britain. In the poll used to determine the top phobias, only the fear of spiders and the fear of needles outranked it. Coulrophobia ranked higher than other common phobias such as the fear of flying. Often this may seem less common because many sufferers are too ashamed to talk about it or never speak up because they feel they are the only ones suffering from the condition.
Identifying a phobia is fairly simple. A person feels an intense fear of an object, in this case clowns, that goes beyond mere anxiety or unease. The sufferer may exhibit symptoms such as shaking, sweating, and rapid heartbeat. The person's anxiety can become so intense, he or she has a panic attack. This reaction serves to reinforce the fear and the person avoids the situation to prevent further anxiety or panic attacks from occurring.
Treatment for coulrophobia includes talk therapy and possibly exposure therapy, where the person gradually faces her fears until she is able to control her anxiety around a clown. Patients may not need exposure therapy, or therapy at all, if the problem does not interfere with their lives. If, however, a person constantly worries about her fear or simply wants to learn how to control her anxiety better, therapy can help. If a more general anxiety disorder is also present, the therapist may recommend medication to help deal with anxiety or panic attacks.
The fear of clowns often manifests itself in young children who may be afraid of anyone wearing a mask or face paint. This fear of the unknown is quite common and often fades as the child ages. If the fear persists, the child may suffer from coulrophobia. Avoiding situations where clowns or other performers in masks or makeup are present and seeking therapy can help the child learn to relax.
In some cases, the fear of clowns can be so intense the person will feel nervous or even panic at the mere idea of a clown. Seeing a picture or thinking about a clown can trigger an anxiety attack. These cases often require therapy to help the person relax and stop the fear from controlling her life.
Other, similar fears to coulrophobia exist and a person can suffer from more than one phobia throughout her lifetime or even at once. Common related phobias include the fear of mimes or people wearing disguises, both known as metamfiezomaiophobia, and paliatsosophobia, which is a broader phobia covering the fear of clowns and jesters. A person with coulrophobia may find herself terrified of clowns but have no trouble around mimes or jesters.