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Coulrophobia (COOl-ruh-FOE-bee-uh) is a fear (phobia) of clowns. Children and adults who fear clowns may experience extreme, irrational reactions when they see clowns in person or view pictures or videos of clowns. Someone with a fear of clowns is coulrophobic. They may go out of their way to avoid any exposure to clowns.

Awareness of coulrophobia is relatively new. The term coulrophobia first appeared in the late 1990s. “Coulro” is the Greek word for stilt walkers. Recent movies featuring creepy-looking clowns, like “It” and “Joker,” made people more aware of this phobia.

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Coulrophobia brings on feelings of fear when you see clowns or clown images. It’s a specific phobic disorder that causes anxiety, a racing heart, nausea and profuse sweating. Most people can avoid clowns. Some need exposure therapy, a type of psychotherapy, to help manage their reactions to clowns and clown images.
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Many children and adults express a fear of clowns. People with coulrophobia go out of their way to avoid any exposure to clowns or clown images. Fortunately, running into clowns isn’t a typical, everyday occurrence. You or your child can take steps to avoid seeing clowns and clown images. If the fear becomes too great, don’t hesitate to talk to your healthcare provider. Exposure therapy with a mental health professional can help you manage this phobia.

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