Are You Afraid of Clowns? You're Not Alone [VIDEO]
And You May Be Suffering From Coulrophobia, Which, Yes, Is a Real Phobia
Hey, you don't have to explain it to us … clowns are creepy. Sure, we yuk it up when Cameron plays Fitzbo on Modern Family, and Ronald McDonald, unfortunately, does not deter our jones for the occasional McDonald's french fry run, but still … that makeup, the hair, the big red noses? Clowns are creepy!
And that's what Today.com found, as reported by MSNBC.com, after running a recent story on a clown named Creeky. Creeky is 95-years-old and still practicing his clown craft, which, in and of itself, is a heartwarming tale, especially since Creeky -- real name: Floyd Creekmore -- says he has no plans to retire.
But the inspirational attitude of Creeky aside, the fact remains that he's a clown, and MSNBC reports that, among the more than 80 people who commented on the Creeky story on Facebook, 20 used the word "creepy" to describe him and admitted they were freaked out about clowns in general.
And their creeped-out-edness has a name: coulrophobia, which means a fear of clowns. Coulrophobia can cause people to sweat, feel nauseous, cry, scream and experience a faster heartbeat just because they see or are in the presence of a clown.
And a psychologist tells MSNBC that the phobia is no laughing matter. The feelings of fear may stem from the fact that clowns, while supposedly funny, are actually people in disguise.
"You can’t really tell who they are," Dr. Rami Nader said. "You can’t really see their face. You don’t really know what that all means behind the mask.”
Though coulrophobia isn't among the most common phobias, an English university did conduct a study on the fear of clowns in 2008. The findings: when more than 250 kids aged four to 16 were asked what they thought of using clown images to decorate a children's hospital ward, researchers found that "clowns were universally disliked by children. Some found them quite frightening and unknowable."
So, how do you deal with a fear of Fitzbo, Ronald, Bozo, etc.?
"What we need to do is gradually come into contact with that thing -- whether it’s spiders or heights, whatever you’re afraid of -- and learn to cope with the anxiety, learn to recognize that what you’re afraid of won’t actually harm you," Nader says. "You won’t lose control, you won’t panic, you won’t embarrass yourself with other people."
Or, you know, you could just avoid clowns.
"Most likely, people with this fear can just easily avoid situations where they encounter clowns," says Judy Chessa, coordinator of the Anxiety & Phobia Center at White Plains Hospital in New York. "So it doesn’t become an issue for them. They don’t see clowns during the day or at their jobs … except, I guess, those poor people who work at the circus."
Although, would someone who has a fear of clowns really work at a circus?
PS -- If you're afraid of clown, seriously afraid of clowns, do not watch this video about a woman who suffers from coulrophobia: