What is Gelotophobia?

Gelotophobia is the irrational and persistent fear of being laughed at, and a distinctly social phobia. Most people don’t enjoy being the target of laughter, but those who suffer from the intense and excessive fear of being laughed at may not be able to differentiate between laughter as part of a joke and laughter as a form of ridicule.

Gelotophobia should not be confused with Gelophobia, a non-social fear of laughter.

Two other behaviors related to laughter are Gelotophilia, the joy of being laughed at, and Katagelasticism, the joy of laughing at others.

The root word 'gelo' is Greek meaning 'laugh' and the word 'phobia' comes from the Greek word ‘phóbos’ meaning 'fear.'

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Symptoms of Gelotophobia

  • Extreme Anxiety, Dread

  • Shortness of Breath
  • Rapid Breathing
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Excessive Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dry Mouth
  • Confusion / Inability to Articulate Clearly
  • Lack of Focus
  • Irritability
  • Shaking
  • Feelings of Powerlessness
  • Obsession with the Subject of the Phobia
  • Fear or Feelings of Losing Control
  • Avoidance Behavior
  • Headaches

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Causes of Gelotophobia

Gelotophobia is a social anxiety disorder. Social phobias result in avoidance of social situations due to fear of being embarrassed in public and affect men and women equally. Extreme social anxieties often start in childhood or adolescence due to social traumas, embarrassments, etc., and may be accompanied by other anxiety disorders or depression.

The origins of social anxiety disorders are not as well-understood as specific (or “isolated”) phobias, where a direct fear of injury from some specific animal, thing, or situation forms a clear basis for the fear. Even so, hereditary factors may be present, such as a genetic tendency to be “high strung”, nervous, etc.

In all kinds of phobias, external experiences and / or reports can further reinforce or develop the fear, such as seeing a family member or friend who is affected. In extreme cases, indirect exposures can be as remote as overhearing a reference in conversation, seeing something in the news, on TV, or in the movies.

Gelotophobia, like most phobias, stems from a subconscious overprotection mechanism, and as with many phobias can also be rooted in an unresolved emotional conflict.

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Treatments for Gelotophobia

  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

  • Habit Strategies To Relax
  • Cognitive Therapy (CT)
  • In Vivo Exposure
  • Response Prevention
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Group Therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Energy Psychology
  • Medication
  • Meditation

Learn more about phobia treatments ›

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