Gelotophobia: the fear of being made fun of, how to overcome it?

Gelotophobia is one of the most limiting phobias in social terms, since the person stops attending social gatherings for fear of being ridiculed.

Last update: November 12, 2021

Surely more than once you were in a situation in which a group of friends laughed because of an experience of yours: a fall, a mistake that left you in a bad way. Maybe that caused you deep discomfort and discomfort. and you even lost the desire to meet with that group. In this case, we are talking about gelotophobia.

You feel so insecure when you are with people because you fear that they will make fun of you, that you began to withdraw from your social world. You feel identified? Do you know someone like that? Let’s see a little more what it is about.

What is gelotophobia?

Gelotophobia is the excessive, irrational and uncontrollable fear of being teased. The great disadvantage that those who suffer from gelotophobia have is that for them, laughter is not usually something positive. In many cases, when they hear a group of people laugh, they automatically assume that they are being made fun of.

That is to say, it does not occur to them that maybe they laugh because someone just told a joke or because they are remembering an old anecdote. In this way, gelotophobia also ends in the affected person beginning to have paranoid-type behaviors or thoughts.

Finally, it is worth clarifying that to determine that it is gelophobia and not another clinical picture a differential diagnosis must be made. Many times, this type of fear is confused with avoidant personality disorder or schizoid.



Signs and symptoms of gelotophobia

When the phobic situation occurs, the person is suffering and may experience anxiety, a feeling of shortness of breath, a desire to flee, a very intense discomfort, nervousness, sweating and shaking hands, among other things.

Some of the most common signs and symptoms of gelotophobia are the following:

  • Excessive fear of making a fool of yourself or being teased by others.
  • Anguish and discomfort before the laughter of others.
  • Shyness and embarrassment. They are introverts and seek not to attract attention
  • Muscle stiffness, evasion of the gaze, clumsy movements. This is known as the Pinocchio syndrome.
The extreme shyness of gelotophobia prevents adequate social contact and favors isolation.

Causes and origin of gelottophobia

Like many phobias, gelotophobia may be the result of a previous traumatic experience that develops that fear. For example, a person who went shopping with his underwear caught between his pants and another article of clothing and was the subject of laughter, teasing and stares all the way and in the supermarket.

This person began to feel watched, uncomfortable and embarrassed without knowing what was happening. It was only when he returned home that he was able to identify the reason for this situation. However, the fact already caused him such annoyance and bitterness that it set a precedent.

The causes of gelotophobia have to do with the fear of ridicule that it may have presented in childhood or adolescence, at the height of identity formation. Those who live with this fear develop a suspicious and defensive personality, as any occasion is potentially conducive to being teased.

The fact of having been a victim of bullying set the conditions for the development of this particular phobia.

Consequences of gelotophobia

Among the phobias that cause the greatest deterioration on a social level, gelotophobia could be one of them. It is not the same to be afraid of airplanes (a means of transport that we use on very specific occasions) to have an irrational fear of a situation that usually occurs when there are other people.

In this way, the person who has the phobia of ridicule chooses to stay home and avoid social plans so as not to be mocked. In addition, some of the most frequent consequences are the following:

  • Self-esteem is also damaged, since people feel despised and diminished or of little value.
  • There is withdrawal and shyness.
  • Stress in the face of laughing situations, so it manifests as a person who does not have a sense of humor or has fun
  • Projects a cold and distant image.


How to deal with the fear of being mocked?

First of all, it is important to understand that a phobia is not a simple fear. It is an intense fear that causes real discomfort in the person and deteriorates different areas of his life. That is, it is necessary to help people who suffer from a situation of these characteristics accept help.

Like all phobias, the approach to gelotophobia is done with exposure techniques. It progresses step by step, gradually.

First, proposing an exhibition in the imagination, seeking for the person to visualize and express what the dreaded scene would be like, while the therapist accompanies and guides. As the patient gains security, can be proposed in a final stage of exposure to a social situation.

On the other hand, we also work with cognitive restructuring, which allows us to identify what are the thoughts that are at the base of fear. It seeks to replace them with more functional ones.

At the same time, the use of drama and humor techniques is recommended in role-playing games. For example, people must be able to identify what it is that embarrasses them and then put it on the scene, with the purpose of take possession of her weakness and turn her into a real laughingstock for the public.

In this way, through an active role you can begin to see the situation differently. This exercise is carried out with a series of instructions and has to be guided.

Finally, it is essential to work with patients with various relaxation techniques so that they are able to cope with the phobic stimulus. Thus, they will not have to flee or avoid the situation.

People with this phobia can learn relaxation techniques that reduce stress in the face of social situations that make them uncomfortable.

When everything is lived as a personal attack

Throughout this journey we were able to corroborate that one of the greatest difficulties of gelotophobia lies in the fact that people who live it feel the center of ridicule. Any laugh, look or whisper around him personalizes it and is a true source of torture.

The reactions are of flight or avoidance. Although there are also cases of violence and resentment in relationships.

Imagine how difficult a life can be in which laughter is a problem or a threat.. This is why it is important to educate on phobias, since the environment must be able to support and understand, understanding what this behavior is due to.

Finally, as a society in general and each person from their particular role must avoid ridicule, ridicule and contempt in front of children and adolescents. It is important to build solid self-esteem and tolerance for frustration.

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