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Gelotophobia – Fear of Being Laughed At

Gelotophobia – The Fear of Being Laughed At

Do you have trouble dealing with laughter? Does the sound of laughter make you feel uneasy? Do you often feel that people are laughing at you for no reason?

It must be scary to feel that all eyes are on you. Or to think about how others laugh at your expense and find humor in your failings. Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. You can change the way you feel about laughter.

If you’re afraid of laughter, you may have gelotophobia, or a fear of being laughed at. You’ll be happy to know that gelotophobia is treatable and not a mental illness you should fear. With the right information, you can learn to manage your fear of being laughed at.

What Is Gelotophobia All About?

There are various questions around this phobia. Let’s try and address a few.

What Is the Fear of Being Laughed At?

Gelotophobia is a simple phobia. It’s a type of anxiety disorder where you feel any sound of laughter in your vicinity is directed at you. Although no one likes to be laughed at, those with gelotophobia are over-fearful of the experience. It isn’t a simple reaction where you feel displeased. You can have serious reactions and health issues surrounding this phobia.

In some cases, gelotophobia is the consequence of a traumatic experience that affects your self-esteem and reduces your self-confidence. This may result in a severe reaction each time you hear someone laugh.

With gelotophobia, you may struggle to differentiate between light teasing and mockery. You may have a limited sense of humor. The sounds of laughter may create a negative impact on your overall mood. You may relate laughter with a past trauma and feel it could be directed at you.

Even if you’re aware of how unreasonable it is to link the sound of laughter to yourself, you may be unable to stop feeling like you are being laughed at.

What Causes Gelotophobia?

Gelotophobia has multiple causes. Read on to learn about some of the most common.

Body Image Issues

Many healthy children with weight issues often get mocked by other children during childhood. Though most children who are overweight face similar issues and eventually grow out of them, some develop a phobia or fear of being laughed at.


Bullying is a common problem both in schools and on playgrounds. Here, more vulnerable children and those who don’t have strong social support get targeted by other children. Though bullying can have many adverse effects on the development of children, fear of being mocked is one of them.

Having a Disability

As children and even adults, those with special needs, such as cognitive disabilities or speech and hearing impairments, are often teased unnecessarily. This teasing or mockery can lead to the development of gelotophobia.

Familial Issues

A toxic familial environment where close family members mock their children or compare them can also lead to gelotophobia. Children might grow up with insecurities as parents or guardians play a major role in their life.

Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem or low self-confidence may cause one to feel like they are constantly being laughed at. Like with other mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, low self-esteem can lead to a phobia of being laughed at.

Studies on Gelotophobia

Based on the gelotophobia tests conducted by Willibald Ruch of the University of Zurich, many who participated in the study went to extreme lengths to avoid being mocked. One subject waited for a bus with an empty last row because the fear of being mocked by those passengers behind him was too great.

According to another study, 13 percent of people in Britain have gelotophobia, whereas Denmark has the lowest number of gelotophobes. These statistics denote the differences in the cultural environments of both countries. Considering the British sense of humor, laughing at others is common in English society. In Denmark, people do not laugh at others.

Based on another study conducted by Willibald Ruch on 23,000 people in 73 countries, he observed gelotophobia can affect 2-30 percent of the population. In Asia, the number of gelotophobes is higher due to shame culture.

Symptoms of Gelotophobia

Gelotophobia manifests in many ways and affects the everyday lives of those who struggle with the fear. Could you have gelotophboia? Here are some common symptoms:

Mental/Emotional Symptoms

  • Avoid social events to avoid people
  • Get angry and react badly when people laugh
  • Cannot make jokes or laugh at them
  • Appear dry, cold, or shy to outsiders

Physical Symptoms

  • Blushing
  • Trembling
  • Insomnia
  • Severe stress
  • Dizziness
  • Panic attacks
  • Breathlessness
  • Pinocchio Syndrome (wooden puppet appearance)

As most who have gelotophobia don’t understand the meaning of laughter, they can often react unexpectedly to outsiders. Shouting in anger or having a panic attack are symptoms that tell you something isn’t right.

How to Overcome the Fear of Being Laughed At

If you’re wondering how to overcome gelotophobia, there are many self-help and professional methods you can try.


If you recognize gelotophobia tendencies in yourself, here are some strategies you can try to overcome your fear of being laughed at:

  • Make a list of the things you love about yourself
  • Maintain a journal regularly
  • Meditate, exercise, or practice yoga
  • Talk about your insecurities with those you trust
  • Find ways to build your skillset and morale
  • Make a habit of asking people how they feel about you; compare it with how you view yourself
  • Learn how to be more self-aware
  • Try to weigh your pros and cons to reduce insecurities
  • Combat negative thoughts with positive ones

These simple tips will hopefully help you take a step forward in overcoming your gelotophobia.

Professional Help

Sometimes self-help isn’t enough and you need the guidance of a professional to overcome your phobia. The first step is engaging the help of a mental health professional such as a psychologist, social worker, or psychiatrist.

Clinical Hypnotherapy

Clinical therapies include those like hypnotherapy. Hypnotherapy is sometimes used if you are unable to lead a normal life due to your phobia. Hypnotherapy is conducted under the supervision of a licensed mental health professional.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a form of talk therapy. Your therapist works with you to change the way you think about a situation. This is done through discussing how you feel about a situation and how you view yourself.

Brain Working Recursive Therapy (BWRT)

BWRT is another form of talk therapy. It focuses on negative ideas you may have cemented in your thoughts. Your therapist will work with you to try to change how you view such ideas.

How to Avoid Gelotophobia Altogether

The thing about phobias is they never go away completely. However, you can reduce the effects with continued efforts, therapies, and support. To avoid feeling like you are being laughed at, here are some tips that may help:

Simple Tips to Avoid Gelotophobia

  • Build your sense of humor
  • Watch stand-up comics
  • Try laughing at yourself
  • Stop thinking so much about how other people view you
  • Observe how comedians make fun of themselves

If it’s scary to listen to the laughter of others, work to tune them out. If you can convince yourself that no one is interested in laughing at you, you might be a step closer to overcoming your fears.


Although laughter is the best medicine for many of us, some suffer in silence because of it. However, this fear is treatable. If you feel like you’re showing symptoms of gelotophobia, seek help soon. Don’t let laughter stand in the way of your happiness.

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