Health scan: Clown phobia is no joke

“Coulrophobia is exaggerated and unusual and even uncontrollable. Even a photo or picture of a clown can set off symptoms."

By
September 3, 2016 23:59
4 minute read.
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Taglit-Birthright participants with Itzik the clown at the Schneider Children’s Medical Center.. (photo credit: TAGLIT-BIRTHRIGHT)

 
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An 11-year-old girl from Rehovot who suffers from coulrophobia – the fear of clowns – asked a Kaplan Medical Center team to help her lose her anxiety so she can celebrate her upcoming bat mitzva with clowns.

The unusual request came Naama Kapilovich, who said her fear of clowns caused her unpleasant symptoms, which pediatric psychiatrist Dr. Ilan Bush said could include pounding and rapid heartbeats, dizziness, nausea, breathing problems, dry mouth and even depressive thoughts. Naama said she suffered from coulrophobia for years.

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Kaplan medical clown Anat Sonnenfeld, who is known at the hospital as “Prof. Popo,” helped the girl and successfully freed her of her fears. She initially accompanied Naama in stress clothes and introduced her to another medical clown, Roni Vieder, who is called Betty Lutz. She invited Naama to see how a clown puts on makeup, red nose and costumes.

“I saw on her face the understanding how much joy a medical clown gives to children and their parents.

She then suggested that Anat put on clown clothing as well. At first she was fearful, but gradually she herself turned into a clown. “I was in tears when I saw that Naama was ready to make the sick children laugh,” said Anat.

Naama’s mother said the fears limited her over the years, as she had been invited to class social events with clowns and always suffered or didn’t attend. Apparently, a clown caused her some trauma at a young age. Naama accompanied Anat, of the Dream Doctors’ organization, to therapy sessions with other children at the hospital and gradually lost her fears. Anat is also a teacher of theater and special education and even won the title of outstanding actress at the Acre Festival.

Anat said she was so pleased when her mother realized that Naama’s coulrophobia was cured by cognitive behavioral therapy in just one day.

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“Her bat mitzva will now be an even more special day for her,” said her mother.

Bush said it could sound like a joke, but for those who are traumatized by seeing a clown, it is not funny.

“Coulrophobia is exaggerated and unusual and even uncontrollable. Even a photo or picture of a clown can set off symptoms. When affecting children, they may be unable to express what actually causes them to be afraid. Even hearing a scary story about a clown could have triggered the phobia, said the psychiatrist. The red nose and exaggerated features make the sight even scarier.

ORDER AT RESTAURANT AN HOUR EARLY

Want to cut calories? Try avoiding unhealthy impulse purchases by ordering meals at least an hour before eating. New findings from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Carnegie Mellon University show that people choose higher-calorie meals when ordering immediately before eating and lower-calorie meals when orders are placed an hour or more in advance. The results, which have implications for addressing America’s obesity epidemic, have just been published in the Journal of Marketing Research.

“Our results show that ordering meals when you’re already hungry and ready to eat leads to an overall increase in the number of calories ordered, and suggest that by ordering meals in advance, the likelihood of making indulgent purchases is drastically reduced,” said lead author Dr. Eric M. VanEpps. “The implication is that restaurants and other food providers can generate health benefits for their customers by offering the opportunity to place advance orders.”

Researchers conducted two field studies examining online lunch orders of 690 employees using an onsite corporate cafeteria, and a third study with 195 university students selecting among catered lunch options.

Across all three studies, the researchers noted that meals with higher calorie content were ordered and consumed when there were shorter (or no) waiting periods between ordering and eating.

The first study was a secondary data analysis of over 1,000 orders that could be placed any time after 7 a.m. to be picked up between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The second study randomly assigned participants to place orders before 10 a.m. or after 11 a.m. The third study randomly assigned university students to order lunch before or after class, with lunches provided immediately after class.

In the first study, VanEpps and colleagues from Carnegie Mellon University found that for every hour of delay between when the order was placed and the food was ready (average delay of 105 minutes), there was a decrease of approximately 38 calories in the items ordered. In the second study, the researchers found that those who placed orders in advance, with an average delay of 168 minutes, had an average reduction of 30 calories (568 vs. 598) compared to those who ordered closer to lunchtime (with an average delay of 42 minutes between ordering and eating).

The third study showed that students who placed orders in advance ordered significantly fewer calories (an average of 890 calories) compared to those who ordered at lunchtime (an average of 999 calories).

“These findings provide one more piece of evidence that decisions made in the heat of the moment are not as far-sighted as those made in advance,” said economics and psychology professor and lead study author George Loewenstein.

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