Gelotophobia may be considered as a specific variant of shame-bound anxiety. It is defined as the pathological fear of being an object of laughter. This fear can be traced back to early childhood experiences of intense and repeated exposure to “put-down,” mockery and ridicule in the course of socialization. Gelotophobes constantly fear being screened by others for evidence of ridiculousness. Thus, they carefully avoid situations in which they feel exposed to others. Gelotophobia at its extreme, therefore, involves a pronounced paranoid tendency, a marked sensitivity to offense, and a resulting social withdrawal (Titze, Die heilende Kraft des Lachens, 1995, Humor & Health Journal 5:1–11, 1996). The origins and consequences of gelotophobia are described, and a model of specific treatment is presented.
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