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Automatonophobia (fear of dolls): symptoms, causes and treatment

Automatonophobia (fear of dolls): symptoms, causes and treatment

September 2, 2022

There are many stories created around the idea of ​​perverse dolls, evil puppets and androids that threaten to end the human race . So the feeling of discomfort that many people feel around them is more than justified.

However, when this discomfort turns into terror or exaggerated anxiety responses we speak of automatonophobia. Throughout this article we will talk about this strange phobia, its causes and its treatment.

What is automatonophobia?

Among all the existing phobias, the automatonophobia is perhaps one of the most curious, but at the same time one of the easiest to understand. This specific phobia consists in experiencing an exaggerated and irrational fear of everything that symbolizes or falsely personifies a sensitive being.

That is to say, the person feels great fear towards entities or objects, both animate and inanimate, that represent a living being . These objects are usually dolls, mannequins, statues, etc.

When a person is in front of one of these objects a great anxiety and anguish response arises in her, which can lead to the person avoiding at all costs to find one of these objects in question.

  • Within this category of specific phobia other phobias related to them can be classified. These are:
  • Pupafobia or fear of the puppets
  • Pediophobia or fear of dolls
  • Coulrophobia or phobia and clown phobia


As in the rest of phobias, the exacerbated fear made all kinds of objects that simulate or represent a living being, especially those that pretend to be people, cause a series of anxious symptoms in the person.

This symptomatology is different because the individual manifests a large number of anxiety symptoms of a very marked intensity accompanied by a sensation of anguish and practically unbearable torment . In spite of this, in very few occasions the person ends up suffering from a panic attack.

Due to the intensity of the symptoms these are easily recognizable in the person, since the amount of changes and imbalances in physical functioning are highly visible.

These physical changes of San before the appearance of the feared stimulus and include:

  • Increase in the cardiac rate
  • Increase in the respiratory rate
  • Palpitations
  • Tachycardia
  • Muscular stiffness
  • Choking sensation
  • Headaches
  • Dilation of the pupils
  • Vertigos
  • Nausea and / or vomiting

Regarding the cognitive and behavioral symptoms of automatonophobia, this is related to negative irrational thoughts about the feared elements and the need to avoid them or escape them .

The avoidance behaviors are all those behaviors that the person carries out in order to avoid encountering these stimuli. While the escape behaviors are all those acts that it performs to escape or escape from the feared situation.

In summary, the signs or manifestations that indicate that a person suffers from autophophobia are:

  • Anxiety crisis in the presence or appearance of objects that represent people such as dolls or statues
  • Nightmares with these objects
  • Aversion to objects or cartoons
  • Physical symptoms such as tachycardia, sweating or muscle tension


It has been observed that the cases of automatonophobia are much more frequent in children and adolescents than in adults, in most of these cases the origin of the phobia is in an unpleasant experience in relation to some film or horror story that leaves a large trace in the child's psyche.

It is hypothesized that the cause of these experiences intensify or become more common in the child population is the great imagination characteristic of this stage, by which they are able to extrapolate the fear felt during the film to real life and before the appearance of one of these objects.

However, the specific causes of this phobia in children and adults are still unknown. Regarding the adult population, it is theorized that an exposure to threatening figures or symbols with traumatic consequences could give rise to this type of phobia.

On the other hand, The role of the brain in this type of phobias has also been highlighted . The idea is that it perceives this type of inanimate objects but of human appearance as something disturbing and therefore dangerous.

What is certain is that, like the rest of phobias, the automatonofobia can have its origin in a genetic predisposition, as well as in a series of personality traits that can make the person susceptible to developing some type of phobia .


There is a series of diagnostic guidelines when evaluating a person with a possible automatonophobia.Although these patterns are more or less the same for all phobias, the central phobic stimulus changes from one to another.

These requirements for diagnosis are:

  • Fear and feelings of intense anxiety before inanimate objects with human form
  • Feeling of fear or intense anxiety before the phobic stimulus
  • Avoidance behavior or escape before the appearance of the phobic stimulus
  • The sensations of fear are considered disproportionate taking into account the real threat that such stimulus represents
  • Symptoms occur for more than six months
  • The symptomatology and the consequences of this cause a clinically significant malaise, this supposes an interference in some of the contexts of the patient
  • The symptomatology is not explained by any other mental alteration or anxiety


Like the other specific phobias, the most effective treatment or intervention consists of psychotherapy. Specifically, the systematic desensitization provided by the cognitive-behavioral current has the highest success rate.

This intervention consists of progressive exposure to the feared elements and accompanied by a relaxation training to calm the anxiety response and accustom the patient to the presence of said stimulus.

In addition, cognitive therapy sessions are added in order to eliminate the irrational thoughts and beliefs that the person associates with all those objects that are the center of their phobia.

Top 10 Extremely Bizarre Phobias (September 2022).

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