Pupaphobia is the fear of puppets and marionettes. People who suffer from this phobia experience great amounts of anxiety and dread if in the same room with a puppet. Their fear of puppets is extremely irrational and can be very debilitating. Pupaphobia, as well as pediophobia (fear of dolls) is somewhat common among children, but this doesn’t limit the fear of puppets to this demographic only.

Puppetry is not nearly as popular as it used to be back before the Radio, TV, and internet commenced. Puppetry was a very popular form of entertainment in those days and we can still see a glimpse of that today thanks to some stand-up comedians using dummies in their acts (ventriloquism).

Jeff Dunham is among one of the most famous ventriloquists in this current day due to the success of his dummy “Achmed the Dead Terrorist“. Ventriloquism seems to be the only form of puppetry that has truly endured the test of time and that has seen mainstream success in this present day.

Nevertheless, regardless of how funny and entertaining these dummies may when under the control of their ventriloquist, for some people, the mere sight of one brings forth heightened amounts of fear and dread. Below, you will see some of the most common symptoms of pupaphobia.



Symptoms of Pupaphobia

People who suffer from pupaphobia may realize that their fear of puppets is irrational and is not grounded in facts. However, their intense urges to flee from puppets and their deeply rooted beliefs about the negative or “evil” nature of puppets renders them unable to act rationally and logically when near or when thinking of puppets.

Like with virtually all other phobias, one of the main symptoms of pupaphobia is going to be avoidance. Someone suffering from this mental illness will often try to avoid puppets at all costs. Fortunately though for those suffering from pupaphobia, puppeteer shops and puppetry in general is not as popular as it once was back before television and the radio. This means that someone suffering from pupaphobia will not have to put forth great amounts of effort avoiding puppets.

Someone who is fearful of puppets may also suffer from achluphobia (fear of the dark) and/or samhainophobia (fear of Halloween). However, this isn’t always the case. It is just possible for someone to make the connection between the three as puppets, darkness, and Halloween may evoke similar emotions.

Below, are some common symptoms of pupaphobia that someone suffering from this illness may experience:

  • Intense, irrational fear of puppets
  • Avoidance of movies or TV shows that show puppets
  • Avoidance of places that may have puppets
  • Feelings of intense dread when in the presence of a puppet
  • Feelings of heightened anxiety when thinking of puppets

Causes of Pupaphobia

Like most mental disorders, there is no known cause of someone developing pupaphobia. However, one’s environment and genetics may play a significant role. Someone with a family history of mental illness, especially of anxiety disorders and phobias may have an increased chance of developing pupaphobia. However, there are many factors that would ultimately contribute to someone developing this illness. Thus, why it is so difficult to pinpoint the exact cause. Nevertheless, there is no question of the role that media has played in mustering up a fear of puppets.

Movies

Movies that could play a part in someone developing pupaphobia are Pinocchio’s Revenge (1996), Magic (1978), Dead of Night (1945), and Puppet Master (1989). These movies portrayed puppets coming to life with a lust to murder. These movies were very successful at their attempt to put the fear of puppets in people, especially in young children. These movies, and more could potentially cause someone to develop pupaphobia insofar that they have the genetics to develop mental illness.

Books

Goosebump’s infamous novel “Night of the Living Dummy” by R. L. Stine was a very influential horror book that instilled fear toward puppets. In fact, the book was so popular that there were 3 books total in the trilogy. The horror books starred “Slappy the Dummy” who was the main antagonist in the series and who filled his readers with dread and terror. With the right genetics, it is very possible for someone to develop pupaphobia due to their experience reading horror novels such as these. However, the development of pupaphobia may infact be much more complex than that, as their environment may also play a significant role.



Pupaphobia Treatments (abridged)

There is no form of treatment specifically designed for pupaphobia. However, exposure therapy may be able to significantly reduce symptoms. Exposure therapy would work by slowly exposing the patient to either pictures of a puppet or simply have them think of puppets. The therapist may then have the patient be in the presence of a real puppet. Eventually the goal would be for the patient to be in the presence of a puppet while experiencing minimal symptoms of pupaphobia.

Another form of treatment that may be very advantageous for those suffering from pupaphobia is talk therapy. One form of talk therapy that may be very beneficial for those suffering with an intrusive fear of puppets is cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. This form of therapy would work by trying to figure out they underlying reasons as to why the patient fears puppets, as well as how to change their behavior by improving their cognition. Upon learning these techniques, the patient can also expect to learn several coping skills to help them in the midst of an anxiety attack.

Medication such as anti-anxiety or antidepressants may be able to help decrease the intensity of the symptoms. In conjunction with either talk therapy or exposure therapy, it may be a successful option for combating pupaphobia. However, it should be noted that medication won’t be able to teach you how to change your behavior, nor will it acquire you the coping skills needed to live a healthy, fulfilling life. To do this, you may need some form of therapy where you can learn the appropriate skills to successfully combat pupaphobia.




Treatments (expanded)

Exercise for Pupaphobia

Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including Pupaphobia. Specifically, cardiovascular exercise can significantly help to relieve one’s stress. This is not to say that weight-resistance training would not benefit someone with anxiety, but rather that aerobic exercise is has been shown to be more effective at releasing those feel good chemicals in the brain, such as endorphins.

According to the American Psychology Association, exercise can help to condition the mind to better cope with stressful situations. This makes sense when we take into consideration the high amount of stress that the body is put under during strenuous exercise. So, if you yourself are sedentary, then engaging in some form of aerobic exercise may be able to significantly help reduce your symptoms of pupaphobia by making it much easier for you to cope with the anxiety and stress that’s associated with this condition.

There are many different aerobic modalities that you can partake in to help reduce your symptoms of pupaphobia, such as swimming, biking, skiing, walking, and jogging. You can also acquire the many benefits of exercise by playing sports such as tennis, soccer, basketball, and racquetball, among many other sports. Engaging in some form of exercise consistently may be able to help relieve some of the pain associated with pupaphobia over time.

Practicing Yoga for Pupaphobia

There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from pupaphobia. In part, this is due to the meditative state of mind that yoga tends to emit in those who practice it on a consistent basis. Yoga can be thought of as meditation in motion. It can help to relieve some of the anxiety associated with pupaphobia due to the mere fact that by engaging in yoga, your attention will be redirected to something more productive.

There are many different types of yoga that someone with pupaphobia can benefit from, such as hatha yoga or hot yoga, among many others. Nevertheless, regardless of the many different forms of yoga that exist, virtually all of them can help to relieve some of the stress and anxiety that is associated with pupaphobia.

If you have never practiced yoga before, then it may be in your best interest to take a class or watch some guided videos that can help you through each pose. Just like with meditation, the more you practice yoga, the more adept you will become at it. Besides helping you to reduce your symptoms of pupaphobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.

Reducing Caffeine for Pupaphobia

It is no secret that consuming large amounts of caffeine throughout the day can aid in making you more anxious. This makes sense when we look closely at how caffeine affects our body’s physiology. When we consume a high dose of caffeine, our heart will start to beat faster and we become more tense. Essentially, our body will begin to go into a “fight or flight” state of mind. Such a frame of mind is often a precursor for someone with pupaphobia to experience panic attacks.

So, consuming little to no caffeine throughout the day may be able to significantly help reduce your day to day anxiety. Although doing so will likely not make all of your anxiety go away, it will indeed help you to reduce any unnecessary suffering that you would have otherwise experienced if you were to consume a large amount of caffeine.

Beverages like coffee and tea are often high in caffeine, as well as some energy drinks. In fact, even some foods have caffeine in them as well, such as dark chocolate. Being more conscious of your daily caffeine consumption may help you to reduce some of the symptoms associated with pupaphobia.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Pupaphobia

DBT is a very effective form of treatment for people struggling with emotion regulation. It is often used to treat people suffering from borderline personality disorder. Nevertheless, it can also be very advantageous for someone suffering from anxiety disorders like pupaphobia too. This is due to the numerous amount of coping skills you can expect to learn in a DBT group. These groups typically last about 6 months long and can have anywhere from two people to several people depending on how many join the group.

One very effective DBT skill for helping someone with pupaphobia is half-smiling. This technique works by having you think about that which you fear or upsets you all while slightly raising the corners of your mouth by lightly smiling, thus the term “half-smiling.” Although, it isn’t enough to just think about your fear while half-smiling, you also have to try and refrain from entertaining those painful emotions that your specific fear may evoke.

Mindfulness meditation is also heavily used in DBT and can greatly benefit someone with pupaphobia as it is done in a group setting, which helps to put the patient out of their comfort zone. These group mindfulness practices may include drinking warm tea to hone in on the sense of taste and tactile senses or simply focusing on the breath.

Coping ahead is another very useful DBT skill that can help someone with pupaphobia. With coping ahead, you will want to find a place where you can sit down quietly without distraction. Close your eyes and then think about the many different possible scenarios where you would face your specific fear and overcome it or cope with it. Doing so will help you to be much better adept at coping with your pupaphobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.

Psychiatric Medications for Pupaphobia

Anti-anxiety meds

These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe pupaphobia due to the fact that people with phobias often experience panic attacks as well. Some common anti-anxiety medications include Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin, among many others.

These types of drugs are not typically taken on a daily basis, but they may be insofar as their pupaphobia is severe enough. However, this is something that you should first discuss with your doctor before you decide to do so to ensure that it is safe and effective.

Antidepressants

These types of medications aren’t only for people who suffer from depression as they can also help people suffering from anxiety disorders as well, such as pupaphobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of pupaphobia.

These types of drugs are typically taken on a daily basis. They can indeed help prevent panic attacks from occurring, but they are more so used to help reduce people’s daily anxiety. Talk to your doctor to see if taking antidepressants can help to reduce your symptoms of pupaphobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.



Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Pupaphobia

CBT is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve one’s mental health. It is a modality that is often used to treat people suffering from anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. Someone with pupaphobia may also be able to benefit from CBT as well seeing as how it would allow them to have a much better understanding as to why they think and behave the way they do in relation to their irrational fears.

CBT can be immensely helpful for someone with pupaphobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with pupaphobia is exposed to their fear, they will almost always have an instantaneous subconscious reaction to their fear. Such a lack of introspection is likely a large part of why someone with this condition will suffer to the extent that they will. CBT can help you to take a step back and analyze your fears more deeply than you typically would.

Besides learning to be more fastidious with regards to understanding one’s specific fears, someone with pupaphobia engaging in CBT can also expect to learn various other skills aimed at helping to relieve the anxiety caused by their condition.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Pupaphobia

MBSR is an 8-week evidence-based program that offers secular, intensive mindfulness training to help people who are suffering from anxiety, stress, depression, and other sorts of mental anguish. MBSR may be able to significantly help someone who is suffering from pupaphobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with pupaphobia can expect to learn a plethora of different skills that can help them to relieve the intense anxiety that’s associated with their specific phobia.

Talk to your doctor or therapist to see if MBSR can help you to reduce the intensity of your symptoms of pupaphobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.

Practicing Meditation for Pupaphobia

There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from pupaphobia. Specifically, mindfulness meditation has been shown to be quite beneficial for helping people to enter into a more equanimeous state. There are many different ways with which you can implement mindfulness meditation and there are also many different meditation apps which are designed to make things as easy as possible for you.

Mindfulness has the potential to significantly help those suffering from pupaphobia due to how it will help one to distract themselves from their fear by refocusing their attention onto something else that does not have any sort of emotional baggage attached to it, such as by focusing on the breath for example. This is one of the most basic ways that one can meditate and be present.

For someone with pupaphobia in the midst of a panic attack, redirecting one’s attention to the various sensations felt when breathing can actually help to reduce the amount of mental anguish experienced during such an influx of anxiety.

To implement mindfulness meditation to help relieve one’s symptoms of pupaphobia, you can do so by paying close attention to the way the muscles in your abdomen and chest contract and relax with every inhale and exhale. You can spend time dwelling on how it feels as your chest expands during each inhale and how it sinks in with every exhale.

Besides focusing on your breathing, you can also focus on the sounds around you, the way your skin feels as you touch certain objects, the way foods taste, as well as the way certain aromas smell. Essentially, honing into your 5 senses can significantly help you to reduce some of the anxiety that is associated with pupaphobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.

Exposure Therapy for Pupaphobia

As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as pupaphobia. It can be an efficient way to help desensitize the patient to their specific fears. Be that as it may, it is imperative that the therapist implementing it on their patient is very adept at doing so. For example, if the therapist were to slightly expose someone with pupaphobia to their fear, then it may not be very effective as they may need a higher amount of exposure to truly trigger any sort of worthwhile change in the patient.

The same can be said for the antithesis of this scenario. If the therapist were to excessively expose someone with pupaphobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their pupaphobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with pupaphobia has a very strong sense of just how severe their symptoms are so that they can know the level of exposure that the patient will likely be able to handle.