What is Geliophobia? (A Summary)

In this blog we will discuss the causes, symptoms and treatments for Geliophobia.

Geliophobia is an irrational fear of laughter and the person suffering from it will suffer a lot of anxiety when he even thinks of laughter, let alone laugh.

He/She will  not laugh at all as they are scared of this very simple and happy gesture and mood alleviator.

Laughter is the best medicine, but people suffering from this phobia find it hard to be happy or even stay happy because they anticipate laughter itself.

They develop an aversion to laughter and do not participate in any fun activities. Fun for them is an equivalent to laughter. 

Currently Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) does not list this as a mental disorder, but it still exists and therapeutic interventions are also available.

Geliophobia is derived from the Greek ‘Gelio’ meaning ‘happiness’ and ‘phobos’ meaning fear.

A person with Geliophobia can also suffer from Cherophobia and are unable to participate in life activities or live life fully. 

They are even unable to the blessings offered by life itself. Their phobia interferes significantly with their day-to-day life.

This hinders their educational and occupational life, thus stalling them in a place where their thoughts inject only misery and negativity.

Treatment to cure the panic symptoms that are prevalent in Geliophobia, is available.

These interventions enable the Geliophobe to bounce back to life and at least be thankful for all that he has.

Symptoms of Geliophobia

To avoid the experience of anxiety itself the individual may develop Geliophobia, so as to avoid the very cause of the uncomfortable condition.

Even the image of people laughing bring about the symptoms with an intensity that reels the sufferer. 

  • Anxiety at the thought of going to a joyful social gathering, like a party, concert, or other similar event
  • Anxiety at the thought of rejecting opportunities that could lead to positive life changes due to fear of laughter itself
  • Unable to attend any event that involves fun and laughter

 A person experiencing Geliophobia has these characteristics:

  • If i am  happy it means something bad will happen to me.
  • Cannot laugh as i am scared of laughter itself
  • If I am expressing happiness, I still cannot laugh
  • Laughing people scare me

Physical Symptoms

These are intense and can begin without any prior warning.

The person suffering from Geliophobia experiences the full physical intensity of either all of these or some of these in combination with others.

  • hot flashes or chills
  • headaches
  • sweating
  • trembling
  • shortness of breath a choking sensation
  • rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • feeling faint
  • numbness 
  • dry mouth
  • ringing in ears
  • confusion 
  • hyperventilation
  • raised  in blood pressure

The Psychological Symptoms

During panic attack the person suffering from Geliophobia may experience the following

  • fear of fainting
  • feelings of dread
  • fear of dying
  • huilt
  • shame
  • fear of losing control
  • fear of harm
  • fear of illness
  • self-blame
  • withdrawn
  • feeling Of hopelessness
  • feeling of disconnect
  • confusion
  • lack of concentration
  • anger
  • irritability
  • mood swings

Causes of Geliophobia

As with most phobias and anxieties, there is no clear consensus about what causes Geliophobia.

The most common explanation is a childhood traumatic episode where a child may have experienced an accident that might have happened during a fit of laughter; thus, bringing about an entire change or modification in his life. 

This may have crippled him/her and thus, laughter is viewed as dangerous or even life threatening.

People suffering from Geliophobia are also reluctant to meet new people and shy away from most of them, feelings of shame of not being able to adjust and guilt of staying away from an important event that involves partying or being joyful and cheery, is very prominent.

People may also be afraid of losing control because this is something that is not in their hands and not controlled by them, no matter how powerful a person is.

Thus, at the time he is suffering from the symptoms of Geliophobia, he/she feels totally helpless, aggravating their already hiked anxiety.

There are plenty of people with Geliophobia who cannot even recall the traumatic incident that would have developed this fear, but they do not forget that happiness preceded the drastic event and was the cause of their sorry state.

Many times, Geliophobia can suddenly arise out of the blue. 

Scientists believe that a combination of genetic tendencies, brain chemistry, and other biological and environmental factors could cause such fears to develop. 

As is common in specific phobias, the cause Geliophobia may lie deep in the person’s childhood or its onset may be due to an environmental factor.

Genetics also plays a pivotal role in the cause of developing Geliophobia.

Other causes can be as follow:

• Learned behavior

• Traumatic experiences

Etiological Models of Cherophobia

1. Biological (Genetic) Model

Genetics also determines how a person reacts and feels. Therefore, people inherit fears and phobias as well from their families.

The brain cells (neurons) release certain chemicals called neurotransmitters.

Serotonin and Dopamine are two neurotransmitters that in depleted states can cause anxiety like symptoms.

2. Psychodiagnostics Model

If a person has suffered from a traumatic experience in early childhood it can have a severe dire impact on his later life. 

A childhood traumatic experience could be where children experienced a negative impact of events due to a change in their life.

This may leave a long lasting impression. Therefore to avoid this anxiety they start fearing and evading what they fear.

The intensity is more because they know that death cannot be avoided, only the thought of it can be.

3. Behavioral Model

According to this model, irrational fears may be caused through behaviors that are learned by replication.

Children often replicate unique behaviors of their adults, parents or a favorite aunt or uncle.

If a family member is already suffering from anxiety or is scared of one or another thing, then chances are higher that only by observing this, the child may develop fears.

Treatments of Geliophobia

Geliophobia can be treated through different treatments.

These include Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Exposure Therapy, Neuro Linguistic Program (NLP), Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction MBSR) and forms of meditation.

1) Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

In CBT the therapist helps the client to amend his thoughts so that a desirable behavior can be achieved.

This therapy is effective, because if the thoughts or cognitions alter then there will be a lasting impact on behavior.

The therapist helps the client to discover the reason for this thought, his behavior in regards to changes in life.

This therapy is goal oriented and short termed. Therefore, the results are seen soon. It changes the way a person thinks and feels.

CBT does not focus on probing the past to resolve current problems, rather it concentrates on the present situation. 

Our thoughts determine how we act or react to certain stimuli and situations.

Therefore, negative thoughts bring about a negative behavior response or an undesirable behavior.

Whereas, positive thoughts propagate desirable and healthy attitude and response.

For the treatment of Geliophobia, the therapist separates the problem into parts.

These may include: thoughts, feelings and actions. 

  1. What thought is invoked at the thought of laughter?
  2. How do you feel when you see people laughing?
  3. What do you do when you experience laughter? 

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is a form of CBT and designed by Albert Ellis. According to Ellis, “people are not disturbed by things but rather by their view of things.”

This is what subjective perspective is. 

2 Exposure Therapy 

It is one of the most frequently used ways of treating patients with Geliophobia.

In this therapy, the patient is exposed to the source of his fear over a certain span of time.

To begin with the therapy, the therapist exposes the patient to the least triggering stimuli, a picture of people all laughing at a party for example.  

As the therapy progresses and the patient is able to control his anxious feelings, imagery can be used to take the treatment a step further.

In this part of the treatment the patient is asked to visualize/imagine a situation in which he is laughing.

During this process of imagery, one actually feels being in that particular situation or place, experiencing various senses.

Once the person successfully, without feeling anxious clears this step of the therapy, he is then exposed to a real time party with everyone very happy for example.

While the patient is being exposed to different intensities of stimuli during the various stages of therapy, the therapist simultaneously teaches them coping exercises.

These include, breathing techniques or muscle relaxation methods to lower their anxiety, when in an actual fear/anxiety causing situation. This teaches them how to remain calm when exposed to the fear stimuli.

Before actually starting the exposure therapy, the therapist needs to figure out the intensity of the patient’s fear, as to deduce whether they will be able to undergo this treatment, without any physical or psychological harm caused to them during the exposure processes. 

3) Neuro Linguistic Program (NLP)

In this therapy the client is asked to 

  1. Access the phobia in a safe environment.
  2. Help them to replay the phobia along with happy emotions.
  3. Disassociate from the phobia.

4) Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

MBSR involves being aware of one’s own thoughts, feelings and reducing the interference from around the environment.

We do not pay attention to how we process the various stimuli that affect us. 

We do not process the way our bodies feel and respond, there is no focus on our thoughts and how these thoughts are influencing our emotions. 

In MBSR, the client is ‘woken up’ to actually experience the various senses. ‘Focus’ is the keyword!

5) Meditation

For meditation to be effective during treatment, the mind is cleared off all the clutter of random thoughts.

The mind and body are made to be ‘in sync’ with each other, so that the feared stimulus does not invoke a negative thought.

The client will meditate during the thoughts of death and concentrate on his breathing patterns in the presence of the feared stimulus. 

6) Self-Help Groups

Self Help groups are an effective type of therapy, in which the client does not find himself as a lone sufferer.

These groups are individuals who are afflicted with the same types of phobias. 

They come together to share their thoughts, experiences and their coping strategies.

This also helps in developing a ‘sense of I am not the only one’ suffering.

7) Changing Lifestyle

Breaking down the dullness of the daily, helps break down anxiety as well. 

• Take up jogging or go for daily walks:

Developing a walk routine can damper the way our negative thoughts control our behavior.

• Indulging in an exercise regime:

Vigorous exercise like aerobics has proved to reduce or alleviate the symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Exercise helps the mind to cope with stress and stressful situations better.

This is what the American Psychological Association has to say about inducting exercise to eliminate stress or phobias.

• Altering eating and drinking habits:

Cutting down on fatty foods and caffeine can improve self-image, that in turn leads to a raised self-esteem.

This finally diminishes the symptoms of stress to a bare minimum. With high intake of caffeine, the body resembles a ‘fight or flight’ response, thus giving way to anxiety.

• Improving the sleep cycle:

When we get proper rest, our concentration improves. 

8) Psychiatric Medication 

There are a number of medicines that the Psychiatrist can prescribe if the symptoms of Geliophobia are severe.

Anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs)

These should only be taken after the consultation with the doctor and shouldn’t be initiated or discontinued as per personal discretion.


These medicines are not only used to treat depression, but also to alleviate the symptoms of Geliophobia as well as other phobias.

Medicines alone might not be as effective, but if used in conjunction with therapies then the results will be better. 

9)  Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

This kind of therapy is used to regulate the emotions.

A technique called “half-smiling” is used where the client is asked to lift the corners of his mouth when the feared thought comes to his mind.

Apart from this the mind is to be trained to refrain from thinking about the painful stimulus.

Coping Ahead is another technique in DBT that requires the client to sit quietly and think of the feared situation and strategize what he will do.

We are always here to answer if you have any queries.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Geliophobia real?

The fear of laughter, Geliophobia is not Currently listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as a mental disorder, but it still exists and therapeutic interventions are also available.

Who has Geliophobia? 

A person who has Geliophobia is not necessarily a sad person but avoids being happy.

What is Geliophobia the fear of?

Geliophobia is a fear of laughter and laughing and moreover it is an attitude that makes the person evade joyfulness around him.

What is laughter?

Laughter strengthens your immune system, boosts mood, diminishes pain, and protects you from the damaging effects of stress. 


  • www.psychtimes.com
  • www.fearof.net
  • www.amazon.com
  • www.apa.org
  • www.albertellis.com

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