Blame a late-night introduction to the malevolent clown Pennywise in the TV movie It, based on Stephen King’s 1986 novel. That character is all it took to push a then-9-year-old Camille McManus* into developing coulrophobia, a deep fear of clowns. The combination of freakish makeup, strange clothes, large hands and feet, and weird voices still strikes a paralyzing terror into the 31-year-old Web specialist from Elkton, Md., today.

“Ever since I saw that film, I have  never wanted a clown near me,” explains  McManus, adding that she has screamed and cried during her few adult encounters with clowns. “I can’t understand why people would ever hire clowns for a children’s party. That could be a very scary experience for a kid.”

McManus is one of about 19 million people in the country who have some type of extreme irrational fear that’s unlikely to lessen over time and even adversely impact their quality of life. And according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, women are twice as likely to be affected with most phobias brought on by a traumatic childhood experience. But there is hope for eradicating paralyzing, perplexing fear from your life, and it begins by simply closing your eyes.

Hypnosis to the Rescue
The complications of a phobia can be devastating enough to cause social problems and isolation. For some, hypnotherapy or hypnosis, an artificially induced, altered trancelike state of consciousness, is the answer to the problem. “I haven’t come across a phobia that I haven’t been able to help someone with,” notes Colin Christopher, a hypnotherapist—a specialist who utilizes hypnosis as a tool to address and effect lasting behavioral changes—based in Canada, who has treated hundreds of people. “That isn’t to say there will never be a time when that happens. But everyone is different, and it depends on the trauma and the experience. I interview my clients before I agree to hypnotize them to learn their thoughts about hypnosis. If it’s something they don’t believe in, then I don’t see them because hypnosis is something you have to be willing to do. You have to want to do the work.”

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