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

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

However, when this discomfort turns into terror or exaggerated anxious responses, it is referred to as automatonophobia. Throughout this article, we will talk about this strange phobia, its causes and its treatment.

What is Automatonophobia?

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

In other words, that is to say the person feels great fear towards beings or objects, both animate and inanimate, which 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 response of anxiety and anguish in him arises, which can lead to the person in any case avoiding being with one of these objects. objects in question.

  • In this specific category of phobias, other phobias related to them can be classified. These are:
  • Pupaphobia or fear of puppets
  • Pediophobia or fear of dolls
  • Coulrophobia or phobia of clowns and mimes


As with other phobias, heightened fear has made all kinds of objects that simulate or represent a living being, especially those that masquerade as people, cause a series of anxiety symptoms in the person.

This symptomatology is distinguished because the individual exhibits a large number of symptoms of anxiety of very marked intensity accompanied by a feeling of anxiety and almost unbearable torment. However, on very rare occasions, the person ends up suffering from a panic attack.

Due to the intensity of the symptoms, these are easily recognizable in the person, as the amount of changes and imbalances in physical functioning is very noticeable.

These physical changes of the saint before the onset of the dreaded stimulus and include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • palpitations
  • tachycardia
  • muscle stiffness
  • Feeling of suffocation
  • headache

  • Pupil dilation
  • fear of heights
  • Nausea and / or vomiting

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

Avoidance behaviors are all those behaviors that the person performs to avoid encountering these stimuli. While escape behaviors are all those acts that she performs to escape or escape the dreaded situation.

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

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

the causes

It has been observed that cases of automatonophobia are much more common in children and adolescents than in adults, in most of these cases the origin of the phobia is found in an unpleasant experience in connection with a movie or a movie. story of terror that leaves a big imprint on the psyche of the child.

It is hypothesized that the cause of these experiences which intensify or become more necessary 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 any of these objects.

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

On another side, the role that the brain plays in this type of phobia has also been highlighted. The idea is that he perceives this type of inanimate but human-like object as something disturbing and therefore dangerous.

What is certain is that, like other phobias, automatonophobia 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 kind of phobia.


There are a number of diagnostic guidelines when it comes to assessing a person with possible automatonophobia. Although these guidelines are more or less the same for all phobias, the central phobic stimulus changes from one to the other.

These diagnostic requirements are:

  • Fear and feelings of intense anxiety about inanimate objects in human form
  • Feeling of fear or intense anxiety at the phobic stimulus
  • Avoidance or escape behaviors before the onset of the phobic stimulus
  • Feelings of fear are considered disproportionate given the real threat posed by this stimulus
  • Symptoms present for more than six months
  • The symptoms and consequences of this cause clinically significant discomfort, thus interfering with certain settings of the patient.
  • Symptoms are not explained by any other mental disorder or anxiety


Like other specific phobias, the most effective treatment or intervention is psychotherapy. Specifically, the systematic desensitization provided by the cognitive-behavioral stream is the one with the highest success rate.

This intervention consists of a gradual exposure to the feared elements and accompanied by relaxation training to calm the anxious response. and accustom the patient to the presence of this stimulus.

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

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