There are many stories created around the idea of evil 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 talk about self-matonophobia. Throughout this article we will talk about this strange phobia, its causes and treatment.

What is self-matonophobia?

Of all the existing phobias, self-matonophobia 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 falsely symbolizes or personifies a sentient being.

That is, the person feels a 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 confronted with one of these objects, a strong anxiety and distress response is triggered, which may lead the person to avoid encountering one of these objects at all costs.

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


As with other phobias, the exacerbated fear of 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 distinguished because the individual manifests a great number of anxiety symptoms of a very accentuated intensity accompanied by a sensation of anguish and torment that is practically unbearable . In spite of this, on very few occasions the person ends up suffering a panic attack.

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

These physical changes of san at the appearance of the dreaded stimulus and include

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Palpitations
  • Tachycardia
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Choking sensation
  • Headaches
  • Pupil dilation
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and/or vomiting

As for the cognitive and behavioral symptoms of self-matonophobia, it is related to negative irrational thoughts about the feared elements and the need to avoid them or escape from them .

Avoidance behaviours are all those behaviours or actions taken by the person in order to avoid encountering these stimuli. While escape behaviors are all those acts that the person executes to flee or escape from the feared situation.

In short, the signs or manifestations that a person suffers from self-matonophobia are

  • Anxiety attacks at the presence or appearance of objects representing people such as dolls or statues
  • Nightmares about these objects
  • Aversion to objects or cartoons
  • Physical symptoms such as tachycardia, sweating or muscle tension


It has been observed that cases of self-matonophobia are much more frequent in children and adolescents than in adults. In most of these cases the origin of the phobia is found in an unpleasant experience in relation to some movie or horror story that leaves a great mark on the child’s psyche.

It is hypothesized that the cause for these experiences to intensify or become more profound 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 the appearance of one of these objects.

However, the specific causes of this phobia in children and adults are still unknown. 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 the other hand, has also highlighted the role that the brain has in this type of phobia . The idea is that the brain perceives this type of inanimate but human-like object as something disturbing and therefore dangerous.

What is certain is that, like all phobias, self-matonophobia can be caused by a genetic predisposition, as well as by a series of personality traits that can make a person susceptible to developing some kind of phobia.


There are a number of diagnostic guidelines when evaluating a person with possible self-matonophobia. Although these guidelines 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 about inanimate objects in human form
  • Feeling of intense fear or anxiety at phobic stimulus
  • Avoidance or escape behaviors at the onset of phobic stimulus
  • Feelings of fear are considered disproportionate to the actual threat posed by the stimulus
  • Symptoms occur for more than six months
  • The symptomatology and the consequences of this cause clinically significant discomfort, thus interfering with some of the patient’s contexts
  • The 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 has the highest success rate.

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

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