Halloween, or ‘the festival of the dead’, has a natural unpleasant fear and phobia associated with the festival known as samhainophobia. A mouthful we know -but it originates from ‘samhuin’ which means summer’s end. The festival itself was celebrated by the Celts, as a way of celebrating a transition from summer to winter.
Samhainophibia, a real phobia and though it only comes around once a year, affects children and adults and can be triggered by a number of factors. But simply put, the most important reason why someone may suffer from a phobia of Halloween is due to a negative or traumatic episode associated with the day of the dead. Halloween is generally celebrated when it gets dark outside, and for many children, darkness is not a pleasant time of day and instead instils a fear of monsters, or baddies that will come and get them, when they’re not looking. Not to mention, knocking on a strangers’ door for trick or treating has an odd complexity about it – and can cause anxiety and a fear of the unknown. The term ‘trick or treating’, also offers the opportunity to be ‘tricked’, instead of treated, and like any fancy dress costume, not being able to identify who is behind the mask is an obvious reason to fear Halloween.
In today’s culture, Halloween has a widespread popularity – parties, fancy dress, watching scary films and carving imaginative characters out of a pumpkin are to name but a few traditions, and yet the day is believed to be a time when the spirits roam the earth freely, and we choose to celebrate it?
Some people find it difficult to face their fears and parents often brush it off as being silly or immature as it’s not a serious festival and built on gimmicks. But it is real and it should be taken seriously due to the emotional trauma and impact it can have on a child in particular.
Some of the symptoms encountered can be panic attacks, nausea, dizziness, heart racing and rapid breathing. And though these are considered regular symptoms of any phobia, there are more specific ones associated with Halloween. Someone will refuse to go outside, try to run and hide away, avoid any shops or houses decorated with anything related to Halloween and maybe even refuse to go to school if they celebrate it.
The interesting part, despite countless numbers claiming to be afraid of the ghostly festival, we all seem to crave the scare. We collect decorations, smother our faces, arms and legs with fake blood, and find a costume that screams fear. It seems we can’t resist a good fright and there are many reasons why.
Halloween is all about power – as we don’t know what to expect, who we will run into and the very idea of ‘tricking’ someone rather than treating them. We thrive for the anticipation of what’s to come, and ironically, we seem to pulse towards the idea of wanting our hearts to race, our palms to feel clammy and for our faces to be filled with blood causing us to blush. The great thing about Halloween is not knowing what will be, so for everyone involved it is a game of power.
The second reason we seem to love the thrill of Halloween is simply because we love the excitement and jumpy feeling we get when we’re scared. It creates a story to tell and watching horror films or sitting with the lights off is all part of the experience you enjoy when part of a group. It creates a sensorial experience and for some, the experience will be scarier than others. But our bodies and our minds love the ‘rush’ that we get when we’re scared.
And psychologists claim that fear can create a distraction from another fear, which can a positive experience. And what humans love to do more than ever is to find emotions with one another – we like to learn from how someone else is feeling. So if you enjoy going to haunted houses, and someone starts screaming, but then begins to laugh it off, you will be able to socially pick up their emotional state which can help you relax and see you experience differently.
So what are the stats:
It is known that nearly one in four people suffer from an anxiety disorder during their lifetime and almost 8% of Brits experience post-traumatic stress disorder. Some disorders include phobias, anxiety disorder, separation anxiety, OCD and social phobia – and a fear of Halloween falls under this bracket. These phobias can occur at a very young age and treatment can be difficult if not conducted correctly. However, the good news is – with every phobia and fear, there is always a way to help change the way you think and see yourself.