Do You Have Samhainophobia, the Fear of Halloween?
It’s the spookiest time of year, and although most kids and adults love joining in the frightful fun of Halloween, some people dread the annual holiday. If you’re filled with anxiety or experience sheer terror at the thought of October 31st festivities, you may have a mental health condition known as samhainophobia—the fear of Halloween.
The Roots of Halloween
The term samhainophobia has its roots in an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain that began some 2,000 years ago. Celebrated on October 31, the final day of the Celtic calendar year, it was viewed as a time when the division between the living and the dead became blurred. This allowed ghosts to cross over into the living world, where they could perform evil deeds if they so desired. People wore masks and costumes as a way to appease the roaming spirits to prevent them from their evil-doing. It’s easy to see how the Samhain rituals evolved into our modern-day Halloween trick-or-treating tradition.
From Fright to Phobia
Samhainophobia is more than just a general dislike or a mild uneasy feeling for Halloween. It’s what mental health professionals refer to as a “specific phobia.” Phobias are real, and they are considered a type of anxiety disorder that causes people to experience intense, unfounded fears that get in the way of daily life. Approximately 19 million Americans have some type of phobia.
If the thought of Halloween makes your heart race, causes your hands to tremble, or gives you a choking sensation, these are signs you may have a phobia. Other symptoms associated with phobias include nausea, sweating, dizziness, and panic. Children with samhainophobia may cry uncontrollably, act overly clingy, or throw temper tantrums when Halloween rolls around.
If you have a fear of the holiday, you may find it hard to go to work or to concentrate on your projects if the office is filled with Halloween decorations. If your child suffers from samhainophobia, they may be afraid of holiday-related events at school, and their coursework may suffer.
If you notice any of these symptoms or they interfere with your ability to perform your everyday activities and responsibilities, it’s a good idea to visit a mental health professional.
What Causes Fear of Halloween?
Experts agree that many factors play into the development of samhainophobia. For example:
- Family history: If you have a family member who has one or more phobias, you may be at a greater genetic risk of developing one too. And if a close relative is terrified of Halloween, they may transfer their fears to you through learned response.
- Emotional trauma: If you experienced a truly frightening event related to Halloween, it can trigger a lasting irrational fear. Perhaps your parents took you to a haunted house attraction that was too scary for your age, or maybe something traumatic happened while you were trick-or-treating as a child.
- Related phobias: Some people’s fear of Halloween may be triggered in part due to related phobias, such as hemophobia (fear of blood), nyctophobia (fear of the dark), arachnophobia (fear of spiders), phasmaphobia (fear of ghosts), or wiccaphobia (fear of witches or witchcraft).
In addition to these direct links to the fear of Halloween, there are other hidden factors that might increase your risk of developing a phobia. These include:
- Abnormal brain activity: Brain imaging studies have pinpointed abnormal activity in certain brain regions in people who have phobias or other anxiety disorders.
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs): Having a head injury as a child—such as falling off your bike, tripping on your way down the stairs, or falling out of the top bunk bed—makes you more vulnerable to anxiety disorders, including phobias, later in life.
- Exposure to toxins or infections: Exposure to toxins (such as toxic mold) or having a chronic infection (such as Lyme disease) raises the risk of anxiety disorders, including phobias.
How to Overcome Your Fear of Halloween
If you suffer from excessive anxiety about Halloween, take heart that there are ways to work through it.
- Deep breathing: When your fear of Halloween hits, you’re more likely to take shallow breaths, which delivers less oxygen to your brain. Anything that reduces oxygen to the brain can trigger feelings of anxiety and panic. Slow your breathing by inhaling for 3 seconds and exhaling for twice as long.
- Psychotherapy: Many forms of psychotherapy are helpful in the treatment of phobias.
- Hypnotherapy: Hypnosis allows you to transition to a state of deep relaxation. A growing body of scientific evidence shows that it can decrease anxiety and depression and reduce the fight-or-flight response that some people experience when faced with their phobias.
- Natural supplements: Nutraceuticals, such as GABA, magnesium, and vitamin B6, promote relaxation.
A word of caution about medications: Although some healthcare professionals may prescribe pharmaceuticals to people who have phobias, be aware that brain imaging studies show that anti-anxiety pills, such as benzodiazepines, are harmful to the brain. It is best to avoid them.
Amen Clinics has helped thousands of people overcome all types of anxiety disorders, including phobias. We use brain SPECT imaging to help identify which type of anxiety you have and to help find the least toxic, most effective personalized solutions as part of a brain-body approach to healing.
If your phobia is affecting your work, school, home life, or relationships, speak with a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or schedule a visit online.