Ghosts and ghouls and things that go bump in the night – Halloween is nearly here!
For some people this celebration brings up joy and excitement but for others it can set off their fears and phobias, including Samhainophobia – Halloween phobia (yes, it really does exist).
There are a variety of causes of a fear of Halloween:
Social phobias: The growing popularity of trick-or-treating and going from house-to-house knocking on doors and talking to strangers can create fear in some children. Especially if they have had bad experience, like being told to get off the doorstep. If this is strong enough that fear can stay with a person.
Religious beliefs: If a person was brought up with very strong religious beliefs they may fear Halloween due to its connotations with evil. Like my Mother… who really didn’t like Halloween for this reason.
The most common causes of a Halloween phobia however, are the number of fear inducing activities that take place as part of the celebrations.
So here are my top 10 Halloween phobias:
1. Fear of blood: Hemophobia
No Halloween make-up is complete without a big quantity of fake blood. But having a fear of blood is quite common; it’s linked to our fear of pain, injury or death. This phobia can be strong if you had an injury in the past or watched somebody else go through the pain. It can also be created from watching horror or crime movies as a child.
2. Fear of spiders: Arachnophobia
Spiders are one of the biggest phobias with 55% of women and 18% of men having this fear.
While some people need to see a spider to be affected, for other’s just the idea of them is enough to start feeling the fear, so a plastic spider might be all it will take.
If somebody has a fear of spiders it tends to stimulate feelings of disgust and repulsion which trigger a fear response in them. It is believed that this basic fear is formed around us having an aversion to creatures that look alien and have fewer similarities to us humans.
Or blame the parents. For example, if you watched your mom jump up and scream when she saw a spider, it’s then likely to create a phobia in you.
Sometimes the fear can also be cultural i.e. if you’re from a country where there are more types of venomous spiders. It might be logical to have more fear around them.
However, a fear of spiders is not proportional to the possibility of you being harmed. If it was there would be more phobias of spiders in countries that have more dangerous species, such as Australia or Africa. However, the statistics seem to show no higher rates of phobias in these places than in the UK.
3. Fear of anything to do with death: Necrophobia
But necrophobia isn’t only a fear of dying – it’s a fear of anything linked to death such as coffins, graveyards, bones, and corpses etc. Unfortunately, if your phobia is triggered by representations of death then Halloween is definitely not going to be a great day for you.
What can cause a phobia of dying is quite easy to grasp; not living anymore is a scary thought for many people. This phobia can also be triggered by a traumatic experience i.e. attending the funeral of your grandparents or the pain of bereavement and linking this to the cemetery.
4. Fear of snakes: Ophidiophobia
It’s said 1 in 3 people have this fear, and as with spiders it’s often linked to the fear of being harmed i.e. a snake might be dangerous and could harm or kill you. Even living in the U.K. where there is very little danger from snakes, the fear can still be strong.
It’s thought it could be linked to our evolution where we are hardwired to avoid these creatures. It could also be caused by the way they move and look – like spiders, they are very different from humans.
5. Fear of masks or costumes: Maskaphobia
Again, this fear can be created by a past negative event i.e. been scared as a child by someone in a costume.
This phobia can also come from a fear of the unknown, i.e. not being able to see a person’s real face. This can be scary, especially for a small child, and seeing somebody with a fixed unchanging expression can also create a phobia of masks. Halloween costumes are often made to be scary, so it’s no surprise that people can be frightened by them and that this fear can stay with them in later life.
6. Fear of the dark: Nyctophobia
While this one is more common amongst children (and a lot of children do grow out of it as they get older), there are still many adults affected by a fear of the dark.
This fear can be created from not being able to see what’s in the shadows or not knowing how to find your way out if you get scared or trapped. It can also come from our primitive brain that tells us that we need to avoid predators in the night.
Horror movies also like to use the darkness to create fear, and make us ‘jump’ by having things jump out from unseen places. So, this just reinforces the fear of the dark.
7. Fear of thunder and lightning: Astraphobia
This phobia is also more common in children, as the fear of loud noises is said to be one of only a few phobias that we are born with. And avoiding very loud sounds is connected in our primal mind to help us avoid danger.
8. Fear of the full moon: Selenophobia
This phobia isn’t that common and luckily a full moon isn’t that likely on Halloween. And there won’t be a full moon this coming 31st October 2017. However, that doesn’t stop it being used as a shortcut to symbolise the spooky. It is also often linked to werewolves in movies and the belief shared by some that the moon can affect emotions i.e. the idea of the lunatic (the word is even derived from ’luna’ – the moon) are all factors in creating this phobia.
9. Fear of ghosts, witches or zombies: Phasmophobia, Wiccaphobia, or Kinemortophobia
If you don’t see any of these represented in the shops or the movies this season then it wouldn’t really be Halloween.
As humans we are wired to fear the unknown and the idea of supernatural creatures we cannot stop or even see, creates fear in us. That’s the point of a good ghost story! But, in some people this fear can be debilitating.
Fear of witches can go back generations to when illness and dead crops were often blamed on a witch’s curse. Movies and TV shows, like World War Z, The Walking Dead, and the white walkers from Game of Thrones, as well as games like Resident Evil, have all put zombies firmly in the popular imagination – and probably created a few phobias along the way.
10. Fear of vegetables: Lachanophobia
Having a carved-out pumpkin is another Halloween essential. But it’s not the toothless grin that creates the fear for some people – it’s the vegetables themselves.
This fear normally stems from childhood experiences of being forced to eat vegetables and being repulsed by them or even feeling sick from them.
So, what can I do?
The good news is, there are plenty of things that you can do to fix your phobia.
I find the most effective methods with my clients for removing any of these phobias are treatments that involve cross lateral stimulation and self-soothing eye movement processes like tapping, or processes that find the cause of the fear and scramble the old triggers, such as the rewind process, time line methods or clinical hypnosis.
The first step though is to find the starting point of your phobia:
Ask yourself: When did I first create this fear? How old was I? And what was happening at the time?
Then: What is it I need to believe to feel this fear?
Once you have done this, changing your Halloween phobias will be a lot easier.