Ghosts and ghouls, witches and zombies, spiders, and lanterns carved from pumpkins. Yes, it’s Halloween!
For many this is a time of dressing up, partying, and eating far too many sweets. But, for others, it can set off their fears and phobias, including Samhainophobia – Halloween phobia.
Halloween related phobias usually result from a previous traumatic or stressful experience; perhaps, as a child, being told-off by a stranger when trick-or-treating; or seeing your mother jump and scream at a spider; or perhaps the devastation of losing a loved one leading to a fear of coffins or graves; or being injured and scared at the sight of your own blood. A seemingly small incident can lead to a life-long fear or phobia.
So, what are the top 10 Halloween phobias and what can you do about them?
Fear of spiders: Arachnophobia
This is one of the most common phobias with 55% of women and 18% of men having this fear.
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 it could be cultural i.e. you’re from a country with venomous spiders. But, interestingly, a fear of spiders is not proportional to the possibility of being harmed. There isn’t a greater incidence of spider phobias in countries that have more dangerous species, such as Australia or Africa.
Fear of snakes: Ophidiophobia
1 in 3 people are said to have this fear – so you’re not alone. It may be linked to our evolution; we are hardwired to avoid these creatures as they can be dangerous.
Fear of death: Necrophobia
This is a fear of anything linked to death, such as coffins, graveyards, bones, and corpses, etc. It can be a fear of dying itself or an association with the pain of the death of a loved one.
Fear of masks/costumes: Maskaphobia
This phobia is related to a fear of the unknown; not being able to see a person’s real face or see their expression or emotions. And, of course, Halloween costumes and masks are often made to be scary, so it’s no surprise that people can be frightened by them.
Fear of the dark: Nyctophobia
Most common amongst children, but there are still many adults affected by a fear of the dark.
It can be triggered by 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 is also linked to our primitive brain that tells us that we need to avoid predators in the night.
Fear of thunder and lightning: Astraphobia
A fear of loud noises is said to be one of only a few phobias that we are born with; avoiding very loud sounds helps us avoid danger.
Fear of blood: Hemophobia
Another very common phobia – and linked to our fear of pain, injury or death. Perhaps you’ve watched a loved one in pain, or seen too many horror or crime movies as a child.
Fear of vegetables: Lachanophobia
Creating a pumpkin lantern is a Halloween essential – but for some people it’s not the grinning smile that is the issue, it’s the vegetable itself.
This usually stems from being forced to eat vegetables as a child – and perhaps feeling sick as a result.
Fear of the full moon: Selenophobia
Although this phobia isn’t very common, the full moon is still used as a symbol of spookiness. It is also linked to werewolves in fairy-tales and many believe it affects our emotions. The word lunatic is even derived from ’luna’ – the moon.
Things that go bump in the night!
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! Phasmophobia- a fear of ghosts, Wiccaphobia- witches, Kinemortophobia- Zombies – the list is endless. And although we may logically know that these creatures do not exist, this doesn’t diminish the fear for many people.
There is good news; if you suffer from a phobia there is plenty you can do to cure it. So don’t suffer – seek professional help, and next Halloween you’ll be joining the party with everyone else. Happy Halloween!
Christopher on BBC Radio on Halloween phobias