How to Deal with a Fear of Halloween Phobia
Have you heard of samhainophobia? This term is just another way of saying the fear of Halloween. While many in the Western world enjoy this holiday, for some parents and children, it can be a holiday filled with dread.
If you’ve ever had an extremely anxious reaction to something, then you know what it feels like. Imagine feeling that afraid of Halloween or anything related to it! People with samhainophobia may start to feel anxious just at the thought of the holiday.
You might go out of your way to avoid anything to do with Halloween including decorations at the store, participating in trick or treating, or going to parties. While it’s just one day out of the year, having a fear of Halloween can impact your life.
Samhainophobia Definition & Facts
Let’s take a step back for a minute and consider the definition of samhainophobia. This term refers to an irrational fear of Halloween or anything related to Halloween.
The term originates from the word “samhuin” which means the end of the summer or All Hallows Eve. Traditionally, the Samain festival was celebrated by Celtic individuals to mark the transition from summer into winter.
When samhainophobia has lasted for at least six months and shows up in the form of specific anxiety symptoms, then you may meet criteria for a specific phobia as diagnosed using the DSM-5. Specific phobias are considered anxiety disorders and there are many other types (e.g., fear of flying, fear of spiders, fear of snakes, etc.)
What Causes Samhainophobia?
You might be wondering, what caused your fear of Halloween? Why would you fear a holiday?
Yes, it’s true that Halloween has some scary or spooky aspects to it. However, if you have a true phobia, then it’s possible that you have a genetic predisposition toward anxiety. Do other people in your family have anxiety too? That’s probably the basis for your fear (but not the trigger).
Most likely, your fear of Halloween began with some important triggering event. For example, maybe as a child, you were spooked by a particular event on Halloween night. Below are some examples:
- seeing someone in a scary costume or a scary carved pumpkin
- being forced to knock on a stranger’s door (in which case your fear has a social component)
- being outside in the dark
- being afraid of ghosts
- being afraid of spiders
- watching a scary Halloween movie
- having another traumatic event paired with Halloween (e.g., losing a loved one)
- seeing someone else having a phobic reaction to Halloween (e.g., a parent)
From that moment onward, you would respond with a fight or flight reaction to anything related to Halloween. It would get worse each time your were exposed to the things you fear, strengthening that anxious reaction.
And, perhaps not knowing what else to do, you or your parents may have unwittingly reinforced the fear by avoiding the thing that made you afraid or anxious.
Symptoms of the Fear of Halloween
What are the specific symptoms of a fear of Halloween? They are the same as for a specific phobia as diagnosed in the DSM-5 (for a diagnosis of specific phobia they must have lasted for six months or longer). Below are the common ones.
- feeling extremely anxious when thinking about Halloween
- having a full-blown panic attack
- avoiding anything to do with Halloween
- racing heart
- shortness of breath
- muscle tension
- feelings of impending doom
- butterflies in your stomach
- dry mouth
- feelings of disorientation
In children, it might look a little different because they might not know how to tell their parents about their fear. For example, a child may scream, run and hide, refuse to sleep by themselves, or refuse to go to school around
Overcoming the Fear of Halloween
While some people with samhainophobia may fear the spooky aspects of Halloween, like the masks, costumes, movies, etc., I’d like to talk about overcoming the social aspects of Halloween that could be contributing to your phobia (since this is a site about social anxiety!).
Take a Gradual Approach
Imagine someone told you that hundreds of neighbors would be ringing your doorbell all in one night. That you’d need to make small talk with parents of little children all night, figure out what costumes the children were wearing and comment on them, possibly wear a costume yourself, and… does there need to be more?
If it were any other night of the year, you’d probably say that’s way too much. But that is what happens on Halloween in many countries around the world; if you have social anxiety, how can you cope?
One idea is to take it step-by-step:
- Don’t participate. If you’re just not feeling up to it that night, turn off your lights. If you still want to step out of your comfort zone, attend a party instead.
- Limit the time. Choose a specific time period that you will hand out candy, such as from 6 to 8. You’ll get most of the cute little kids and not be so drained.
- Distribute door duties. Share the duty of answering the door with other family members (if you have any) to give yourself a break.
- Take a gradual approach. Try to do a bit more than you did last year, to gradually face your fears.
View it as a Social Challenge
What if you are responsible for taking your child trick or treating? Try to view this as a social challenge and gradually work your way up to making small talk with other parents.
You could even wear a costume yourself, and dress up in something that becomes a conversation starter or that makes you feel confident. Or, you could have the most decorated house on the street so that others have an instant reason to talk to you.
And if your child is the anxious one, don’t force the issue or make them speak to strangers. It’s more important to gradually face their fear of Halloween than to have them worry about making small talk when they are in panic mode.
Find Ways to Relax
If the thought of Halloween has got you anxious in your body, it’s best to practice relaxation strategies such as deep breathing, yoga, or meditation. You could also wear an essential oil bracelet or an item to remind you of your alter ego (who has more confidence than you).
Progressive muscle relaxation paired with systematic desensitization is also a good way to get over a phobia.
Manage Your Distress
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is used to manage distress, and you can borrow one idea from this type of therapy to help you calm down if Halloween is causing you to panic.
One way to do this is to imagine that you have both an emotional mind and a wise mind. When you find yourself spinning out of control, try to engage your wise mind to bring yourself back to a state of logical thinking in order to make rational choices.
Analyze Your Thoughts
Do you have a lot of anxious thoughts about Halloween or do you find yourself worrying weeks in advance of the holiday? If that’s the case, then you might benefit from adopting some of the techniques from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
If you’d like to get started with this, sign up at the top or bottom of this page to get access to my free resource library, where you will find a set of printable CBT worksheets to get started.
Related Articles about Phobias
- How to Cope with a Fear of Crowds
- How to Get Over a Public Speaking Phobia
- How to Deal with Social Phobia