7 Phobias That Make Halloween So Spooky
This article was originally published on Psychology Today on October 7, 2020. To read the full and original article, click here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/stronger-fear/202010/7-phobias-make-halloween-so-spooky
Halloween, for many people, is a fun and whimsical holiday covered in costumes and fueled by sugar. However, for some people, Halloween and the entire month of October is a reminder of their greatest fears!
From store decorations, to commercials on the TV, we are constantly surrounded by symbols and imagery representing ghosts, ghouls, and the sinister aspects of life.
What is the Difference Between a Fear and a Phobia?
Fear is a natural emotional and biological response to danger or perceived threats. Everyone experiences fear from time to time, but not all fears are phobias.
A fear can graduate into a phobia when the experience of the fear or the response to it becomes so extreme that it interferes with one’s ability to function in everyday life.
Phobias can develop in many ways, including traumatic experience, cultural reinforcement, or social influence. Nevertheless, no matter how they develop, they can range from being a simple nuisance or even a daily fearful obstacle for the sufferer.
Coulrophobia- The fear of clowns
The fear of clowns is a phobia that has been made popular by movies like “It,” and it has been legitimized by people like John Wayne Gacy. The trope of the “killer clown” gets rehashed every year and serves as a trigger to many people experiencing this phobia and only reinforces the fear of clowns.
Nyctophobia- The fear of the dark
The fear of the dark is not just for children, but instead impacts people of all ages. At its core, human vision is poor at night, so we are already more vulnerable when the lights go out. This phobia is further influenced by several factors; our brain’s tendency to catastrophize, a natural tendency toward pattern recognition, and the power of suggestion on an already alert mind.
Taphophobia- The fear of being buried alive
The fear of being buried alive was a reasonable fear up until modern times when medical equipment and diagnosis techniques became more sophisticated. Taphophobia taps into humans’ deep avoidance of experiencing unnecessary and prolonged pain paired with the experience of suffering alone.
Arachnophobia- The fear of spiders
The fear of spiders is arguably a rational fear given the reality that some spiders are poisonous and could cause serious harm or death to us. However, the fear of spiders escalates into a phobia when the response to spiders, or the anticipation of spiders, becomes irrational and excessive
Skelephobia- The fear of skeletons
The fear of skeletons is another fear that can be impacted by common decorations during Halloween. Skeletons remind us of our upcoming and eventual death as well as a sign of potential threat to our safety. Additionally, the portrayal of moving skeletons defies our expectations and send us into a state of hyperawareness
Thanatophobia- The fear of death
Given that everyone will eventually face their own death, the thought of death is experienced by all people. However, the fear of death goes beyond a common thought and begins to include a sense of urgency, avoidance, and unnecessary caution with daily activities
Samhainophobia- The fear of Halloween
The fear of Halloween is an uncommon fear, but can be developed when phobias generalize and begin to expand to other triggers beyond the initial fear. Additionally, the fear of Halloween illustrates that some fears are influenced by social, cultural, or traumatic experiences.
The good news is that phobias can be effectively treated using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). Together, these two techniques help someone to progressively face their fears while learning that they do not need to rely on avoidance, superstition, or rituals to deal with the experience of anxiety.
Overcoming phobias through exposure therapy is a slow, progressive process where you learn to deal with the momentary experience of anxiety and fear. Through repeated attempts, your fight or flight system begins to learn that the heightened response is no longer needed, and that the stimulus and situation is safe.