In this blog we will discuss the symptoms, causes and treatment of Samhainophobia.
An irrational fear of Halloween is called Samhainophobia.
It is a type of specific phobia, categorized as an anxiety disorder in the DSM-V.
Someone suffering from this type of phobia feels extremely anxious at the time of Halloween.
Sufferers of Samhainophobia are not just afraid of hearing about or looking at the Halloween festivity, but just the mere thought of the occasion produces extreme anxiety.
This can also lead to full-blown panic attacks.
Normally, people/children get scared of the costumes or decorations used in Halloween because of the ghostly/dark theme used.
But, someone who suffers from Samhainophobia gets extremely terrified during the Halloween festival.
Sufferers who have a fear of darkness are also fearful of Halloween because of it’s dark, spooky theme.
Someone suffering from Samhainophobia will make all painstaking efforts to avoid their fear stimuli, Halloween.
This avoidance justifies one’s fear of them. The pleasant feelings it produces are the reason why one repeatedly acts this way.
One can develop OCD because these repeated acts can turn into compulsions.
According to the DSM-V this avoidance, caused by extreme anxiety affects one’s social and occupational functioning.
For example, one might not leave his house during the Halloween festival.
Someone’s family may be deprived of celebrating Halloween unlike others. This might annoy them and lead them to abandon the sufferer.
Someone suffering from Samhainophobia will be left isolated by his family and friends or he will restrict himself only to his room during Halloween.
This can cause one to develop depression.
Samhainophobia is the irrational fear of Halloween.
The word originates from ‘samhuin’ meaning summer’s end and ‘phobos’ meaning fear.
The festival of Halloween is celebrated to mark the beginning of winters and end of summers.
Symptoms of Samhainophobia
Like in the case of all other specific phobias, Samhainophobia too has anxiety as its focal symptom.
Individuals suffering from an irrational fear of Halloween suffer from extreme anxiety which, as mentioned earlier, can result in one having panic attacks.
When one undergoes extreme anxiety, the body experiences other physiological symptoms as well.
Such as increased heartbeat or palpitations.
Because this fear of Halloween is about something which is not physically present or seen and is highly subjective, sufferers of Samhainophobia experience symptoms in different ways.
One might have more severe symptoms than the other, based on their past experiences and intensity of the phobia.
Though, as the DSM-5 suggests, one must experience anxiety lasting for at least 6-months.
Symptoms one experiences in Samhainophobia are:
- Excessive anxiety when the festival of Halloween approaches
- Excessive anxiety when thinking about Halloween
- Inability to manage anxiety
- Full-blown panic attacks
- Avoiding places or situations where one might hear or experience Halloween
- Increased heartbeat
- Muscle tension
- Feelings of dizziness
- Feeling depressed
- Fear of an impending danger or harm
- Excessive sweating
- Hot/cold flashes
- Butterflies in the stomach
- Drying up of the mouth
For one to be diagnosed with Samhainophobia, a person should experience at least 3-5 of these symptoms (including anxiety).
Causes of Samhainophobia
Like every other specific phobia, Samhainophobia is a result of either genetics or a past traumatic experience.
Someone who has a family history of anxiety disorders or specific phobias has a higher chance of developing Samhainophobia than someone who doesn’t.
This is because they are genetically predisposed to develop it.
This genetic tendency to develop a mental disorder/specific phobia can also be referred to as a Diathesis-stress relationship.
According to this, one with a genetic predisposition will not develop symptoms of Samhainophobia until and unless there is some trigger event, instigating anxiety or fear of Halloween.
This trigger event can be a past traumatic experience such as, someone might’ve lost his loved ones on the day of or because of Halloween.
Since then one developed Samhainophobia.
A sufferer might be scared of the stories he heard about Halloween.
Maybe something dreadful happened to the sufferer or their family because of which one dreads the festival every year it comes.
Another reason can be one getting terrified of the horrifying costumes of the theme used in Halloween.
Someone may develop Samhainophobia because he saw his parents being scared of Halloween.
Whatever the reason, it is evident that Samhainophobia is caused by both genetics and environmental factors.
Treatment of Samhainophobia
Samhainophobia like all other specific phobias has no exclusive type of treatment that is specifically designed to treat it.
Like all the other specific phobias, Samhainophobia is treated by a number of different therapies including, Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT), Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and or yoga, which lower downs the anxiety or other physical symptoms.
• Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
It is one of the most frequently used treatment for patients with almost all kinds of mental disorders.
Samhainophobia is defined as the irrational fear of Halloween.
Thus, the therapist helps the patient in replacing these irrational thoughts with more rational ones.
The patients are helped out in analyzing and justifying the way they feel about being exposed to Halloween.
Therapists assist them in uncovering the reasons behind their fear and later they provide them with alternate, pleasant thoughts.
The patient is told to maintain a thought diary (with ABCD column) which provides them a replacement for every irrational thought they have, when thinking about a particular situation.
The ABCD stands for:
i. A (antecedents) a situation or triggering event.
ii. B (belief) the thought that comes to one’s mind when in that triggering situation.
iii. C (consequences) the symptoms/feelings caused by that event/thought
iv. D (dispute) alternate, rational thoughts provided by the therapist in an attempt to dispute/challenge those irrational beliefs.
This last section of the thought diary is what really plays a role in helping the person feel good/less anxious.
• Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
This is another effective therapy used to treat Samhainophobia.
It is more commonly used with people suffering from personality disorders, but is also useful with patients suffering from this type of specific phobia.
Coping skills are taught in the DBT group which lasts for about 6-months and can have a number of people (depending on how many join the group).
i. Half-smiling is the first module of DBT. It is a technique that is used with patients who are distressed because of their irrational thoughts.
The technique is known as ‘Half-smiling’ because the person is first advised to think about the stimuli that fears or upsets them, and while doing so they are told to lift the corners of their mouths by subtly smiling.
Smiling is not that will help one get rid of these unpleasant thoughts, it is the person’s ability to constrain itself from thinking about those thoughts while half smiling.
ii. Mindfulness, the second module, is another technique used in DBT groups which helps the individual in getting rid of those negative thoughts.
Individuals are told to focus on the present and be attentive to what is going on around them at the moment.
This helps in breaking the link between their mind and any negative thought that might come to them then.
For example, a person is told to focus on his breath or on the sound of the blowing wind, making use of their auditory sense.
iii. The third technique or module of the DBT is distress tolerance skills.
This module teaches people to calm themselves down in healthy ways when they are distressed or emotionally overwhelmed.
Individuals are allowed to make wise, rational decisions and take immediate action, rather than being captured by emotionally destructive thoughts that might make the situation worse.
Reality acceptance skills are also learnt under this model so that people fully accept reality and later make plans on how to address the problem/fearful aspects to it.
• Exposure Therapy
It is one of the most frequently used ways of treating patients with Samhainophobia (or any other kind of specific phobia).
In this therapy, the patient is exposed to the source of his fear over a certain span of time.
To begin with the therapy, the therapist exposes the patient to the least triggering stimuli, a picture of Halloween, for example.
As the therapy progresses and the patient is able to control his anxious feelings, imagery can be used to take the treatment a step further.
In this part of the treatment the patient is asked to visualize/imagine a situation in which he is attending a Halloween party.
During this process of imagery, one actually feels being in that particular situation or place, experiencing various senses.
Once the person successfully, without feeling anxious clears this step of the therapy, he is then exposed to a real Halloween party.
While the patient is being exposed to different intensities of stimuli during the various stages of therapy, the therapist simultaneously teaches them coping exercises.
These include, breathing techniques or muscle relaxation methods to lower their anxiety, when in an actual fear/anxiety causing situation.
This teaches them how to remain calm when exposed to the fear stimuli.
Before actually starting the exposure therapy, the therapist needs to figure out the intensity of the patient’s fear, as to deduce whether they will be able to undergo this treatment, without any physical or psychological harm caused to them during the exposure processes.
However, these steps desensitize one to their fear of Halloween, by exposing them to that stimuli repeatedly, until they learn to undergo the situation without anxiety/panic attacks.
• Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
MBSR is a meditation therapy, used to manage stress or anxiety. It is an 8-week program which includes group sessions.
Mindfulness meditation and Hatha yoga are practiced in these sessions, lectures and group discussions are also done to talk about mental health and increase interactivity.
In mindfulness meditation the person is told to, for example, to focus on the sensations felt while breathing or the rhythm of the chest rising and falling during the process.
This distracts the person’s attention from something stressful to something which is neutral and soothing.
For quick and effective treatment, patients are also given a set of home works, for example 45 minutes of yoga and meditation, 6 days a week and to record their results/feelings in a book or diary for 15 minutes a day.
They are not just one of the many treatment therapies used for Samhainophobia, instead they are one of the most common ways of relaxation used by many people.
Yoga tends to stimulate the meditative state of one’s mind while a person is in a particular yoga posture.
Through yoga/meditation the mind is diverted towards something more productive and calm, allowing the person to escape the negative, distress causing thoughts.
Out of a number of yoga types, one can benefit from any yoga type/pose they like.
Hatha yoga is one of the different types of yoga.
The breathing techniques or the imagery one creates while in a yoga posture are the real factors that makes the person feel less anxious and diverts their mind, away from the thoughts about Halloween.
These different types of therapies are very effective in treating people with specific phobias.
If one feels that they are developing Samhainophobia (or any type of specific phobia), they need to consult a doctor (psychologist/psychiatrist) in order for them to plan the person’s future treatment strategies, before the phobia intensifies.
Titles to read
- Samhainophobia The fear of Halloween (The fear collection)
by Allisha McAdoo
- The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation
by Thich Nhat Hanh, Vo-Dihn Mai, et al.
- When Panic Attacks: The New, Drug-Free Anxiety Therapy That Can Change Your Life
by David D. Burns
- Anxiety & Panic Attacks: Their Cause and Cure
by Robert Handly and Pauline Neff
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1) Why does one develop Samhainophobia?
There are a number of causes for Samhainophobia.
They include a genetic predisposition or an environmental trigger event.
Q2) How can one overcome their fear of Halloween?
Fear of Halloween is called Samhainophobia.
One can overcome this irrational fear by seeking medical help from a doctor (psychologist/psychiatrist).
Therapies like CBT and exposure therapy are effective was of treating Samhainophobia.
Q3) What are the symptoms of Samhainophobia?
Extreme anxiety, panic attacks, nausea, increased heart rate and or breathlessness are some of the symptoms one experiences in Samhainophobia.
Examples of other interesting phobias