How Halloween Can Trigger Phobias and Anxiety
It can be interesting watching a genuine phobic response. You can tell when someone truly has a phobia of something because their fight or flight will kick in and they will need to get away from that trigger as fast and as quickly as possible. This can manifest with some truly unusual triggers and, in other cases, can be an overly sensitive response.
Allow me to explain via an example.
One of my very dear friends has a phobia of spiders. Her phobia of spiders is so intense that you can’t even say the word ‘spider’ around her without getting an automatic anxiety response, and often some level of verbal abuse for your comment. She has worked on this issue in the past and has made progress although at one point there, even the mere suggestion that a spider could be at a certain location, such as a hint of cobweb on a rear-side mirror of a car, would have her refuse to get into that car.
The worst time of year for her though is Halloween. During Halloween, she will ever refuse to go into a supermarket due to all of the Halloween decorations that are placed up including spider webs and plastic spiders. The experience is a sheer nightmare for her and as a result, October, in general, has an added layer of stress and anxiety to contend with.
To be honest, she’s not alone. It isn’t just spiders. People have a fear of many things associated with Halloween which can make getting through that time of year excruciatingly difficult.
What is a phobia?
Harvard University describe a phobia as, “A phobia is a persistent, excessive, unrealistic fear of an object, person, animal, activity or situation. It is a type of anxiety disorder. A person with a phobia either tries to avoid the thing that triggers the fear or endures it with great anxiety and distress.”
We go through life having many experiences of which we will put our own meaning towards them.
A phobia is often created from an intense experience where the feeling and memory of the experience is encoded into the part of the mind that is associated with fight and flight. The result of this is that each time representation of that trigger is experienced, the body automatically goes into fight or flight. As anyone who has experienced intense anxiety knows, this is a very uncomfortable experience for anyone and so we automatically aim to avoid it.
The reality is that something like ‘a skeleton’ cannot harm us in any way, yet the feeling that someone with a phobia of skeletons might experience can be so distressing that our mind and body respond as if under attack, causing the fight and flight mechanism to kick in.
You may not know this but there are even people who have a phobia of Halloween itself! The name of this phobia: Samhainophobia.
The term Samhainophobia originates from ‘Samhuin’ meaning summer’s end. The Samhain festival was celebrated by the Celts for marking the transition between summer and winter. The word Samhuin has Irish-Scottish-Gaelic roots generally meaning ‘All Hallows Eve’.
Add to this arachnophobia – or a fear of spiders – and you can understand why people are going to start feeling that level of anxiety kick in as soon as the Halloween decorations go up in-store.
What about those people who have a fear of strangers knocking at their door?
Maybe even consider how some of these phobias may be triggered at Halloween:
- Kinemortophobia, Fear of zombies
- Hemophobia, Fear of blood
- Ophidiophobia, Fear of snakes
- Achluophobia, Fear of darkness
- Elurophobia, Fear of cats
- Necrophobia, Fear of death or dead things
- Noctiphobia, Fear of the night
- Nyctophobia, Fear of the dark
- Wiccaphobia, Fear of witches and witchcraft
- Triskaidekaphobia, Fear of the number 13
- Phasmophobia, Fear of ghosts
- Taphophobia, Fear of being buried alive
The list could go on and on and on. The reality is that it is possible to have a phobia about anything, and so it is easy to understand why Halloween has the potential to be so triggering for some.
How do you stop a phobia?
There are several approaches out there regarding working to resolve a phobia.
There is exposure therapy, which aims to slowly introduce greater levels of the trigger to someone until they become comfortable with it and realize that it cannot harm them. There is also CBT work, which aims to explore the thoughts that you have towards the phobia and reframe it in a different way.
The issue I personally have with both of these approaches is that it is largely focusing on the utilization of the logical, rational mind which is the conscious mind. This mind already knows that their phobia is illogical, which is why they seek therapy assistance in the first place. It’s the same as cigarette smokers who come to me and tell me that they want to quit but it is almost like a part of them just wants to keep smoking.
With hypnotherapy, we’re essentially guiding the person through an approach that allows them to reduce or remove the emotion from the trigger event in a safe, comfortable environment and effectively re-encode the memory in their mind. It’s safe, quick, and highly effective as it uses an approach that has had a proven track record of success.
What if you don’t know what created the phobia in the first place? Some people aren’t actually consciously aware of the experience that created a phobia as they might be unrelated. It’s important to remember that the unconscious mind works in metaphor and so sometimes an experience may not be directly linked to the trigger. That’s ok because again, hypnotherapy has the ability to talk directly to the unconscious mind using ideomotor movement and to explore new ways of being when experiencing that trigger instead of relying upon the old behavior (fight or flight) which it was essentially doing to keep you safe and protected.
How long would it take to take my phobia away?
For many people, their phobia can be reduced or even removed within one session. Of course, if there was a one-size-fits-all approach then that would be the only one used however the approach that is used at Release Hypnosis incorporates aspects of NLP, The Rewind Technique from Human Givens, and a mindfulness-based approach to help address every aspect and to provide you with new tools that can assist you not only in dealing with the anxiety you experience from the phobia but also with any other form of anxiety that you may experience in your life. Bonus!
What else do I need to know before you take this phobia away?
Good question! Perhaps you have some questions that you would like answered before committing to working on becoming free of that old phobia? In which case, you might be pleased to know that I offer a FREE no-obligation half-hour consultation in which you can ask any questions you might have and to get all in the information you need before you determine your next step and decide if hypnotherapy can help you.
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Enjoy a Mini-Mindfulness Meditation