For most people, Halloween is an innocent holiday made to celebrate all things spooky and gothic. The holiday, compared to most, is a lighthearted and fun occasion, full of decorating and excuses for parties. As an added bonus, this holiday makes the most of the shadowy nights that accompany our fall season. However, those with Samhainophobia, the fear of Halloween, the 31st day of October can trigger some genuine fears.
This phobia name originates from the word Samhain, the Gaelic festival marking the end of the summer, harvest season. This festival also marks the midpoint between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.
Bringing it back to more modern terms, Samhainophobia is a kind of anxiety disorder known as a specific, diagnosable phobia. Unlike short lived fears such as public speaking anxieties, or stage fright, Samhainophobia is a livelong, chronic fear that persists all year. While someone with this phobia may know that their fear is an irrational one, this does not stop the symptoms of anxiety from creeping up on them when thinking about Halloween.
Despite not being in any real, life-threatening danger, they can suffer from symptoms such as dread, sweating, heart palpitations, shaking, and shortness of breath. Specific phobias such as these can also have symptoms like difficulty breathing, chest discomfort, depersonalization and dizziness.
While the number of sufferers of Samhainophobia is unknown in exact terms, an estimated 9.1% of adults in the US said they have had a specific phobia in the last year according to the US National Institute of Mental Health. As is true with many fears, Samhainophobia is generally caused by a persons past immense experiences.
Catherine Blackmore, a Samhainophobia sufferer from the UK told Wales Online that her fear stems from watching the 1978 film Halloween at the age of five. Her Samhainophobia causes her anxiety to kick in around the end of August, when decorations start to go up.
“I know I only have a limited time before things start to change—for instance, as soon as the stores begin stocking Halloween items such as masks, costumes and decorations I know I can no longer go into town,” she said.
What is Samhainophobia?
According to her, imagining “spooky stuff” coming to life while at the grocery store has made her so anxious that she has felt physically ill. Due to this intense fear, her husband has to do the food shopping during the Halloween season. Massive celebration of this holiday exacerbate the fears for Samhainophobia sufferers. However, they may be pleased to realize that the percentage of Halloween celebrators in America has dropped almost 20 percent in recent years. Some of these drops may be due to COVID-19, but a drop is a drop.
Just like other anxieties, it is possible to ease or fully get over Samhainophobia. This could include visualization of getting through a Halloween event, practicing mindfulness, and gradually exposing oneself to Halloween activities with the help of family and friends.
Medical professionals say those with intense phobias should seek help if the fear effects their day to day lives, such as going to school, work, or other places in public.