Fear of Halloween – It’s NOT fun for some!

Fear of Halloween?

Samhainophobia is the fear of Halloween or the fear of the Feast of the Dead. The word Samhainophobia originates from ‘Samhuin’ which means “the end of the summer”.

The Samhain festival was celebrated by the Celtics for marking the change between between summer and winter. The word Samhuin  means ‘All Hallows Eve’.

Where does the fear come from?

Children, are quite often terrified of Halloween. For anxious minded people, Halloween can be a terrible time.  October arrives and people and stores start decorating their homes, shops and gardens with skeletons, evil looking characters, and other realistically gory stuff.

Naturally, for children suffering from Samhainophobia, it is not a happy time. Many refuse to sleep alone or might be unable to express themselves only reacting in the form of tantrums, crying or angry meltdowns. Samhainophobia could be triggered by different factors. However, the most important reason is a negative or traumatic experience related to Halloween.

As soon as people and shops start displaying Halloween items, anxious minds create their flight or fight response – it is the brain’s way of protecting the individual from further negative news or trauma. Such a feeling of anxiety is heightened each time the individual sees a store with displays of ghosts, witches, spiders, skulls and scary masks.

The fear of Halloween is often related to the fear of spiders or arachnophobia since spiders or cobwebs are often used for decorations. Some children might have been “tricked instead of being treated” when the kids have been going from house to house doing “ trick or treating” and the trauma caused by that episode could have instilled lifelong fear about Halloween.

A few more things that can increase anxiety about Halloween

Often, parents spend a lot of time teaching their children never to go to strange homes or talk to strangers don’t we!

Yet, at Halloween they encourage the child to do precisely that. This can confuse the child and increase his anxiety. Halloween is also generally celebrated in the evening or when it is dark outside. A child afraid of the dark might be extremely reluctant to go outdoors, however might be coerced into going by parents or siblings. It’s a difficult situation isn’t it? We want our children to have fun, but we don’t want to frighten them to death do we?

It is also believed that Halloween is a time when the “Spirits roam the earth freely”. A person having a terrible fear of ghosts’ could also develop Samhainophobia around this time of the year too!

Often youngsters with social anxiety or fear of performing in front of others could develop a fear of Halloween as they are forced to participate in social activities against their wishes. Halloween is also a time for carving sticky, gooey pumpkins into scary faces. While some kids might be excited to do this, once they put a candle in it – it might create spooky effects leading to a bad reaction in the child. Also, scary films about Halloween are often shown on TV around this time – and some of them really are horribly scary – so do be careful what you allow your child to watch.

Signs and Symptoms that your child is struggling with a Halloween Phobia

Some kids might not be able to express their fears about Halloween clearly and parents often brush them off as just being silly. However, the fear of Halloween is a very real phobia which parents must take seriously. There are many physical and emotional symptoms of this phobia:

  • Nausea and tummy ache
  • Palpitations
  • Rapid breathing
  • Panic attacks
  • Reference to Halloween makes him fearful and looks terrified
  • Avoiding shops where Halloween things are displayed
  • Refusing to go to school
  • Refusing to sleep alone
  • Fear of the dark

Helping your child to overcome their fear

Parents must understand and acknowledge the child’s anxiety about Halloween instead of ignoring it. They must deal with the child very patiently and try and find out what is causing the child’s fear and then try to avoid those triggers. Parents must not force the child into trick-or-treating but must try and make things easier for the child by choosing to go out during daytime, or avoiding shops that have scary things on display like spiders, cobwebs, skulls, etc.If children are having nightmares about Halloween, parents must try and comfort/assure them that it is only a dream.

If you feel your child’s fear or phobia has gotten out of hand, then do contact me for a few therapy sessions. I can help the child change the sub conscious negative and fearful thoughts that are causing the fear, see more here.

One of the mums who brought her child to me last year said:

“Jake (9) was SO scared at Halloween and had been for several years that I took him to see Elaine at Focus hypnotherapy. I’m so glad I did because she got rid of 90% of his fears. We were actually able to enjoy Halloween as a family for once, and not have to stay indoors and keep away from everything spooky! Jake really enjoyed his sessions with Elaine as she really made them fun and really understood how scared he actually was! I would highly recommend that if you have a fearful child (not just about Halloween but in general) that you take him for a few sessions with Elaine – it does their confidence the world of good!”

Sarah Lucas, Reading.


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