Ghosts and goblins, witches and wizards, demons and angels, tricks and treats – there’s a whole lot that makes Halloween a festival which is celebrated with much enthusiasm across the world. From one lens, Halloween is about facing and conquering fears. But did you know there can also be people who have an innate fear of Halloween thrills and frills itself? Well, it happens to be a clinically diagnosed phobia called Samhainophobia!
The Samhainophobia pronunciation may be a little tricky, but understanding the origins of the term may give you a little idea about what it is. It stems from Samhain, an ancient festival which has roots in Celtic traditions. On October 31 every year, they organised a ritual called Samhain, which translates to ‘summer’s end’. Bonfires and sacrifices were a part of the ceremony to either appease the dead or ward off evil, and various sources indicate that people would hide their faces behind masks or costumes.
This tradition of dressing up in scary masks has continued through the years and has become popular in different parts of the world. In the West, especially, come October, marketplaces get soaked in the Halloween fervour. Even these decorations can make people suffering from Samhainophobia feel anxious or uneasy.
Health Shots spoke to therapist and healer Dr Chandni Tugnait to understand Samhainophobia and its effects.
“Samhainophobia, or the fear of Halloween, is a serious and often debilitating condition that can affect several people each year. It is characterized by an irrational and unrelenting fear of all things related to October 31st,” says Dr Tugnait.
From costumes and decorations to trick-or-treating and pumpkin carvings – these Halloween favourites are perceived by sufferers as sinister and threatening symbols of darkness and evil, explains the expert.
This fear of all things Halloween-related is often rooted in childhood experiences or cultural superstitions.
“Despite being surrounded by countless individuals who embrace the holiday with joy and enthusiasm, those suffering from Samhainophobia remain gripped by feelings of anxiety, panic, and dread at even the slightest suggestion of Halloween,” adds Dr Tugnait.
Their uneasiness may be triggered by seemingly innocuous things like the colour orange or images of ghosts and goblins, leaving them virtually paralyzed with fear whenever October rolls around.
They may also be afraid of the costumes and masks that are often worn on Halloween, as these can be scary and unsettling.
Additionally, some people may be afraid of the potential for violence and vandalism that often accompanies Halloween celebrations. Many people with Samhainophobia also suffer from nightmares, hypervigilance, and physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea, or rapid heart rate.
According to Dr Tugnait, some people with Samhainophobia may avoid going out on Halloween altogether, or try to stay in a safe, familiar place where they feel comfortable.
If you or someone you love is suffering from Samhainophobia, you can seek help.
“Professional therapists can help you learn to cope with your fears in healthy ways so that you no longer have to live in fear of this holiday season,” she adds.
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