Even before the clown scandal of 2016 that has caused retail giants like Target to pull clown-masks off the shelves and McDonald’s restaurants to limit the appearances of their decidedly friendly clown and mascot, Ronald McDonald, there is a phobia that is very real: it’s called Samhainophobia, and it is the intense fear of Halloween, according to Verywell. While for some it may be rooted to the fear of clowns, it’s actually a far more involved phobia than most, because there are so many things that may contribute to it.
It’s important to understand the difference between a fear and a phobia. A fear is rational — it causes us to take heed and care about things that may be a danger to us, including things like snakes, spiders, heights, and diseases. When a fear crosses over into a phobia is when the thought process is no longer rational — people refuse to walk in the yard for fear of snakes, they refuse to go in public for fear of catching a disease. It may be rooted in something rational, but it becomes phobic when it brings about an irrational reaction, says Dr. R. Reid Wilson, spokesman for the American Psychological Association, according to the Daily Sentinel.
“Phobias involve the experience of persistent fear that is excessive and unreasonable. Phobias are cued when a person approaches a particular situation or object, or even anticipates the approach of it, and they understand the fear they will experience as a result of that situation will be unreasonable and excessive. While most people get the jitters if a spider crawls on their arm, people suffering from arachnophobia — the fear of spiders — are physically and/or psychologically impaired by it. To be defined as a phobia, the fear must cause some level of impairment. I had a woman come in who was afraid of spiders, and it got to the point where she wouldn’t go out at night because she couldn’t see where the spiders were.”
Psychologists believe that most people, but not all, who suffer from Samhainophobia likely have a spiritual or religious conflict in their psyche. These may be harder to identify and treat, as Halloween is deeply rooted in the pagan holiday of Samhain, a night in which Pagans believe the “veil is thin” between the living and the dead, and more spirit and ghost activity may take place as a result. Pagans, particularly the Celtic Druids, likely began celebrating Samhain more than 2,000 years ago. This belief and practice may be in direct conflict with other religious teachings such as Islam and Christianity, so people may have a hard time deciphering their thoughts and feelings about the holiday.
Just as frequently, however, people may be afraid of something particular that they are more likely to encounter on Halloween, because eleven percent of people are thought to have a particular phobia — it could be spiders, clowns, crowds, the dark, or other things that may be part of Halloween, so the thought of encountering something in particular is what may make some people phobic of Halloween. This can be traumatic for people since so many others enjoy Halloween, and it is usually a time of parties, celebration, and gatherings. It may make them feel isolated and even more afraid due to this isolation.
National Mental Health Association spokesperson Dr. Kathy Hoganbruen says that genetics play a role in phobias, maybe as much as past experieces, so if you don’t know why you are irrationally afraid of something, it may have a genetic component.
“There are nature and nurture components to phobias. While we don’t know exactly why or where phobias originate, they are a type of mental illness, with genetics playing a role, as well as environment, meaning maybe someone had a negative or traumatic experience related to the core of phobias.”
While Samhainophobia is not high on the list of common phobias, it may help to remember that there are very uncommon phobias, such as fear of belly buttons or bananas. When one considers the most common phobias, however, it’s easy to understand how they may relate to Samhainophobia. The most common phobias are arachnophobia (fear of spiders), ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), acrophobia (fear of heights), agoraphobia (fear of open spaces), cynophobia (fear of dogs), astraphobia (fear of thunderstorms), claustrophobia (fear of small spaces), mysophobia (fear of germs), aerophobia (fear of flying) and trypophobia (fear of holes), according to fear of.net.
Many of these may be present in greater quantity on Halloween, which may contribute to Samhainophobia.
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