Samhainophobia (Fear of Halloween)

Overview

What is samhainophobia?

People with samhainophobia (sam-HI-noh-phobia) have a fear of Halloween. Someone with samhainophobia may have extreme fear or anxiety at the thought of Halloween, including:

  • Halloween parties.
  • Halloween symbols such as ghosts and spiders.
  • Trick-or-treating.

What does the word samhain mean?

The word samhain comes from the festival of Samhain, first celebrated by the Celtic druids about 2,000 years ago. The Celts mainly lived in the region that is now Ireland, Northern France and the United Kingdom.

The Celts believed that the living and the dead mingled on Oct. 31, the night before the Celtic New Year. The festival included large bonfires, where they sacrificed animals to please the dead. The Celts often wore costumes made of animal skins and heads.

What is a phobia?

Phobias are a form of anxiety disorder. They lead to an excessive fear of an event or situation that isn’t harmful in reality.

Samhainophobia is a type of specific phobia disorder. A specific situation (Halloween) leads to a fearful response.

How common is samhainophobia?

About 9% of American adults and close to 20% of teenagers have a specific phobia disorder — like samhainophobia — sometime in their lives. These disorders affect nearly twice as many women as men.

What does a person with samhainophobia fear?

Someone with samhainophobia may be afraid of:

  • Children wearing costumes and makeup while trick-or-treating.
  • Halloween traditions, especially being scared or startled, such as at costume parties and haunted houses or with ghost stories.
  • Knocking on strangers’ doors or going out in the dark when trick-or-treating.
  • Participating in social activities, such as Halloween parties.
  • Things associated with Halloween including ghosts, spiders, witchcraft or zombies.

Symptoms and Causes

Who is at risk for samhainophobia?

You’re more likely to develop samhainophobia or a different type of specific phobia disorder if you already have:

What other phobias are associated with samhainophobia?

Other phobias linked to samhainophobia include:

  • Arachnophobia, fear of spiders.
  • Coulrophobia, fear of clowns.
  • Hemophobia, fear of blood.
  • Kinemortophobia, fear of zombies.
  • Masklophobia, fear of mascots and people in masks.
  • Nyctophobia, fear of the dark.
  • Phasmophobia, fear of ghosts.
  • Wiccaphobia, fear of witchcraft.

What are the causes of samhainophobia?

Possible causes of samhainophobia include:

  • Past frightening experiences: People who had a traumatic experience related to Halloween may develop samhainophobia. These negative experiences may include being tricked while trick-or-treating or visiting a scary haunted house at a young age. In these cases, you might have both samhainophobia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Family history: Your risk of having a phobia increases if you have a parent or close relative with a phobic disorder or anxiety disorder. You may be more anxious than other people if you have a certain gene mutation (change).
  • Modeling: Seeing a person with samhainophobia or hearing someone talk about their fear of Halloween can cause you to have the same phobia.

What are samhainophobia triggers?

Anything related to Halloween may bring on samhainophobia. Samhainophobia triggers include seeing:

  • Carved pumpkins lit with candles.
  • Children dressed up in costumes for Halloween.
  • Halloween items in stores.
  • Halloween-related movies or TV shows.
  • Homes decorated for Halloween.

What are samhainophobia symptoms?

Samhainophobia symptoms can range from mild to extreme. They include:

In addition to the above symptoms, samhainophobia triggers may cause children to:

  • Avoid the dark.
  • Cry or have tantrums.
  • Hide or run away.
  • Not want to go to school (school refusal or scolionophobia).
  • Not want to sleep by themselves.
  • Scream.

Diagnosis and Tests

How is samhainophobia diagnosed?

If samhainophobia disrupts your life, your healthcare provider may recommend visiting a mental health professional like a psychologist. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) doesn’t recognize samhainophobia as a phobic disorder. But a psychologist may make a diagnosis after evaluating your symptoms.

You may have a specific phobic disorder if the fear of Halloween:

  • Occurs when you experience situations related to Halloween.
  • Leads to you avoiding anything to do with Halloween.
  • Causes you to miss out on social events.
  • Impacts your ability to enjoy life.
  • Triggers symptoms of anxiety or fear that don’t match the actual danger.
  • Lasts at least six months.

Management and Treatment

What are samhainophobia treatments?

Exposure therapy is one of the main treatments for samhainophobia. During exposure therapy, a mental health professional exposes you to situations and images that may trigger your symptoms. As many as 9 in 10 people with specific phobias see their symptoms improve after getting this type of psychotherapy (talk therapy).

During exposure therapy, you:

  • Learn breathing and relaxation techniques to use before and during an exposure.
  • View images or videos of situations involving Halloween.
  • Gradually progress to visiting a store with a display of Halloween items.
  • Finally may attend a Halloween party with a friend or relative who can support you.

What are other samhainophobia solutions?

Other techniques to overcome samhainophobia include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): Many providers suggest CBT along with exposure therapy. CBT helps you learn to change the way you see and respond to situations that trigger symptoms.
  • Hypnotherapy: Healthcare providers use guided relaxation techniques and focused attention to help change your perception of situations. Providers can also use hypnotherapy to find the underlying cause of your anxiety.
  • Medications: Anti-anxiety drugs may be helpful if you’re worried about having symptoms during upcoming Halloween events. Your provider may suggest beta blockers (to reduce your anxiety during specific events, such as Halloween parties.
  • Relaxation techniques: Practicing deep breathing can help you take in more oxygen and reduce anxious feelings. You can start by breathing in for three seconds and breathing out for six seconds.

What are the complications of samhainophobia?

Severe samhainophobia can impact your quality of life. You may not want to attend social events, go shopping or even leave the house during the period around Halloween. It can be difficult to see friends and family during this time.

Children with samhainophobia may not want to go to school. They may refuse to go trick-or-treating or to go to Halloween-related events with their friends.

Some people experience panic attacks, which can lead to noncardiac chest pain and a racing heart rate. Constant worries about having panic attacks can result in a panic disorder that may require the long-term use of anti-anxiety medications.

Living With

When should I call the doctor?

You should call your healthcare provider if you have:

  • Panic attacks.
  • Persistent anxiety that interferes with daily life or sleeping.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

You may want to ask your healthcare provider:

  • How long will I need therapy?
  • Should I try exposure therapy?
  • Should I look for signs of complications?
  • What is causing this phobia?
  • What is the most effective treatment for me?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Phobias such as samhainophobia can impact your quality of life, especially around Halloween. You may miss out on social events, spend less time with friends and family or become afraid to leave your house. Healthcare providers can help you overcome your fear of Halloween. Talk to your provider about treatments such as exposure therapy that can help reduce anxiety surrounding this holiday.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/10/2022.

References

  • Merck Manual (Consumer Version). Phobic Disorders (Phobias). (https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/quick-facts-mental-health-disorders/anxiety-and-stress-related-disorders/phobic-disorders-phobias) Accessed 8/25/2022.
  • Merck Manual (Consumer Version). Specific Phobic Disorders. (https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/mental-health-disorders/anxiety-and-stress-related-disorders/specific-phobic-disorders) Accessed 8/25/2022.
  • National Health Service (UK). Overview: Phobias. (https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/phobias/overview/) Accessed 8/25/2022.
  • National Institute of Mental Health. Specific Phobia. (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/specific-phobia) Accessed 8/25/2022.
  • StatPearls. Specific Phobia. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499923/) Accessed 8/25/2022.

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