Have you got a Halloween phobia?
As Halloween approaches, you may find certain fears being triggered in a way that is less fun than Halloween is supposed to be. Hypnotherapy can help get these fears under control. Here are some examples of unusual phobias which might be more noticeable at this time of year.
Werewolf and zombie masks might make anyone jump, but it’s possible to be afraid of even simple masquerade masks, or ones made to look like something not scary at all. This fear, called simply “maskaphobia”, is likely to come from the fact that, when someone is wearing a mask, you can’t see what’s really behind it. The wearer’s expressions are impossible to read, and while rationally you know perfectly well it’s your friend wearing the mask, you can’t see their face, so you can’t be certain.
Masks might also set off what’s known as the Uncanny Valley reaction, where something that looks almost like a person but not quite is more frightening than something that doesn’t look like a person at all.
Fear of monsters, in general, is called “teraphobia”, and here are some more specific ones:
- Bogyphobia – fear of bogeymen
- Sanguivoriphobia – fear of vampires
- Phasmophobia – fear of ghosts
Fear of things which aren’t real might pose less of a problem than other common fears, but at this time of year, it’s hard to avoid pictures or mentions of them. (I’ve picked a cartoony image for this blog on purpose, to avoid freaking you out!) A specific movie or book might leave you afraid of the monster in it for a few days, but if it doesn’t pass, then you might have teraphobia. These fears aren’t common in adults, but are not unknown; in 1972, a man named Demetrious Mykicura suffered from such a strong fear of vampires that he slept with a clove of garlic in his mouth and choked to death on it. Sufferers might rely on folkloric rituals to fend off monsters, such as hanging crosses or check under beds and in closets at night.
There are several different names for this, such as scotophobia, achluophobia, lygophobia, or nyctophobia, which more specifically means fear of night-time. It’s quite a common fear, which usually comes from the obvious fact that in darkness you can’t see potential dangers. It might also relate to a monster phobia, or a traumatic experience which happened at night or in darkness (for example, getting trapped in a dark cupboard). In children, it may also tie into separation anxiety, as night-time is when their parents have to leave them alone to sleep. In autumn, the nights get longer and it’s dark more of the time. Walking home in the evenings can pose a big problem for sufferers of nyctophobia.
How to cope with phobias
The first thing most people try is avoiding the source of their phobia, but that may not always be possible; you can’t prevent night-time from coming, for example. Therapists recommend instead that careful exposure to the source of the fear can help reduce the fear. For example, practising sitting in a darkened room or going outside at night for short periods of time, or learning more about the folklore surrounding the type of monster which scared you. Using relaxation methods can also help; aromatherapy, meditation, self-hypnosis etc.
A course of therapy can also help decrease your fear to a manageable level. Talk to your GP and, if you think hypnotherapy or EMDR might be right for you, contact me.
Debbie Waller is a professional hypnotherapist, specialising in stress, anxiety and related issues. She also offers EMDR which is used for trauma, PTSD, phobias and OCD and publishes hypnotherapy-for-ibs.co.uk for those interested in using hypnotherapy to relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Debbie owns a multi-accredited hypnotherapy school, Yorkshire Hypnotherapy Training and offers further training for qualified therapists via CPD Expert. She is the author of Their Worlds, Your Words, editor and contributor to the online magazine Hypnotherapy Training & Practitioner, and co-author of The Hypnotherapy Handbook.
For more information on any of these services, phone 01977 678593.
Researcher & drafter: Rachel Waller.