Rebecca Girlinghouse, MA
WKPIC Doctoral Intern
In less than a week, it will be Halloween. For many, this is a day filled with fun, friends, fantasy, and imagination. It gives us a chance to step away from the stressors of everyday life and just let go. I, myself, have always loved Halloween, and for a very long time, it never occurred to me that there are individuals out there that find Halloween to be extremely anxiety provoking because it serves as a trigger for symptoms of trauma.
For those with histories of trauma, Halloween can be a direct reminder of the past. For example, there are often displays and costumes involving blood, skeletons, weapons, and other reminders of physical pain and death (Hill, 2019). Also, many costumes involve wearing masks, making it difficult for trauma survivors to determine if a person has negative intentions or could be a past abuser (Marie, 2016). Additionally, the constant string of strangers walking in their neighborhood and coming to their door can make trauma survivors feel anxious and unsafe (Contreras, 2016). Finally, Halloween is a night filled with excitement, energy, and people yelling in joy and excitement. However, those with trauma histories may interpret yelling as a sign of danger and they may become overstimulated by all of the energy Halloween can bring (Hill, 2019).
Now, this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t still go out and enjoy Halloween. However, it can be important to understand why Halloween can be triggering for some individuals, including family and friends. Sometimes, it can be very comforting for a person with a trauma history to know they are surrounded by those that understand them, are nonjudgmental about how they react to trauma reminders, and are aware that they might have difficulties throughout the Halloween season. If you would like more information about managing trauma symptoms on Halloween, a quick Google search about trauma triggers and Halloween can lead to sites on which others have shared their experiences and how they managed their anxiety during Halloween. Several are listed below in the references.
Happy Halloween to all who celebrate!
Marie, C. (2016). When my nightmares come true on Halloween. Retrieved from https://themighty.com/2016/10/dealing-with-ptsd-and-dissociative-disorder-on-halloween/
Contreras, M. (2016). How to handle trick-or-treaters when you have PTSD. Retrieved from https://themighty.com/2016/10/halloween-and-ptsd-how-to-handle-trick-or-treaters/
Hill, T. (2019). 5 ways Halloween can affect traumatized individuals. Retrieved from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/caregivers/2015/11/5-ways-halloween-can-affect-traumatized-individuals/