Fear or phobia? How the ‘scary season’ can affect people

INDIANAPOLIS – With a week before Halloween, we are in the middle of the “scary season”.

Many of us indulge in annual Halloween activities: watching horror movies, going to haunted houses, decorating our homes in spooky surroundings. While for many it is all in the name of pleasure, for some people it can be a trigger for their phobias.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 12.5% ​​of American adults suffer from a specific phobia at some point in their lives. A specific phobia is defined as “an intense, irrational fear of something that presents little or no real danger. While adults with phobias may find that these fears are irrational, even thinking about facing the feared object or situation causes severe symptoms of anxiety.

Some common phobias include spiders, snakes, needles, and darkness. There are even skeletal phobias and Halloween itself.

“We know that if you were left untreated when you were younger, it tends to persist into adulthood,” said Dr Hillary Blake, clinical psychologist at IU Health.

Blake says most phobias usually start before the age of 10, but tend to subside in adulthood. However, if left untreated, phobias can be crippling for adults.

The good news is that phobias can be treated with something called exposure therapy.

“We usually ask them to come up with a list of things that are from less frightening to most frightening. So, for example, looking at a spider photo, or pretending to imagine holding a spider, looking at a toy spider, whatever it is. Thus, they gradually go from the least frightening thing to the most frightening thing. And then you get them to do their exhibit until they’re not afraid of it anymore, then you move on to the next step on the ladder, ”Blake said.

Blake says it can usually take around 12 weeks to do exposure therapy, although she admits there can always be setbacks. She adds that you’re essentially recycling your brain, which means it’s important to work on it every day.

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