How Does Halloween Affect Our Mental Health

Featured on Metro. Author: Eleanor Segall

Halloween, to me, is a wonderful time of year. I love getting dressed up and going to parties, if I can.

However, I have bipolar disorder, have had depression and live with anxiety. Sometimes I struggle to socialize or answer the door to trick or treaters. It seems I am not alone.

According to the charity No Panic, in 2013, there are 8.2 million people in the UK who have anxiety in the UK. so Halloween can be a difficult time of year for many people, whether they have social anxiety, depression or agaraphobia, don’t like stigmatised ‘mental health patient’ costumes or find the frightening themes too distressing.

In a bid to find out how it affects our mental health, I ran a Twitter poll. The poll had 146 votes, which I know is just a small sample. Of the people surveyed, 63% said Halloween didn’t bother them, 28% said they loved it and just 9% said Halloween was awful for their mental health.

Laura Peters, head of advice and information at Rethink Mental Illness told Metro: 

For many Halloween is an excellent opportunity to dress up and have fun. If you live with social anxiety, late evening knocks at your door may trigger anxiety.

‘You have the power to make your own decisions. If you’re going to a party, take time for yourself and arrive later if needed. Breathing exercises can help the anxiety and you can always turn down the party invite.

‘If you’re spending the night at home- you don’t have to take part if you don’t want or you can leave sweets and a note outside your door. Trick or treaters should be aware not to knock at the door of those who aren’t displaying decorations.’

Alan has seasonal depression and finds Halloween difficult. 

‘My Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) means that October can often bring on depressive symptoms that make me want to hibernate. I don’t feel able to answer the door to excited children – I just want to be left alone,’ he tells Metro.co.uk.

‘This may be related to Autism. My lifelong way of adapting to social awkwardness has been to avoid novel social situations, so combine this with the SAD and I’m not a party animal in Autumn.

‘Apart from taking antidepressants, the only way I manage Halloween is by staying indoors. I try to make it look like we are out and ignore the door if we do hear a knock or doorbell.

‘Because of social anxiety and SAD, the very last thing I want to do is go out in the dark and meet strangers on their doorstep.

‘If trick or treating has to be done, I’d ask people to be mindful. Perhaps teenagers going alone should be aware that what appears like harmless fun to them could be difficult for the person on the other side of the door.’

Jacob has generalised anxiety disorder/depression and finds Halloween triggering.

He says: ‘The main thing that triggers my mental health issues during Halloween is trick or treaters. They are always children but as someone with generalised anxiety disorder, I sometimes struggle to open the front door.

‘When the postman comes and knocks on the door, sometimes I am too anxious and paranoid to open it. The same happens with trick or treaters.

‘These people are strangers and I think it’s the sense of the unknown and the pressure to look happy.

‘Some costumes that display mental illness in a negative light can also trigger difficulties for me.

‘I find it particularly difficult to come to the door and I have learnt that it’s okay to feel like that.

‘I would like people to know, especially those going out trick and treating that if someone hasn’t got a pumpkin outside their house then please don’t knock on their door.’ 

However, Charlotte feels more accepted on Halloween despite her anxiety and depression: She explains:

‘I’m a 31 year old PR manager and I have anxiety and depression, which I’ve been battling since I can remember.

‘I have always loved Halloween. I find that every aspect of it brings me joy – from the use of color offset against all the black, scary movies, Halloween horror nights, theme parks, dressing up, feasting on delicious things – its really positive for me. ‘

You can be whoever you want to be. There’s a child-like innocence. Its acceptable to put on a costume and pretend.

‘The most special part for me though is that there are no set expectations. You can do whatever you want, which is really freeing.

‘Halloween provides escapism and within that you can express aspects of yourself that you might otherwise hide. Its OK to be different’   

 


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