‘Tis the season for horror movies, haunted houses, and scary, sometimes gruesome, decorations. While some believe it’s just “good ol’ Halloween fun”, for others these spooky staples can trigger deep-rooted fear and anxiety.

Perhaps this was you: A preteen kid, curled up on an oversized couch with friends and bowls of buttery popcorn, fighting back your fear as you watch the killer clown in the sewer; the chainsaw-bearing hockey-masked teenage; the possessed red-headed doll. Your friends are laughing and shrieking, and while you’re trying your best to play along, your heart is pounding, your palms are sweating, and you wish you were anywhere but there.

You. Are. Petrified.

Or think about a young child approaching a scary house for the first time on Halloween, full of blood and gore and disturbing figures. Without having seen a haunted house before, the child will intuitively bolt in the opposite direction or stand frozen in fear.

What typically happens next is that parents, siblings, peers, or other influencers in the child’s life tell the child ‘don’t be afraid, it’s only make-believe.’ But a child’s brain does not register this – it is real.

These types of experiences can cause long lasting harm. Even after the fear inducing event has past, the fear is still there. The body still experiences the “fight or flight” response, and this suppressed response lives in the child’s cells, manifesting in nightmares or terrors; anxious habits (nail biting, skin picking, etc.); and unexplainable fears over things that many consider ordinary (ie. an “irrational” fear of storm drains, hockey masks, forests etc.)

When we have a strong stress response – the urge to run or hide, sudden sweating or shaking, a pounding heart – your mind-body is in panic. Unless appropriately released, this fear can stay with us at a cellular level.

If you were that person who forced yourself to watch scary movies or run through haunted houses despite feeling terrorized, that fear can be released. Check out www.overcomeanxiety.ca to learn how to heal.

If you are a parent or caregiver of children, please take extra care in what you’re exposing their young minds and body to this Halloween. What some may view as harmless fun can actually be extremely harmful for developing kids who rely so heavily on those in authority to keep their