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As we approach Halloween season wondering if we will be able to enter the haunted house this year, we start to think about why it is we choose to scare ourselves.

Phobias are fears that we are powerless to control. In some cases, the phobias or fears are related to our survival. For instance, a phobia of snakes – especially venomous snakes that could kill us – is a pretty healthy survival instinct.

However, a phobia of all spiders – including the harmless daddy longlegs – is perhaps tied to a fear of being bitten, but is unlikely to ever save our lives.

Below are five common phobias. Which ones do you have? And which ones will the horror movies and haunted houses seek to exploit?

Claustrophobia-claustrophobia is a fear of tight or enclosed spaces. Does it make sense to not want to be trapped in a small space? Perhaps not if it is an elevator to the floor where you work in a high-rise office. But what if it’s a fear of being trapped in a coffin beneath 6 feet of dirt?

Arachnophobia-arachnophobia is a very common fear of spiders. Sure it makes sense to be afraid of the venomous wolf spider, or perhaps even the tarantula which is not only venomous but can also fling leg bristles into the eyes of its enemies and prey. What do you gain from being afraid of every spider you see? Don’t you want to share your shower with a helper who is just there to help you get rid of other bugs?

Trypanophobia – Trypanophobia is a very common fear of injections and needles. We are all familiar with the pain of needles and injections, but our daily experience shows these to always be beneficial. This is how we numb the pain before surgery, and how we prevent ourselves from catching the flu or polio. You can bet that the Director of your haunted house experience will play on this fear.

Agoraphobia – Agoraphobia is one of a range of social anxiety disorders. An extreme form of a fear of crowds or other people, agoraphobia can prevent some people from leading normal lives. Or paradoxically this fear can prepare some people to thrive in a time of pandemic. Agoraphobes have been preparing their whole life to live indoors without interaction with others. Zombie movies play upon this fear a little bit, by giving you justifiable reason to be afraid of others. It makes sense to fear someone who wants to eat your brain.

Mysophobia – Mysophobia is an extreme fear of germs and dirtiness. And it’s extreme form you can look like a sort of obsessive compulsive disorder centered around keeping everything spotlessly clean. Unfortunately, some people suffering from mysophobia will scrub their hands or skin until the skin is washed away. They might continue to clean even the muscle and tendons below. This fear will show up in a medical scene in a horror movie this fall, as a backwoods doctor fails to take any precautions to prevent infection in some unrequested surgery.

Watch for these and other fears this Halloween!

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