Understanding that holidays can trigger negative emotions in our loved ones is important. While you may not think about it, Halloween is one of these holidays. This holiday seems innocent and fun to a lot of people but it can be emotionally disturbing to someone who has PTSD.
How Halloween can Trigger PTSD
Some of the ways Halloween can trigger PTSD include:
- Halloween can remind you of your past trauma. Things like skeletons, fake blood, and other things intended to be "fun" may trigger flashbacks. These can also be a struggle for anyone who is inclined towards self-injurious behaviors (e.g. cutting, burning) or suicidal thoughts.
- Halloween can trigger negative emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. For instance, someone may be inclined to self-harm because they've been triggered by a song or an image that reminded them of their trauma.
- Halloween can stir up night-terrors and other PTSD symptoms. This includes hypervigilance, increased anxiety, and flashbacks. These often strike out of nowhere but are very disabling when they do. For this reason, it's best to avoid stimuli and situations that trigger these symptoms
- Halloween can cause a person to become overstimulated. There's lots of energy and stimulation surrounding this holiday because of the scare factor, costumes, candy, and even the parties. While many people really enjoy this, it can cause other people to have increased levels of anxiety. This is especially true for anyone who's prone to having panic attacks.
How You'll Know Your PTSD is Triggered by Halloween
You'll know your PTSD is being triggered by Halloween if you tend to experience more of the following symptoms at this time of the year in specific:
- Halloween can cause hypervigilence (the feeling that you constantly have to be "on guard"). Not only is this exhausting, but the constant, prolonged adrenaline and stress hormones can harm your physical well-being.
- Halloween can increase the startle reflex. Most people with PTSD are already easily startled. Now add in scary costumes and it takes this to a whole new level.
- People with PTSD can't handle too much stimulation (e.g. sound, lights, people, smells). Unfortunately, it becomes more challenging to tune these things out as a person grows older. Therefore it's important to closely monitor what's going on around you and when you need a break. With Halloween this becomes even more challenging and breaks become even more frequently needed.
So, while Halloween may seem innocent and fun, the fear factor can trigger PTSD symptoms. It's important to not only know about these but also have a plan for how to deal with them.