It is possible to have a phobia about anything. A phobia is the irrational fear of something. Many phobias, even unusual ones, have been given names, often based on the Greek language. The fear of Christmas doesn't have a fancy name but unofficially is sometimes referred to as 'Christmasphobia' for obvious reasons. I will use this term as it is more concise than writing 'phobia about Christmas'.
What are the symptoms of Christmasphobia? A person experiencing Christmasphobia may:
Have panic attacks when thinking about Christmas or during Christmas celebrations
Have chest pains
Experience increased heart rate
What specific festive phobias have names? For some the phobia they suffer during the Christmas season is specific rather than a general phobia about all things connected to Christmas. Specific phobias include:
Selaphobia - fear of flashing lights
Ghabhphobia - fear of gifts
Krikophobia - fear of church services
Teleophobia - fear of religious services and ceremonies
Familiaphobia - fear of your family
Meleagrisophobia - fear of turkey
Cyssanophobia - fear of kissing under mistletoe
Ligyrophobia - fear of the bang caused by Christmas bonbons
Some have a fear of Christmas bonbons Image by Marie Vonow
It is not unusual for children to be freaked out by the man in the red suit and some adults share this reaction.
Why could a person develop Christmasphobia? Often Christmasphobia can be traced back to a traumatic event that happened at Christmas, perhaps during childhood. Maybe Christmas brings back traumatic memories involving abuse. Someone close may have been involved in a serious accident or died during the Christmas season. Perhaps a parent walked out at that time and never returned. As Christmas can be a time of increased alcohol consumption, it is a time associated with anti social behaviour in some families.
I read about a woman who had a nightmare about being kidnapped by Santa when she was six years old. This triggered Christmasphobia which she is now being treated for. (Her therapist wonders if something traumatic happened to her at Christmas and she has blocked out the memory of the actual event.)
Perhaps Christmas reminds a person of the break down of their own marriage or other significant relationship. A baby or child may have died at Christmas time. Not only will all the trimmings of Christmas remind the person of the sad event but they may feel extra pain because it seems everyone else is enjoying themselves while the person with Christmasphobia is just feeling pain.
For other sufferers, the trigger is a stressful situation that only occurs at Christmas. Perhaps this is the time when there are social occasions involving difficult relatives who cause arguments and embarrassment.
How do people deal with Christmasphobia? The most common way of dealing with the phobia is to try to avoid Christmas or the part that causes the most stress. Some avoid Christmas pageants, Festive displays, family gatherings, work parties and any celebrations of Christmas.
Some people try to avoid Christmas displays Image by Marie Vonow
They may also avoid going to shopping centres where they will be surrounded by Christmas decorations and have to listen to Christmas music. Shopping online for presents can make it possible to avoid shopping in person but doesn't help overcome the phobia.
How can this phobia be cured? If the phobia started after a traumatic event, treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may be needed. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is usually helpful and is sometimes combined with other techniques.
These techniques may involve:
As the Christmas season lasts for several weeks, a person who suffers Christmasphobia can be really stressed out and depressed by the end of the festivities. He or she may be embarrassed by the phobia but for their own sake and those who are involved in their life, it is advisable to try to cure it. The best place to start is probably by chatting to an empathetic doctor or other health professional.