Halloween season might be the best time to brave your worst nightmares.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 10 million American adults suffer some form of phobia. Local psychology experts say you can conquer those fears by tackling them head-on. Here’s how to make the best out of the scary month.
Fear Things that slither
“Bugs, rodents, birds and snakes are the four most common animal fears,” says Catherine Pines, a psychology professor at DePaul University. According to Pines, it likely has to do with our instinctual knowledge that bugs and rodents can carry disease. “It’s prudent for us—as it was for our ancestors—to stay away from them,” says Pines.
Face your fear To face your demons, get up close and personal with snakes at the North American Reptile Breeders Conference and Trade Show (Holiday Inn Select, 18501 S Harlem Ave, Tinley Park; 708-444-1100. Sat 10, 10am–5pm; Sun 11, 11am –4pm. $15, kids ages 5–13 $8). Serpents, frogs, iguanas and amphibians shipped in from across the country will be on display alongside the animals they feed on. Bugged by bugs? Start off by getting a good look at them at Kohl Children's Museum’s Insect Zoo (2100 Patriot Blvd, Glenview; 847-832-6600, kohlchildrensmuseum.org. $7.50, seniors $6.50). The uberbrave can take a bite out of bugs at North Center’s Sticky Rice (4018 N Western Ave; 773-588-0120, stickyricethai.com). Choose from menu items like fried worms and khai jiaw khai mod—an omelette prepared with ant eggs.
Fear Blood and guts
“People who suffer from blood/injection/injury phobias”—the official term for the fear of blood—“experience a very different physiological pattern than people with other phobias,” explains Susan Mineka, a Northwestern University psychology professor. “With blood/injection/injury, there’s a slowing of their heart rate, a drop in blood pressure and fainting. It’s the exact opposite with other fears.”
Face your fear To truly tackle the phobia, get a glimpse of antiquated tools used in early surgery (and the marks they left on patients) at the International Museum of Surgical Science (1524 N Lake Shore Dr; 312-642-6502, imss.org; $10, students and seniors $6) before moving on to the butcher room at west suburban Dream Reapers Haunted House (1945 Cornell Ave, Melrose Park; 708-344-2084, dreamreapers.com, $16).
Fear Awkward social situations
The most common fears? Social situations and public speaking. “More people are afraid of those things than blood, spiders or death,” Pines says. More than 5.3 million Americans suffer from social phobia, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Face your fear Get over your fear slowly by mingling around the office water cooler. Once you’ve built up some confidence, take a risk: Attend a Meet Market Adventure’s singles trapeze class (Aloft Loft, 2041 W Carroll Ave; 800-239-0542, meetmarketadventures.com. Oct 17 at 12:30pm, $39.99).
Fear The dead
Technically called necrophobia, fear of death and the dead is quite common in low levels, says Mineka, but can occasionally be severe.
Face your fear To ease into making nice with the deceased, forget going to extreme haunted houses and focus on lighter death-themed events instead. Start at Fear—the Neofuturists’ Poe-themed haunted house where dead bodies are fairly scant (Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N Ashland Ave; 773-275-5255, neofuturists.org. Thu, Fri, Sat 7:30pm; through Oct 31. $15; students, seniors $10). Next, get ready to choose the sexiest undead at the Zombie Pinups Beauty Pageant on Sat 24 5pm and rock along with the dead at the Texas Chainsaw Musical on Sat 24 8pm, both happening at the Flashback Weekend Chicago Horror Convention (Wyndham O’Hare, 6810 N Mannheim Rd, Rosemont; 847-478-0119, flashbackweekend.com. Oct 23–25, $20–$25 per day, weekend pass $50).