Masklophobia

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Masklophobia is the fear of people in masks and costumes, such as mascot suits. It is a real diagnosable phobia typically common in children.

Experts say it is a fear that’s apart of normal child development and typically gets outgrown.

However, I have not yet had the privilege of getting over this fear. It’s not so much focused on just masks or halloween costumes. It’s the mascot suits I’m really afraid of. I can’t even stand near them.

I normally turn the other way or hide behind something, I’ll even go so far as to use a loved one as a human shield. I start shaking and my anxiety starts choking me. You wouldn’t catch me dead near a mascot.

There are only two instances in my whole life where I was able to push past my fear.

When I was a kid, my parents used to take us to Sesame Place, an amusement park for Sesame Street in New Jersey. My favorite muppet, besides the ever popular Elmo, and silly Ernie, was Zoey.  I loved Zoey.

So when my mom wanted a picture of me and Zoey, you can imagine how panicked I must have been. I felt so conflicted! I started shutting down, I went non-verbal, and my anxiety waiting on the line only increased by the minute.

But when I was finally my turn and I saw her, I thought to myself, “This is my friend Zoey! She would never hurt me.” She was super soft and shaggy and gave me a big hug, and my fear dissipated long enough to take the picture.

It was such a rare occurrence and I was so proud of myself for overcoming my fear, even if for a moment.

The second instance took place in none other than New York Comic Con, a place that is crawling with costumes. Now, I’m not afraid of cosplay or just regular masks, but there are all kinds of outfits and people you see in Comic Con.

There could be people dressed as clowns, there could be people cosplaying monsters from horror games, and there are most definitely furry suits.

Normally I will hold a friends hand and they will help me navigate the large and crowded Javits Center and ‘protect’ me from being in proximity to anything that might frighten me.

But, there is only one character I could never be afraid of. It has been a special interest of mine since I was about 5 years old. Low and behold, waddling through the crowd I spotted a Sonic the Hedgehog mascot suit.

It was homemade but you could tell they knew what they were doing and probably make these for a living because it was borderline perfect, as far as I could tell.

Never in my life was I so excited to see someone parading around in a mascot suit. My friends were in shock when I jumped for joy and darted towards Sonic. I had to have a photo with my hero! I was beyond happy and surprised at how happy and relaxed I felt. With Zoey, I built up courage, but with Sonic, there was only joy and trust. I had a moment of triumph.

There are people who can explain their phobias, for example, someone could say they are afraid of the ocean, and if you ask them why, they could say they are afraid of drowning.

Someone could be afraid of crowds and they could say it’s the thought of getting lost. Someone could be afraid of snakes and it’s the thought of getting bit and having painful deadly poison injected into the body.

But me personally, I’m not quite sure why exactly I’m afraid, they simply freak me out. Perhaps it could be the humanoid body with the inhuman face, maybe it could simply be the deceit of seeing a character and knowing there is a stranger beyond the mask, the anonymity of it, or maybe it’s jarring to see a cartoon character almost flesh like in person.

As humans, we tend to have expectations when it comes to appearance and behavior. When something doesn’t fit a certain norm, it can become unsettling. In the horror genre, they use these expectations to their advantage, to make something innocent, such as a child, and turn it into something deceitful, hiding a greater evil.

It’s not completely a bad idea to try to face your fears. Sometimes it doesn’t work out as planned (I went to watch ‘It’ because my friend said it would be facing my fear of clowns but that only made me more afraid of clowns despite it being a phenomenal movie).

What I think is important, is to really sit back and reflect. Why are you afraid? Where is the fear stemming from? Is it simply irrational? Is it due to trauma? How do you deal with it? Can you overcome it? Will understanding your fear help you to overcome it? Just a few things to ponder. I’m sure you can come up with some interesting answers!

This delightful post was written by Amanda R. (@miunaluna)