Why We Love Creepy Food For Halloween, According To Psychologists

With Halloween just around the corner, the time has come for horror movie marathons, spooky costume contests, and the celebration of all things scary. According to "Today," this fascination with the bizarre and terrifying makes sense — horror films allow audience members to explore taboo subjects and fear in safe ways, while offering a sense of catharsis. Anyone who loves getting scared can also feel drawn to the sensation of an adrenaline rush, a hormonal reaction to fear that humans physiologically feel drawn to. While these psychological patterns explain why humans love fear, it might not clear up why so many kids and adults love creepy Halloween food.

Anyone who has trick-or-treated might remember getting a few chocolate eyeballs in their Halloween basket. The attraction to enjoy candy that otherwise might be seen as gross only makes sense. "We give ourselves a pass and partake in something that only comes around once a time," Habiba Zaman, a therapist who specializes in social and relationships dynamics with over 15 years of experience, told Mashed. "Halloween is all about spooky things, so we indulge in the idea of it rather than the actual item. Just as Christmas is all about joy and fun, we therefore indulge in all the candy canes, elves, and anything red, green and white. We are celebrating the theme that comes around once a year."

The thrill of gross-out treats

Fans of the holiday get a chance to explore foods they normally don't even dare to try. "Just as some people get an adrenaline surge from devouring actual bugs or other normally off-limits fare, Halloween gives many people a chance to experience a rush from eating creepy foods," Carla Marie Manly, PhD, clinical psychologist and author of the book "Joy from Fear: Create the Life of your Dreams by Making Fear Your Friend," told Mashed. "Delving into the realm of the unknown — whether it's eating bizarre Halloween treats or feeling 'eyeballs' in a haunted house experience — is often somewhat scary; the resulting fear response can be both exhilarating and anxiety-inducing."

Indulgence in spooky foods ends up creating a bonding experience among everyone who indulges in the celebrations. "It makes us feel a part of a larger community and that we belong," Zaman continued. "It is something for children to brag about that builds their confidence and sense of strength and for adults to find creative outlets to showcase their imaginations. It is also a time to pretend to be anyone else we can or would ever want to be, giving us the escapism that we all crave from time to time." 

"When creepy Halloween cravings are explored in safe ways, our playful, exploratory side has a chance to come alive," Dr. Manly agreed. "And, when we delve into creepy cravings in fun-loving, open-minded ways we can actually become more in touch with our own humanity."