Nights and darkness have always been associated with grim thoughts and beliefs. While some people thoroughly enjoy the night lives these days, many others dread the ghastly night darkness. This kind of fear of darkness or night is known as nyctophobia.
Nyctophobia (also known as scotophobia, lygophobia or achluophobia) has been derived from Greek word “Nuktos” meaning night or darkness. The intense and irrelevant fear of darkness leads many people to avoid any night routine or dark places completely. This can be a severe interruption in the everyday life of a person. A person having nyctophobia is not scared of finding any unusual or paranormal element in the darkness, but scared of the darkness for no specific reason at all. The fear can be triggered just by a thought or anticipation of being in dark.
How common is Nyctophobia?
Nyctophobia is one of the most commonly occurring phobias in people, especially children. Studies show that 90 percent of children go through intense of darkness and night. If the situation is severe and untreated, the phobia can prolong till adulthood.
What Causes Nyctophobia?
Some common factors responsible for nyctophobia in people, especially children are:
A Traumatic Experience
Any kind of trauma or distressing event related with darkness can be a strong reason for people, especially children to develop nyctophobia. For instance, if a child has been regularly punished by locking in a dark room, then there are maximum chances that he/she develops fear of darkness. Similarly, other traumatic incidents that occurred during nighttime such as abuse and violence, getting lost or accidents may also cause nyctophobia. Such experience instills bad memories and thoughts about how night and darkness are dangerous.
Previous Mental Health Weakness
Any kind of persistent mental health issues can also trigger the phobia in a person. If a person has been suffering through different types of depression previously, it can weaken the energy of his/her mind. Even a small occurrence such as sudden blackout or being alone in a dark room can make the person nyctophobic.
Nyctophobia has also been associated with the evolution of mankind. In early periods, people used to go for hunting at nighttime and face wild beasts. Darkness has been considered as residence of evil, monsters and paranormal beings. This is the very reason of darkness being the main theme of horror movies and Halloween. Thus, nyctophobia can also be resultant of a learnt behavior that has been given by the human evolution itself.
Symptoms of Nyctophobia
Common symptoms that signify nyctophobia in a person are:
- Intense and unreasonable fear of darkness and night ( the fear can triggered by mere thinking or anticipating to be in darkness)
- Complete avoidance of dark places
- Extreme discomfort whenever in dark places or during nighttime
- Compulsive need of light all time during night
- Panic attacks with physical signs such as shaking, sweating, trouble in breathing, dizziness and sweating, feeling confused, numbness around limbs, getting fixed and abdominal uneasiness
When to Visit a Doctor?
Nyctophobia can take a severe form when prolonged to a long time period. The person can start avoiding any place which can be dark, or even stop night activities. If the above symptoms have been persistent for more than six months, then visiting a doctor is recommended.
How is Nyctophobia treated?
Combination of different therapies and medicines can help to control nyctophobia.
Exposure therapy is a very effective treatment method for nyctophobia. The therapist makes the person confront darkness, and studies why and how the person reacts. The therapist would teach different relaxation ways such as breathing control, mind visualizations and meditating ways to reduce the fear. Through regular exposures, the person builds up toleration for the fear and distress.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is aimed at understanding the negative thoughts and images lying within the person’s mind about darkness and nights. The therapist counsels the person and tries building positive thoughts instead of the negative ones. The therapist also guides through appropriate behavior routines that can help to perform night tasks and tolerate darkness.
Only in severe cases, medicines are used such as anti-anxiety and anti-depressant drugs to bring down the symptoms. However, they should be taken only under consultation of a doctor.