Nyctophobia: Fear of the dark

What is nyctophobia?

Nyctophobia, also known as fear of the dark or fear of darkness, is a common phobia that affects many individuals. This phobia can range from a mild discomfort to a severe, fear that can greatly impact a person’s daily life.

Many studies have demonstrated that humans are afraid of the dark.The lack of any kind of visual stimuli increases anxiety, uncertainty, and tension in people.The cause of nyctophobia is not fully understood, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some individuals may have a predisposition to anxiety or phobias, while others may develop the fear as a result of traumatic experiences or negative associations with the dark.

People with nyctophobia may have trouble sleeping (insomnia), which can lead to fatigue during the day.

How common is nyctophobia?

Nyctophobia is very common, especially among children. Some researchers estimate that nearly 45% of children have an unusual fear of some kind. Fear of the dark is one of the most common fears among the kids between 6-12 years old. Kids usually outgrow nyctophobia by adolescence, but not always. Most of the time, this fear is short-lived, but in some cases the fear can be very problematic.

More than 12% of adults have had a specific phobia in their lifetime. In general, women are more likely to get specific phobia disorders. But anyone can get them.

Who is at risk of nyctophobia and it’s triggers

Nyctophobia is much more common in children than adults, but people of all ages can be afraid of the dark. People who had a traumatic or troubling experience in the dark are more likely to develop this type of phobia. Memories of that scary experience can return whenever the lights go out or even when you think about being in the dark. This means nyctophobia can develop as part of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Nyctophobia can also develop after watching a scary movie or hearing an upsetting story. If it’s to dark to see around, you may worry that the fear-provoking objects are real.

People with nyctophobia often have severe anxiety when:

  • Entering a dark place
  • Trying to sleep at night
  • Turning out the lights
  • Thinking about being in the dark
  • Seeing the sun go down

You have an increased risk of developing any type of specific phobic disorder if you have:

  • Depression
  • Substance use disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder(GAD)
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Panic attacks

Symptoms of nyctophobia

People with extreme fear of dark experience intense fear or anxiety when they’re in the dark or think about darkness. Children may avoid going to bed or refuse to turn the lights out at bedtime.

Physical symptoms include:
  • trouble breathing.
  • racing heart rate.
  • chest tightness or pain.
  • shaking, trembling or tingling sensations.
  • lightheadedness or dizziness.
  • upset stomach.
  • hot or cold flashes.
  • Sweating.

How to cure nyctophobia:

Most people with nyctophobia get better with therapy. But the outlook depends on the severity of the phobia. People with severe nyctophobia and other anxiety disorders may need several types of therapy for the condition to improve.Exposure to the dark in small, incremental, non-threatening doses in a process called desensitization (this should only be done under professional supervision).While exposure therapy gradually exposes the person to dark environments in a controlled setting, medications such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, may also be prescribed to help alleviate symptoms.

In addition to professional treatment, there are also things that people with nyctophobia can do on their own to manage their fear. These include:

  • Exposing oneself to dark environments in small doses, such as standing outside at night for a few minutes at a time, and gradually increasing the duration over time.
  • One-on-one talk therapy.
  • Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation, to help reduce anxiety and tension.
  • Using a night light or a small lamp to provide a sense of security when in a dark room

It’s important to note that nyctophobia is a treatable condition, and people who suffer from it should seek help from a mental health professional. With the right treatment, people with nyctophobia can learn to manage their fear and lead normal lives.


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