Nyctophobia – Is there Way to Stop Feel Fear of Darkness?


If a person being in the dark begins to look for any source of light in panic, shouts, waves his hands or fights in hysterics, it can be concluded that he has a mental disorder called nictophobia. People suffering from this disease experience uncontrollable fear of darkness. Usually the patient cannot explain what exactly he is afraid of in dark places, but still tries to avoid them in every possible way.

How to Identify Nictophobia?

As a rule, people with nictophobia avoid going outside at night. They are afraid to be in unlit buildings and to go down into the dark passages. Patients who have to spend the night at home alone experience the worst feelings. They leave the light in the room turned on (or leave the lamp on), and immediately take out a candle or flashlight in the case of a power outage. Sometimes, patients with nictophobia keep the television or radio on during the whole night to create the illusion of presence of other people in the room. At the same time, many patients still cannot sleep properly – their sleep is superficial and accompanied by nightmares. The physiological symptoms of the fear of darkness include:

People with nyctophobia usually try to hide their anxiety and rarely seek for professional help because of surrounding people tend to think that the fear of dark in adults is a sign of cowardice and immaturity.

Causes of the Fear and Methods of Treatment

In order to understand how to deal with nictophobia, it is necessary to understand what has provoked the development of such a disorder:

  1. fear of darkness in childhoodPersonal negative experience. Any terrible event happened in the dark that traumatized the human psyche (attack, robbery, fire in the apartment, etc.) often leads to the development of nictophobia. Panic attacks, heart attack, severe headaches which occurred at night can also cause avoidance of darkness.
  2. Existing neurotic disorder. Sometimes nictophobia can develop on the background of thanatophobia (panic fear of death), because many people associate the darkness with the underworld.
  3. Fears from childhood. A person can start to avoid the darkness because of the fear that he experienced in childhood. Children watch horror movies and listen to “horror stories”, which tell that monsters appear in the house at night. In addition, parents often intimidate young children with dark rooms in response to whims and disobedience. However, it should be noted that the fear of the dark in childhood, which is accompanied by symptoms such as unwillingness to sleep alone in the room or the desire to leave the light on at night, in most cases passes by itself and does not declare itself in adulthood.

Suspicious and timid people with a negative perception of the world are more prone to the disease. They are insecure, indecisive and vulnerable. Such individuals can easily convince themselves that when they are in the dark something terrible will happen to them (robbery, beating or even murder). These reflections can eventually turn into uncontrollable panic, forcing the person to avoid staying in the dark by all possible means. Several methods can be used to treat the disorder.

  1. strong fear of darknessCognitive and behavioral technique. This technique is primarily aimed at identifying and studying the causes of fear of dark places. During the therapy, the patient and the doctor actively discuss the patient’s fantasies and fears, as well as examples of irrational behavior and thinking.
  2. Play therapy. During the psychotherapeutic game, the patient faces his fears and learns how to deal with them, selects the best way out of the situation.
  3. Art therapy. Creative techniques are effective when working with negative experiences. This method allows the patient to understand himself better and to express his emotions.
  4. Immersion method. This approach involves immersing the patient in real situations that cause panic and fear. Psychotherapeutic work takes place directly in a dark room.

Timely treatment of nictophobia can greatly facilitate the life of both the patient and his family. However, before you diagnose a neurotic disease, you should remember that every person can experience some anxiety in the dark (for example, after watching a horror movie or when returning home alone), and such anxiety is not the beginning of nictophobia.


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