Nyctophobia: The Fear of Darkness

his is another in the series of phobia articles. Nyctophobia is the fear of darkness.

Nyctophobia is an overwhelming, irrational fear of darkness. While this may be a typical fear that many children go through, the nyctophobic individual is paralyzed by this phobia. People coping with Nyctophobia may refuse to sleep in a darkened room, will avoid entering a darkened room and may carry flashlights, matches or lighters with them where ever they go.

Sometimes referred to as Nychtophobia or Myctophobia, this word derives from the Greek “nyktos”, meaning the night and “phobos” meaning fear.

What Causes Nyctophobia?

All phobias are the result of an actual real-life trauma. Thereafter, that traumatic experience is consistently and automatically associated with darkness.

Perhaps the nyctophobic person experienced some abuse as a child and has associated that with darkness. Maybe this individual suffered from frequent, terrifying nightmares. Maybe the nyctophobic person heard or told too many frightening stories or urban myths and a phobia developed based upon those experiences. Obviously, horror movies with all their scenes of darkness do little to calm the fears of the person dealing with Nyctophobia.

Whatever the cause, the nyctophobic person can experience anxiety and emotional turmoil that is completely disruptive of their ability to function on a daily basis.

What Are the Symptoms of Nyctophobia?

The symptoms of Nyctophobia are individual and will vary among people. Some people, when confronted with their fear of darkness, may begin to perspire, feel slightly uncomfortable or become nauseated. At the opposite end of the spectrum, other people are so severely compromised by this phobia, that they may experience crippling anxiety and/or panic attacks.

Other symptoms of Nyctophobia may include:

* A Dry Mouth

* Heart Palpitations

* Numbness

* Heightened Senses

* Breathlessness

* Feeling Dizzy

* Muscle Tension

* Hyperventilation

* Trembling

* Rapid Heartbeat

* Feeling Out of Control

* Feeling Trapped and Unable to Escape

* Intense Feeling of Impending Disaster

How Is Nyctophobia Diagnosed?

The vast majority of cases of Nyctophobia are self-diagnosed. The individual realizes that their fear of darkness is irrational and is severely compromising their ability to function on a daily basis.

The nyctophobic person may discuss their phobia with the primary physician. Rarely would the doctor diagnosis Nyctophobia based on that initial discussion with the patient. More routinely, after ruling out any medical reason for this phobia, the doctor will refer the person to a mental health professional for comprehensive assessment and evaluation.

How Is Nyctophobia Treated?

When the fear of darkness becomes intense enough to disrupt an individual’s ability to function, there are a number of ways to treat Nyctophobia.

These can include:

* A referral from the primary physician to a therapist who specializes in the treatment of phobias.

* Traditional “talk” therapy that will teach the person to recognize and control their phobia.

* Hypnotherapy.

* Exposure Therapy.

* Self-help techniques such as purposeful muscle relaxation.

* Support groups with other people who are coping with this specific phobia.

* Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or Desensitization Therapy.

* Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and visualization.

* In severe cases of Nyctophobia, anti-anxiety medication can be prescribed.

Nyctophobia is an intense, irrational fear of darkness. Sometimes that fear can become so overwhelming as to completely halt a person’s ability to function on a daily basis. Unchecked, Nyctophobia can become a paralyzing condition that interferes with an individual’s personal life, their social life and job responsibilities. Untreated, Nyctophobia can have a devastating impact on every aspect of a person’s life.

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