Nyctophobia Definition

It is a phobia that is characterized by an intense fear of darkness. The fearful state is triggered by brain’s flawed perception of what might happen when one is present in a darkened environment.

Due to the pervasive nature of the phobia, there is a dearth of proper etiological research on this subject. The fear of darkness in a person is a psychologically-induced feeling of having been disposed from a state of comfort to a state of anxiousness. Fear of the nighttime or darkness has numerous non-clinical terminologies, such as:

  • Scotophobia
  • Lygophobia
  • Achluophobia

The phobia is normally related to young children. However, case reports suggest that clinics having pediatric patients are highly prone to have adults as patients of Nyctophobia. The phobia has also been proven to be seriously disruptive and incapacitating for adult patients.

Nyctophobia Causes

Studies conducted on the condition suggest that it generally emerges at around two years of age, which indicates that one’s fear of darkness or dark environments is not necessarily an innate quality in humans. Different factors can be held responsible for triggering Nyctophobia, such as intense nightmares that might be more traumatic if the individual wakes up in the dark as a result of child neglect.

Sometimes, Nyctophobia can also represent another form of fear that lies deep underneath one’s subconscious mind. Although many children are actually fearful of the dark or believe that there are monsters hiding under their bed, a nyctophobic child will experience intense fear that persists until adulthood.

Nyctophobia Symptoms

The very idea of being alone in dark can actually send shivers down the spine of a nyctophobic person. Most frequently, a patient of Nyctophobia displays a number of symptoms apart from stress and anxiety. Normally, the victim sweats and trembles when he or she is left alone in darkness. The sufferer might also complain about vomiting and nausea due to the extreme fear. The very fact that one is not able to see anything in darkness compels one to conjure up worst possible scenarios in their minds about what might happen in the dark.

People with a fear of the darkness tend to become nervous during nighttime or in a dark environment. They might prefer to sleep by having a nightlight on when they are at home. Nyctophobics can also be reluctant to step out of their houses at night. When they feel forced to stay in the dark, apart from anxiety, such individuals might also experience:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Shaking or feeling ill
  • Breathlessness
  • Loss of connection from reality

He or she might see strange things and shapes in darkness or might find it difficult to handle situations which are generally not frightening.

If a person is not able to get over this phobia during his or her earlier days, over a long period of time it might cause disturbances of sleep and disrupt the overall quality of sleep, cause stress and low productivity at different tasks. Nyctophobia is also known to cause depression; patients of this condition often spend most of their daytime anticipating the night.

Nyctophobia Treatment

One of the most popular forms of treatment for Nyctophobia is the cognitive-behavioral therapy, better known as the exposure therapy. This form of treatment aims to desensitize one’s fearful feelings of darkness by slowly exposing the patient to darkened conditions. This is combined with anti-anxiety medications that help in relieving symptoms such as migraines and panic attacks. Therapy is used to effectively challenge one’s fearful beliefs about darkness and replace negative ideas with positive messages.

Self-help methods are taught to Nyctophobia patients to deal with their own fearful beliefs. Patients and their family members should be provided with adequate education on the phobia to deal with the situation. Learning to keep all negative thoughts and beliefs at bay is a useful technique to handle Nyctophobia.

Such a patient may also be advised to use a nightlight while sleeping at night. However, one needs to resort to other measures in order to deal with darkness outside the parameters of one’s own home. These might include treatment methods like hypnosis, yoga, muscle relaxation techniques, talk therapy and breathing exercises. Talk therapy includes encouraging the patient to talk or sing in the darkness; this usually helps one to forget about their fear of darkness.

Energy psychology, a new, innovative method of treating fears and phobias can also be used to effectively treat Nyctophobia.

Individuals with a prolonged history of this phobia are also advised to undergo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests and other exams that might help adjust with the condition more effectively.


Nyctophobia is an intense fear of darkness that although usually believed to affect only children, can also influence adults and have an incapacitating effect on the lives of those affected. However, effective treatment under a professional therapist can help one to get rid of this phobia.


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