Fear of the dark is a common fear or phobia among children and, to a varying degree, adults. A fear of the dark does not always concern darkness itself; it can also be a fear of possible or imagined dangers concealed by darkness. Some degree of fear of the dark is natural, especially as a phase of child development. Most observers report that fear of the dark seldom appears before the age of 2 years. When fear of the dark reaches a degree that is severe enough to be considered pathological, it is sometimes called scotophobia or lygophobia.
Nyctophobia is a phobia characterized by a severe fear of the dark. It is triggered by the brain’s disfigured perception of what would, or could happen, when in a dark environment.
It can also be temporarily triggered if the mind is unsteady or scared about recent events or ideas, or a partaking in content the brain considers a threat (examples could include indulging in horror content, witnessing vulgar actions, or having linked dark environments to prior events or ideas that disturb the mind).
Normally, since humans are not nocturnal by nature, humans are usually a bit more cautious or alert at night than in the day, since the dark is a vastly different environment.
Nyctophobia produces symptoms beyond the normal instinctive parameters, such as breathlessness, excessive sweating, nausea, dry mouth, feeling sick, shaking, heart palpitations, inability to speak or think clearly or sensation of detachment from reality and death. Nyctophobia can be severely detrimental physically and mentally if these symptoms are not resolved.
There are many types of therapies to help manage Nyctophobia. Exposure therapy can be very effective when exposing the person to darkness. With this method a therapist can help with relaxation strategies such as meditation.
Another form of therapy is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Therapists can help guide patients with behavior routines that are performed daily and nightly to reduce the symptoms associated with Nyctophobia.
In severe cases anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication drugs can be effective to those dealing with symptoms that may not be manageable if therapy could not reduce the symptoms of Nyctophobia.
Nyctophobia is generally observed in children but, according to J. Adrian Williams’ article “Indirect Hypnotic Therapy of Nyctophobia: A Case Report”, many clinics with pediatric patients have a great chance of having adults who have nyctophobia. The same article states that “the phobia has been known to be extremely disruptive to adult patients and … incapacitating”.