Afraid of the Dark? Understanding Nyctophobia

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It is perfectly normal to be afraid of the dark. Everyone has experienced it at some point in their lives, mostly in childhood. Kids are usually conditioned into being scared of darkness due to horror movies and playful teasing from older people. While some people eventually get over this fear, others take it with them even as they grow older.

According to experts, the fear of darkness is grounded on the fact that humans innately fear what is unknown to them. Darkness prevents our eyes from understanding what is going on, and it instills fear because we start to realize we do not know who or what is out there. This feeling applies to both children and adults. Children imagine monsters and other creatures of horror lore lurking in the dark, while adults might think of more realistic scenarios like a robber breaking in during the night.

When a person’s fear of darkness starts exhibiting physical and emotional effects detrimental to his or her health, he or she has likely developed nyctophobia. While many of us can feel uneasy in the dark, a person with nyctophobia can be overwhelmingly terrified at the sudden darkness and display levels of anxiety and depression that can cause long-term health effects.

How do you know if you have nyctophobia?

It is easy to distinguish a reasonable fear of darkness from nyctophobia. Like most phobias, nyctophobia manifests in a person both in body and mind, with the symptoms often severe enough to affect daily activities. Several factors can cause this condition, with the most common being childhood experiences, trauma due to a stressful event, and genetics.

If a nyctophobic person encounters sudden darkness, or even if he or she just starts to think about being in the dark, heart palpitations and breathing difficulties are the most common physical indications. If the person can’t be calmed down right away, these feelings might cause chest pains due to tightening, lightheadedness, hot or cold flashes, excessive sweating and shaking, and ultimately, fainting.

Nyctophobic people can also get quite emotional once their fears are triggered. Some start displaying irrational behavior due to extreme anxiety and panic, such as continuous shouting and screaming. Others begin to feel a detachment from reality, caused by their mind’s desperation to escape the current situation.

Studies have found a strong correlation between nyctophobia and insomnia, which is easy to understand. People who are extremely afraid of the dark will have trouble relaxing, let alone sleeping at night when darkness is all around them. Naturally, when people do not get enough sleep, their health starts to deteriorate, and they become more prone to fatigue and depression.

How do you overcome nyctophobia?

While there is no surefire way to treat nyctophobia, there are several things an afflicted person can do to help ease the symptoms or lessen the triggers. It is essential to understand that when it comes to phobias, the more you try to put yourself in control of the situation, the better your chances are of overcoming it.

The best way to treat nyctophobia is to seek professional help. Speaking to a professional can help the patient better understand his or her condition, which should lead to an improved sense of mastery towards it as well. Therapy offers excellent support for people with phobias, but not everyone can afford to pay for a session or two. Fortunately, support does not have to be limited to experts—talking to family, loved ones, and friends about how you feel can also do wonders for your mental well-being.

Self-help can also significantly improve the chances of overcoming nyctophobia. Placing a lamp by the bedside or installing a solar panel as a battery to power the house in case of a blackout will surely help in making you feel safer during the night. Always carrying a flashlight is another simple but effective action in trying to get over the fear of the dark.

Experts claim that learning relaxation techniques to calm yourself during an episode substantially helps beat panic attacks by decreasing anxiety. When a person feels scared, the human body tends to take quicker breaths, so studying basic breathing exercises is an excellent way to understand and manage the situation.

Gradual desensitization to what you fear can also help beat your phobia. Exposing yourself to the dark in controlled and incremental doses should slowly help you adjust your levels of fear. Doing this alone can be quite challenging, however, so it is recommended to try this first with a guardian or a companion who makes you feel safe and comfortable.

Different people will have varying levels of nyctophobia, so the treatment that works for one might not apply to another. Do not be afraid to try several options until you find what works best for you. Facing your fears will be difficult, but winning the battle will reward you with a better experience in life.

Meta title: Nyctophobia: Why Some People Fear the Darkness

Meta description: A lot of people have a fear of darkness, especially during childhood. When this fear develops into an extreme feeling of helplessness and anxiety, it might already be nyctophobia.

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