Nyctophobia, commonly known as the fear of darkness or night is an irrational condition that affects young children and adults worldwide. Other non-clinical nomenclature used in describing this phobia includes; Scotophobia, Lygophobia, and/or Achluophobia.
Nyctophobia is a derivation of two Greek words, Nyctus- meaning night or darkness and Phobos- dread or deep fear.
Although it is not uncommon for young children to have an irrational fear of darkness due to the brain’s perception of frightful imaginations that “would happen” if the lights were turned off, adults also suffer from the fear of darkness.
Victims of nyctophobia often refuse to step out after dark or go outside unaided at night, these may cause the nyctophobic’s family and loved ones to suffer.
The daily activities of the phobic may be affected by this condition as the individual is tensed, depressed, persistently anxious or high strung and/or uptight most of the time.
CAUSE OF FEAR OF DARKNESS:
Experts believe that the main cause of the fear of darkness is past traumatic experience that occurred in darkness or at night.
As a young child, punishment for wrongdoings may have been isolation in a dark room for a period of time. Also, siblings, friends,etc may be responsible for ingraining the fear of darkness in kids.
Other causes of nyctophobia may include:
* Graphic and crude movie content, tv shows and horror literature depicting violence and mayhem that occur at night, ghosts and paranormal activities that are predilective to night time are agents that cause deep dread of darkness in a child’s immature mind.
* Traumatic events which took place at night, for example, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, car accidents, murder, and other devastating happenings can leave a young child confused and scared in response to such events. This leads to a deep fear and persisting dread or night and darkness.
Some cases of nyctophobia eventually fade out as the child grows into an adult. And other cases grow well into adulthood as such phobics continue to recall the past events and link them to night time, hence the deep dread and aversion of darkness.
SYMPTOMS OF ACHLUOPHOBIA/NYCTOPHOBIA:
Symptoms common to preschoolers and toddlers are; nocturnal diuresis, thumb sucking, being clingy during nighttime, total refusal to sleep without night light or insistence that an adult be nearby.
The behavioural and eating habits of nyctophobic individuals differ due to their darkness phobia.
Physical symptoms which can be associated with nyctophobics are;
* Aches and pains
* Rapid and/or shallow breathing
* Rapid heart palpitations
* Shivering and trembling
* Chest pains or feeling like choking
* Nausea and other gastrointestinal distress
* Crying, screaming
* Reduced appetite or contrarily overeating or binge or splurge eating.
Other psychological symptoms of nyctophobic individuals are;
* Thanatophobic ( fear of dying, near-death) thoughts.
* Fear of being attacked by ghosts, and monsters; Persistently reviewing and confirming the absence of paranormal activities under the bed or in closets.
* Refusing to sleep alone or step out of the home after sundown or in the night. Compulsive staying up all night, waking up several times, nightmares, and waking up suddenly with fright.
* Feeling dread, feeling like running away at the thought of facing darkness, anxiety and panic attacks at the thought of darkness and night.
The activities of nyctophobics tend to reduce the quality of life and productivity at work as the quality of sleep they get has been negatively compromised. This may lead to depression, mental and physical disorders.
OVERCOMING/ TREATMENT OF FEAR OF DARKNESS AND NIGHT:
Nyctophobic adults often realize that their fear is irrational but feel powerless to overcome the deep dread of darkness, these feeling last from dawn to dusk and physically and mentally drain them.
Good news! There is hope and various techniques can help deal with the fear of darkness.
Hypnotherapy and qualified expert intervention can be employed to help combat nyctophobia.
Self help methods such as gradual desensitisation techniques which involves the exposure to night time for some period of time and writing down the irrational thoughts and changing them to rational thoughts. Positive visualisation and meditative expert help can help overcome nyctophobia.
Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) can also be used, as well as behaviour and cognitive therapies help to manage the victim’s anxiety and panic response when faced with the stimulus, usually darkness which he or she dreads. The use of medicines prescribed by qualified and trusted experts such as anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills can be ingested to reduce depression. These pills have short term effects and should not be abused because it reduces productivity, allows lapse in real life activities and do not offer a long term solution.