How To Not Be Afraid Of The Dark
This article was co-authored by Trudi Griffin, LPC, MS. Trudi Griffin is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Wisconsin specializing in Addictions and Mental Health. She provides therapy to people who struggle with addictions, mental health, and trauma in community health settings and private practice. She received her MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Marquette University in 2011.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article has 37 testimonials from our readers, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 697,043 times.
Being afraid of the dark can make going to sleep a literal nightmare. A fear of the dark doesn’t just plague kids; many adults suffer from a fear of the dark, too, so there’s no need to be embarrassed about your fear, no matter what age you are. The trick to ending your fear of the dark is adjusting your perspective and working to make your bedroom feel like a safe, welcoming place — even when the lights are out.
Monsters In The Dark: Understanding Teraphobia
Medically Reviewed By: Cessel Boyd
As a small child, were you ever terrified at the thought of a monster lurking in your closet or underneath your bed? Did you ever see a monster on TV that gave you nightmares or caused you to have difficulty falling asleep? If so, you were probably like a lot of other children your age who feared the same thing. However, this fear can sometimes persist well into our adult years and still make us feel afraid of what might be lurking in the dark. This is known as teraphobia.
What Is Teraphobia?
Teraphobia is defined, simply, as the fear of monsters. It can extend to a fear of the dark, spurred by a fear of what may be in the dark. It’s pretty common among preschoolers and elementary-aged children and typically fades away as the years go on, although this isn’t always the case. Many teens and adults can also fall victim to this kind of phobia, so don’t feel as though you’re the odd one out. It’s a very intense fear and can cause a host of issues for the individual, their family, and friends. It can even become so overwhelming that it prevents them from basic functioning.
Signs Of Teraphobia In Children
Teraphobia In Adults
Effects Of Teraphobia
Your Reaction Means Everything
Your children look to you for everything – basic care, comfort, and emotional support during times of stress. It’s important to remember the following when your child approaches you with a fear of monsters:
Other Treatment Options For Teraphobia
How To Overcome Nyctophobia
If you have read through the Nyctophobia facts, you should be able to identify whether you or someone you know is suffering from the condition.
If you or your child are suffering from this condition, the best option is to contact your family doctor or a professional psychologist.
This is the first and best step towards treatment. A doctor will be able to help you understand how to overcome the fear of the darkness through different therapies.
It is important to understand however that we as human beings are inclined to be afraid of the dark as we aren’t nocturnal by nature.
Only when the symptoms produced by the fear of darkness are irrational and out of control must we worry.
Any signs of breathlessness, panic, dryness in the mouth, increased heart rates, sweating, the inability to think, act or speak clearly, could all mean that Nyctophobia exists and must be treated.
Doctors can successfully help you overcome this phobia with exposure and cognitive therapies. Guided routines with daily and nightly tasks to be performed will reduce the symptoms over time.
Antidepressants are only prescribed when the condition is too severe. A simple way to help yourself during the process is to practice meditation.
What Are The Treatment Options For Nyctophobia
Treatment of nyctophobia can differ from one person to another. For some, cognitive behavioral therapy can provide assistance, whereas for others, medication can be helpful. Moreover, the treatment depends on the severity of the person’s medical health.
- It is a common treatment option where the person is exposed to certain events that can successfully help them cope with their .
- There may be little risk linked with this therapy; hence, it is not for everyone.
- Therefore, discussing your condition with a doctor is a key factor to determine the right type of treatment.
- Taking deep breaths and relaxing the body can be of great help while dealing with any type of phobia.
- This can help calm the mind of the person and, at the same time, eases and worry.
- Cognitive therapy is usually used in combination with exposure therapy.
- However, this also depends on the severity of the person’s condition.
- The therapy uses various types of facts and information to overcome fear. However, this must always be done under the guidance of a healthcare professional to have a positive impact.
Phobia of the dark can be rather debilitating. Darkness is not something you can easily escape after all. Still, once you recognize that your fear of the night is a problem, this phobia, much like any other, is easily treatable if you allow yourself to seek help.
Nyctophobia And Sleep Disorders
Nyctophobia may be associated with a sleep disorder, like . A small on college students with insomnia uncovered that nearly half of the students had a fear of the dark. The researchers measured the students’ responses to noises in both light and darkness. Those who had the most trouble sleeping were more easily startled by noise in the dark. Not only that, but the good sleepers actually became used to the noises with time. The students with insomnia grew more and more anxious and anticipatory.
Make an appointment to see a doctor if you or your child:
- have trouble sleeping
- feel particularly anxious or distressed in the dark
- have another reason to believe you may have nyctophobia
Diagnosis involves meeting with your doctor and answering questions about your symptoms. Your doctor may also ask for a psychiatric and social history. From there, your doctor may use the diagnostic criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition on specific phobias to make a formal diagnosis.
What Are The Treatments For Achluophobia
Fear of the dark tends to affect children the most. Like other childhood fears, most people eventually outgrow them. It’s important not to see fear of the dark as or tease a child about it. These attitudes often make the problem worse and cause more shame and guilt. While it’s easy to see fear of the dark as silly, it is quite real and overwhelming to the person experiencing the phobia. Getting help early in the course of the phobia often offers the best resolution of the fear.
Doctors recommend treatment when fear of the dark affects your ability to live and function normally. The most effective achluophobia treatments are forms of psychotherapy including:
- Cognitive behavior therapy helps you or your child learn to identify and change unhealthy thoughts and emotions to change behavior. A therapist will guide you through the process of confronting your fear and changing your beliefs about your fear. The goal is to gain confidence in yourself instead of letting fear of the dark overwhelm you. Therapists often use this technique in combination with exposure therapy.
In some cases, doctors also use medications for a short period of time to help reduce symptoms. However, long-lasting relief relies on effective psychotherapy. Medications are often more useful for temporary situations, such as fear of flying.
When fear of the dark is severe, it can be devastating. Complications include:
- . People with phobias have a higher risk of anxiety and .
Why Does My 3 Year Old Hates Loud Noises
Many children are highly sensitive to specific types of stimuli such as loud noises, background noise and other people’s emotions. Having a few of these sensitivities may suggest that a child has a sensory processing disorder, but it could also mean that the child simply has a few noticeable quirks.
The Real Reason You’re Afraid Of The Dark
Humans are afraid of lots of things. Some fears are rational, while others are not. When you are plagued by an irrational and uncontrollable fear of something, it is called a phobia . As many as 19 million Americans experience some kind of phobia, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. One common phobia is a fear of the dark. If you suffer from this fear, you are not alone. magazine reports that 11% of the U.S. population is afraid of the dark. Some might argue that it is somewhat normal to be afraid of the dark because, after all, it is difficult to see — so you can’t tell what’s around you, or what threats might be lurking out of view. However, an extreme fear of the dark is called nyctophobia, and like with many phobias, some cases are so severe that they can disrupt daily life .
I’ve Wondered: Shouldn’t You Grow Out Of A Fear Of The Dark By The Time You’re An Adult Yesbut Also No
Many children do simply outgrow their fear of the dark. “With active imaginations and deep needs for security, children can experience darkness as a primitive threat to their safety,” says Alicia H. Clark, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and author of Hack Your Anxiety. “Typically these fears abate as children grow and recognize through their experience that they are safe in the dark.” Ugh, lucky them.
But really, a fear of the dark has no age, and this is especially the case if the phobia was never treated as a kiddo, says Terri Bacow, PhD, a clinical psychologist in New York City. An untreated phobia can persist through adulthood thanks to a little something called avoidance. The more you stay away from a feared object or situation, such as refusing to go to the black basement at all costs, the more likely you are to maintain this phobia.
“Essentially, you never have the opportunity to learn that you can be in the dark, and you will be okay,” Bacow explains. Also potentially at fault for an ongoing fear like this? A traumatic experience as an adult that either led to or made you revisit a particular fear, such as getting trapped in a dark elevator for hours.
If You’re Still Freaked Out By The Dark Too Join To The Cluband Buy A Nightlight
At this point in my career at Women’s Health, I’ve shared everything from my germaphobe neuroses to my challenges with depression with the world wide web, so it’s safe to say I have no shame in admitting that I use manynightlights. While the OG Winnie the Pooh number I relied on as a child is unfortunately long gone, I’m in a pretty committed relationship with the .
While being able to see that you are safe can make it easier to believe that you are IRL, using a nightlight is just a starting place, Clark notes. The real phobia-shattering results come from taking on bigger challenges, such as gradually reducing the hours you sleep with a nightlight or, even more effective for intense phobias, per Bacow, doing self-exposure-therapy in which you spend more and more time in the dark until you habituate or get used to it entirely.
Also helpful? Ask yourself what you’re afraid of and what you think is going to happen in the dark. Then, try to identify any actual evidence such as stats that support or contradict your fears, Bacow explains.
If your fear is more about, say, your safety, then Clark recommends using this anxiety to your advantage. “Strengthen your locks or install a security system to make sure you are safe. Rationally knowing you are safe can counteracts irrational fears and is how you cultivate feelings of safety.”
Causes Of Fear Of Darkness Phobia
Experts believe that Nyctophobia generally originates from a traumatic experience in the past.
As a child, one might have been left in the dark as a punishment. Siblings and friends might also be responsible for instilling the fear of darkness.
Movie, TV shows and literature depicting horror, blood, gore, ghosts and other paranormal activities that normally take place in absence of daylight are also often responsible for creating a deeply rooted fear of darkness in a child’s mind.
Domestic violence, sexual abuse in childhood , car accidents and other devastating or traumatic events can also leave a child confused, scared and anxious. Teenagers and young children are known to react very differently to such events. One of the responses to such incidents could be a persisting fear of night or darkness, when the events might have occurred.
Most childhood fears go away as one grows up and matures. However, in some cases, the Achluophobia can persist well into adulthood. Such people tend to keep recalling these past events which they associate with the dark.
Symptoms Of Phobia Of The Dark
The of nyctophobia are very similar to how everyone else experiences their own phobias.
Specifically, you will feel such extreme distress or discomfort while in the dark or even from the mere thought of being in a dark place – to the point where this fear will adversely affect your daily routine.
Those who suffer from nyctophobia will exhibit both physical and emotional symptoms.
What Makes People Afraid Of The Dark
Loss of vision. Sight is our strongest sense and some of our natural predators, such as the big cats, had better night vision than our ancestors did. Our ancestors also had to watch out for enemy raids; even today, we may justifiably fear being burgled.
But our greatest fears come from our own minds. Many children, and some adults, are terrified of the monster under the bed. This is called the ‘sense of presence’ and is often associated with sleep paralysis, when you wake up unable to move. These monsters are due to unusual activity in areas of the brain. Then there are all those ideas that we don’t like to face – our shame, guilt, anger, anxiety or whatever it may be. These seem far worse in the dark because our brains are deprived of the visual input that keeps them busy and suppresses those unwanted thoughts.
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V Cope With Phobia Of Being Alone
As mentioned above, it’s possible to get rid of the phobia of being alone. It’s just a moment you lose your control of your mind. When you can understand your psychological machine and keep calm to handle it, it will disappear by itself fast.
In children, phobia can be treated with the help of parents and psychologists. Parents should create good living environment for their children. For example, parents should let their kids play with some friends. At the school age, children should live in their own room. They have to learn to sleep alone, study by themselves and be more independent in making some decisions.
In adults, people can learn some self-help skills and meet psychologists to handle their phobia of being alone.
Of course, the more fear you suffer from, the less independent you are and the more you position yourself to be needy and demanding within your relationships. It is not surprise that some simple personal skills can help you enhance your independence, boost your confident and strengthen your social relationship for being free from loneliness.
1. Listen To Music
2. Find Something On Social Media
In another way, you can spend your time reading a book, surfing the web, or getting lost in a film. Carry a smart phone, notebook or tablet, they may be are good way to focus on when you are in public.
3. Do Relaxation Exercises
What Causes Nyctophobia
It is fair to say that one of the best guesses we have about the underlying causes of nyctophobia is that it stems from survival instincts embedded deep in our psyche. The human eye isn’t as well-adapted for night vision as the eyes of owls, bats, many rodent species, and other creatures of the night are. As a result, the darkness became a source of the unknown—and for early humans, the unknown often meant death. The darkness could hide all manner of threats, especially predators.
What Are The Symptoms
As with any phobia, the symptoms vary by person depending on their level of fear. The most common symptoms of phobias are trembling, chest pains, heart palpitations, elevated blood pressure, shortness of breath, rapid speech or inability to speak, dry mouth, upset stomach, nausea, and hot or cold flashes.
What Can Cause A Fear Of The Dark
Many people are aware that their phobias are irrational, and they may even be embarrassed by them, but that does not invalidate their extreme feelings of fear.
In fact, there may very well be both an evolutionary and a psychoanalytic to your fear of the dark phobia.
Early humans knew that predators tended to hunt at night, and the thought of being attacked during a time when they were most vulnerable was a very valid fear at the time. In this sense, it was less a fear of the darkness itself than what might lurk within it.
Though we may not have to worry about predators coming after us in our home, the fear of some unknown presence out to get us is one that seems to have persisted across time.
A 2014 psychoanalytic study also found that a fear of the dark phobia may be attributed to separation anxiety from a primary attachment figure, such as a parent or guardian.
Typically, this fear of the night tends to first appear in early childhood. Many, if not all, small children are afraid of what lurks in the dark – due to their inability to distinguish reality from fiction.
It can be difficult for a developing brain to rationalize that a small lump in the corner is a discarded piece of clothing instead of a monster come to bite their toes.
On a similar note, your genetics could make you predisposed to developing a phobia of the dark as well.
How Do I Make My Child Feel Safe At Night
Strategies for Overcoming Nighttime Fears
I What Is Phobia Of Being Alone
Monophobia or phobia of being alone is the fear of being alone. People who suffer from this fear are scared of staying alone in the dark, in a room or in public. Monophobia is usually seen as part of agoraphobia.
Patients of agoraphobia may also scared of standing in queues, standing on a bridge or sitting in a place where they don’t feel safe or they feel ‘trapped’, like at a hairdresser’s and dentists. There can be additional phobias, predominantly social ones like fears of blushing, being stared at, trembling, writing in front of people, or talking, eating. They also suffer from depressive and obsessional symptoms.
What Are The Causes
It is generally accepted that phobias arise from a combination of external events and internal predispositions . Many specific phobias can be traced back to a specific triggering event, usually a traumatic experience at an early age. Social phobias and agoraphobia have more complex causes that are not entirely known at this time. It is believed that heredity, genetics, and brain chemistry combine with life-experiences to play a major role in the development of phobias. .
Additional Causes Of Fear Of Darkness
There are many more reasons why a child might develop this type of phobia. A guardian or a parent with anxiety might teach a child to be fearful and panicked over issues.
Even an overprotective caregiver could trigger this phobia. is another cause of Nyctophobia.
An accident in the dark may lead to the darkness triggering fear over and over again throughout a person’s life.
Another cause for a phobia could be plain genetics – where the child possibly develops the type of phobia its genes carry.
Iii Causes Of Phobia Of Being Alone
The phobia of being alone doesn’t come when you’re born. It can form and develop due to your living environment and the way you learn to react the world. In details, there are different causes of the fear of staying alone. For instance, it is a result of punishment or threat in childhood. Sometimes, they equate being by themselves for a short time with abandonment. Some feel like they ceased to exist when they are not with other people. They could only define themselves as a human through their associations with others.
Fear of staying alone may be caused by any thing. Maybe people feel abandoned in life and they came to associate staying alone with being neglected or unloved. On the other hand, they just never learned to be more comfortable while alone. Actually, you can learn to control your life without being lonely, so, it is your choice to accept your loneliness or improve your life without being alone!
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy For Nyctophobia
Treating nyctophobia can be difficult, as there is no specific medication recommended for it. But some psychological treatment is possible. noted that cognitive behavioral therapy is a common treatment that can help people manage their phobias. The publication noted that CBT is actually quite effective and beneficial. During sessions, patients talk about their fears, which could lead to understanding their source. Knowing where these fears come from can lead to looking at them in a more healthy light, ultimately reducing high levels of anxiety. Furthermore, with ongoing therapy, patients can begin to realize how irrational their fears are, which also helps them cope with panic attacks. There are several types of CBT, including individual and group therapy. Another method is dialectical behavioral therapy, which focuses on emotional reactions to thoughts and behaviors. Rational emotive behavior therapy helps patients to identify and question their irrational beliefs, which leads to healthier thoughts.
Psychology Explains The Causes Of Nyctophobia
Remember when you were at summer camp as a kid, and everyone asked each other if they were afraid of the dark? Fear of darkness is probably one of the main primordial concerns that are hardwired into our brain. Before early humans discovered fire, the night was a fearful place of danger lurking in every shadow.
Being afraid of the dark is a common fear in childhood. They are fearful of the make-believe monsters under the bed and things that go bump in the night. Fortunately, most people outgrow this fear and think nothing of sleeping in a darkened room.
For some people, being afraid of darkness carries on into adulthood. They may understand that there’s nothing to fear at night or when they enter a darkened room, yet they still have this irrational concern. When worry is irrational and starts to impede a person’s daily living, it becomes a phobia.
Phobia comes from the Greek word for fear. However, comparing fear to a phobia is like comparing a house cat to a lion. Mental health experts consider phobias an anxiety disorder. For the person with this extreme anxiety, the fear and threat are real, no matter how unfounded the reason.
Is Nyctophobia A Cause Of Adult Insomnia
In 2012, researchers at Ryerson University Sleep & Depression Laboratory in Toronto that many adults with insomnia might be afraid of the dark.
The study leader, Dr. Carney, said that some insomniacs they treat would sleep with a light, television or computer left on. And some would fall asleep on the couch, but when they woke up and went to bed wouldn’t be able to fall asleep again.
In the study, 93 college students were given two questionnaires: the insomnia severity index and a fear of the dark questionnaire.
They discovered that nearly half admitted to having a fear of the dark phobia. Furthermore, 46% of poor sleepers admitted this compared to 26% of good sleepers.
The researchers also conducted an objective test of fear of the dark using the startle reflex, whereby subjects would blink in response to a stimulus.
The students wore headsets and small bursts of noise would be played sporadically. They found that when tested with a light on, both good and poor sleepers responded to the noises in the same manner. However, when it was done in the dark, the poor sleepers were more startled.
Furthermore, they found that as time went on during the experiment, the poor sleepers would continue to be startled each time it happened. In contrast, the good sleepers got used to the disturbance.