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Fear of the dark; Causes, symptoms and treatment methods

Study guide

Fear of the dark is normal in children’s development. If you are an adult and still afraid of the dark, you may have nicotophobia. Of course, anxiety is considered a phobia when it interferes with a person’s daily activities. If the fear of the dark causes you to limit your activities, avoid certain situations, and become anxious because of the lack of light, you may have nicotophobia. In this article we want to talk about the symptoms, causes and treatment of nicotophobia.

What is nicotophobia or fear of the dark?

The term nyctophobia is derived from two Greek words: nyktos, meaning night, and phobos, meaning fear. Nicotophobia has other letters as well, including:

  • Scotophobia;
  • Achluophobia;
  • Lygophobia.

Scientists have found that darkness triggers a “terrifying” response in the brain that releases chemicals. This chemical makes a person feel more anxious than normal. Some people can calm this anxiety, but others are not able to do so and magnify it, resulting in severe fear.

Fear of the dark is common in children, but should decrease with age. This fear becomes a phobia in adolescents or adults.

Causes of fear of the dark; Brain changes to feel insecure

In addition to brain changes that occur in the absence of light and lead to increased anxiety, fear of the dark may be associated with fear of violence or attack by potential attackers. That is, because one does not see a place in the dark, one imagines potential threats that may be hidden in the dark. Therefore, the most important reason for the fear of darkness is not related to darkness itself, but because of the unknown dangers hidden in it. That’s why horror filmmakers often use darkness to scare viewers.

Experts believe that darkness affects the other person’s senses as well. The person hears the sound and senses the movement, but because he cannot see the source of it, he is more likely to have a more intense fear.

Insecurity and lack of self-confidence can also be causes of fear of the dark, especially if one is more afraid of the dark when alone.

Some psychoanalysts believe that a person’s fear of the dark may be associated with separation anxiety from the person they are most attached to, for example a parent. This is more common in children due to separation anxiety.

Sometimes a person may not know why darkness affects him so much. These people usually say that this fear has existed since they can remember.

Signs of fear of the dark; From sleeping in the light to panic attacks

Sleeping with a bright bedside lamp is one of the signs of nicotophobia

The symptoms of nicotophobia vary from person to person and according to their severity. Sometimes it may be mild anxiety, sometimes it may lead to panic attacks or panic attacks or physical symptoms. Of course, if you are afraid of the dark, you may generally have these symptoms:

  • You get nervous in any dark environment;
  • You do not want to go out at night;
  • When you have to spend some time in the dark, you get physiological symptoms such as increased heart rate, sweating, trembling and even a feeling of illness;
  • You must have a bedside lamp on to sleep.

You may also have more severe symptoms:

  • You try to escape from dark spaces;
  • When someone encourages you to enter a dark place, you get angry or defensive;
  • You insist on staying home at night and even going to the cinema or night parties is difficult for you.

Nicotophobia, like all phobias, has diagnostic criteria that distinguish it from simple fears.

Consequences of fear of the dark; Impact on daily life

Consequences of fear of the dark or nicotophobia
Sleep disorders are one of the consequences of nicotophobia

If the fear of the dark is not treated, the sufferer may face the consequences. Sometimes one may avoid participating in some social activities or even entertainment such as going to the cinema or walking at night. These people also suffer from severe sleep disorders. Others even become afraid of sleeping in dark places, and this anxiety adversely affects their quality of life.

According to a test conducted on more than 100 participants, people with nicotophobia complain of sleep problems and feel uncomfortable sleeping in the dark. Even when night fell and they had to turn off the lights to sleep, some of them became very anxious.

Treat fear of the dark; Dealing with scary beliefs about darkness

Doctors treat nicophobia with two goals:

  • Dealing with one ‘s frightening beliefs about darkness;
  • Reduce the severity of the symptoms that the person feels due to fear.

This process may be a combination of specialized therapies (medication and psychotherapy) and home remedies.

Home Remedies for Nicotophobia

Some home remedies for treating nicotophobia include:

1. Identify a phrase to reduce anxiety

In this way, you have to repeat sentences like “Dark but I am safe” with you. This will reduce your anxiety.

۲. Relaxation exercises such as deep breathing

This can dispel annoying thoughts so you can sleep better. To do this, you must consciously inhale and exhale air through your nose. Breathe slowly and deeply and concentrate.

3. Focus on positive images in the dark

Think of a pet or part of the home that you are most interested in.

4. Progressive muscle relaxation exercise

You should lie down or sit down and imagine every part of your body starting to relax.

Doing these steps may teach the body to calm down and reduce anxiety when faced with darkness. If these strategies are ineffective, it is best to consult a mental health professional.

Treat the fear of the dark in a specialized way

Specialized treatment of fear of the dark

The treatment plan suggested by the therapist may include the following options:

1. cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy involves discussing the disorder and helping people understand how darkness affects the brain. A mental health professional can help you identify specific thoughts that are causing you great anxiety when faced with darkness. It then explains how you can manage these thoughts over time.

۲. Being in position

This process is called desensitization. Some mental health professionals believe that putting a person in a sensitive position and gradually increasing the duration of the exposure can reduce their sensitivity. In this method, you are first asked to spend a short time in the dark and then gradually increase the time. Every time you are in the dark, your anxiety decreases less than the last time.

Very important point: The desensitization method must be performed under the supervision of a specialist. Never use this method arbitrarily to treat this phobia or any other phobia, whether you have a phobia yourself or someone else. Arbitrary use of this method may have dangerous consequences instead of improving the situation.

3. medicines

If necessary, your doctor may prescribe medications to temporarily treat anxiety or improve sleep. Of course, these drugs only relieve the symptoms and can not cure the underlying phobia or eliminate the root causes. Therapy and other treatments are needed to completely cure and eliminate the causes of nicotophobia.

Treatment of certain phobias, such as nicotophobia, is almost 90% successful. Many treatments for this phobia have been derived from cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Sometimes people may have more than one phobia. Do you have a specific phobia that has been treated? Please talk to us about it.

Warning! This article is for educational purposes only and you should consult your doctor or specialist to use it. more information





Fear of the dark; Causes, symptoms and treatment methods

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