Nyctophobia is not the same as childhood fear of the dark. This syndrome is characterized by an extreme, excessive fear of the dark and this causes many effects in life such as insomnia, depression, nervous tension, etc.
What is fear of the dark?
Nyctophobia is a term that refers to an extreme, irrational, and persistent fear of the dark. This fear lasts for at least 6 months and causes serious effects on life – especially sleep.
As children, most of us were afraid of the dark because we couldn’t see things clearly and were afraid of monsters. This fear is part of psychological development and should not be considered abnormal. Meanwhile, fear of the dark syndrome can occur in both adults and greatly affects physical and mental health.
Nyctophobia is of Greek origin, where nyktos means darkness/night and phobos is fear. This syndrome has been mentioned for a long time and the incidence is not uncommon. However, Nyctophobia is not yet recognized as an official psychological disorder and is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
The fear of the dark is easily confused with a common fear, because most people feel unsafe at night. This leaves many patients undetected and untreated. Equipping knowledge about the syndrome of fear of the dark will help patients have the opportunity to take care of their health in a timely manner.
Symptoms of the fear of the dark (Nyctophobia)
As mentioned, Nyctophobia is easily confused with the common fear of the dark. However, if you pay attention, you will notice that people with this disease have excessive and inexplicable fears. Fear causes them to panic, lose sleep and is accompanied by physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, etc.
Signs of a fear of the dark:
- Has an excessive fear of the dark and has persisted for at least 6 months
- Feeling anxious, insecure at the thought of being in the dark
- When facing the dark, the patient will become panic, scared and can even cause fainting, …
- In addition to the feeling of fear, when in the dark, the patient will have physical symptoms such as sweating, dizziness, unusually hot or cold body, abdominal discomfort, dizziness, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath. …
- Some patients experience loss of control, panic, madness, numbness, and detachment from reality when faced with darkness.
- There are behaviors to avoid the dark such as fear of going out at night or going to places with little light such as cinemas, caves, etc.
- Always turn on the light when sleeping, don’t dare to sleep alone
- Some people wake up at night because they are afraid of being covered by darkness when they sleep and choose to sleep during the day
- The patient is aware of his own excessive and irrational fear but cannot control it. Feeling helpless can be accompanied by stress, anxiety, depression, etc.
The fear of the dark seriously affects sleep. Because of the dominant fear, patients often stay up late, sleep less, and sleep poorly. Poor sleep quality greatly affects physical health, causes nervous tension, reduces concentration ability and greatly affects study, career, etc.
In young children, Nyctophobia can be accompanied by separation anxiety disorder. In addition, people with this syndrome can also suffer from anxiety disorders, phobias, generalized anxiety disorders, stress, etc.
Causes of fear of the dark
As children, we are often afraid of many things around us including the dark. However, the fear of the dark will diminish over time as awareness fully develops. Children aged 12-15 years old are no longer afraid of the dark because they are aware that darkness is a completely normal phenomenon due to the movement of the earth and there are no threats like ghosts or monsters. object,…
Phonophobia is an irrational, exaggerated fear of the dark. At present, there have been quite a few studies done to determine the pathogenesis and etiology, but no definitive conclusions have been reached yet.
Experts believe that Nyctophobia is related to the following factors:
- Due to Evolution: According to evolutionary theory, an excessive fear of the dark may be the result of evolution. Darkness often contains many dangers such as being attacked by wild animals, prone to accidents, etc. Over time, people become more sensitive to darkness and genes can change to increase their ability to adapt to life. living.
- Past Experiences: Similar to other phobias, agoraphobia is often rooted in negative past experiences. For example, being left in the dark, losing parents at night, having an accident at night, etc. These experiences are the conditions for forming fears and phobias about the dark.
- Because of Psychic Stories: Psychic, mystical stories about ghosts can contribute to the fear of the dark. In addition, watching movies with horror images and supernatural phenomena appearing at night also instills fear of the dark in the mind.
- Family history of Nyctophobia: Experts suggest that an excessive fear of the dark can be caused by a parent having Nyctophobia. When children see their parents’ reactions, children will develop the same reaction and are more likely to develop a fear of the dark.
- Overly caring and protective families: Overly caring and overprotective families cause children to grow up lacking life experience. As a result, children tend to be overly fearful of many things such as heights, jungles, animals, and the dark.
The effects of nyctophobia
The fear of the dark (Nyctophobia) greatly affects sleep. At night, people with this disease often have a hard time sleeping, lose sleep due to being dominated by fear and always have a feeling of insecurity and anxiety. In the long term, patients face sleep disorders, stress and nervous breakdowns.
If left untreated, agoraphobia will reduce learning and work efficiency, affecting memory and concentration. Sleep problems also lead to many diseases such as high blood pressure, body weakness, vestibular disorders, migraines, etc. For children and adolescents, this disease causes growth retardation. poor physical and mental health.
Uncontrolled fear and phobia of the dark can facilitate the development of other psychological disorders such as depression, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, etc. In addition, avoidance behavior Going out at night and going to dimly lit places also limits the experience of life. Patients will face many difficulties when studying and looking for work. Some people tend to be socially isolated, isolated, with little communication and limited social relationships.
Diagnosing a fear of the dark
Common fears rarely affect sleep. Meanwhile, Nyctophobia causes patients to experience many problems such as insomnia, difficulty falling asleep, restless sleep, easy awakening and sometimes sleep paralysis.
The fear of the dark is not yet recognized as a mental illness. However, doctors can still diagnose Nyctophobia through the diagnostic criteria for phobic anxiety disorder. Phobias often share similar clinical manifestations and the only difference is the source of the fear.
Nyctophobia is usually diagnosed when a person meets the following criteria:
- Have an unreasonable, excessive fear of the dark and the condition must last for at least 6 months
- There are avoidance behaviors such as not going to cinemas, caves, and low-lit places. Always turn on the light when sleeping, afraid to sleep alone and even wake up completely at night
- Experiencing many sleep problems due to feelings of fear, anxiety, and insecurity
- The fear and phobia about the dark cause many troubles in life such as being always sleepy during the day, reducing work and study performance, body weakness, stress, etc.
- Treatments for the fear of the dark
Although not yet recognized as an official psychological disorder, treatment for agoraphobia is necessary. If left for a long time, the body can be depressed, lose weight, mentally stressed and reduce the ability to concentrate. Nyctophobia also increases the risk of other psychological and psychiatric disorders.
The fear of the dark will be treated if the patient’s fear is extreme, the panic is prolonged, and it has a serious impact on life. Currently, this syndrome is usually treated with the following methods:
Psychotherapy is the mainstay of the treatment of agoraphobia. Because the source of fear often stems from negative past experiences such as being kidnapped at night, being abandoned or lost in the dark, etc. Experts will use a variety of methods to identify them. Identify the cause of the excessive fear of the dark.
Psychotherapeutic approaches to be considered in the treatment of agoraphobia:
- Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy is often used for people with phobias and anxiety disorders, including agoraphobia. This therapy helps people learn to deal with their fears and learn stress-relieving skills. The specialist will expose the patient to the dark with increasing levels, thereby helping the patient adapt to the dark without fear or panic.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is one of the most commonly applied psychotherapy methods today. In this therapy, the specialist will help the patient change their negative thinking about the dark and understand that the darkness does not always pose a threat. Cognitive behavioral therapy is less effective when used alone, so it is often used in tandem with exposure therapy.
- Hypnosis: Hypnosis is rarely indicated for phobias. However, agoraphobia is often accompanied by insomnia and chronic headaches. Therefore, hypnosis will be performed to improve sleep and reduce associated pain symptoms.
- Self-Help Techniques: Self-help techniques are also considered in the treatment of agoraphobia. In this technique, the patient will have to face the fear, then write down the thoughts that come up in that moment. The patient then has to explain these thoughts and change them to positive thinking. In addition, patients will be taught meditation and relaxation techniques to reduce stress caused by agoraphobia.
- Other methods: In addition to the above therapies, the fear of the dark can be treated with speech-language programming, relaxation exercise therapy, etc.
2. Drug use
Antidepressants will be considered to reduce anxiety, sadness, and stress caused by agoraphobia. However, the drug only helps to improve the symptoms, it cannot completely eliminate the fear and phobia of the dark.
Psychotropic drugs in general and antidepressants in particular have many potential risks. Therefore, only use the drug when indicated, and at the same time, it is necessary to adhere to the dosage and frequency as directed. Medications can also be used for emotional support during psychotherapy.
3. Self-care measures
Treating the fear of the dark takes a long time. To support medical methods, patients should take care of themselves with some of the following measures:
- Excessive, irrational fear of the dark causes difficulty sleeping and insomnia. Therefore, it is possible to use herbal tea with sedative effect, take a warm bath, massage and apply aromatherapy in the evening to sleep better.
- Phobias are always stressful. To avoid neurasthenia and improve mental health, it is advisable to equip stress reduction techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, massage, exercise, etc.
- Reduce the effects of the fear of the dark by living in moderation, building a balanced diet, exercising regularly, limiting overwork, etc. fear and limited physical health problems associated with Nyctophobia.
- Consider joining groups of people with phobias to share, understand, and gain treatment experience.
- Talk to people about your health for empathy and support.
Nyctophobia can be treated with psychotherapy and medication. So, if you suspect you have this disease, don’t hesitate to seek medical help. Early treatment is highly effective, helping to improve mental and physical health and significantly improve quality of life.