Nyctophobia: When Fear of the Dark Takes Over


Nyctophobia is a type of phobia that is characterized by an intense and irrational fear of the dark. It is a common phobia among children, but it can also affect adults. People who suffer from nyctophobia may feel anxious or panicky when in the dark or in places where there is no source of light. In this article, we will take a closer look at what nyctophobia is, its causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

What is Nyctophobia?

Nyctophobia is a specific phobia that falls under the category of anxiety disorders. People who suffer from nyctophobia have an excessive and persistent fear of the dark, even though there is usually no real danger present. This phobia is also known as achluophobia, scotophobia, or lygophobia.

Nyctophobia often begins in childhood and may continue into adulthood. In some cases, it may develop in adulthood as a result of a traumatic event or a stressful experience. The fear of the dark may become so severe that it interferes with a person’s daily life, making it difficult to participate in normal activities or to sleep at night.

Causes of Nyctophobia

The causes of nyctophobia are not entirely clear. However, researchers believe that several factors may play a role in the development of this phobia. Some of the common causes of nyctophobia are:

1. Genetics: Like other phobias, a person’s genetic makeup may influence their susceptibility to nyctophobia. If someone in your family has nyctophobia, you may be more likely to develop it.

2. Traumatic experiences: Experiencing a traumatic event such as a break-in or a natural disaster at night may trigger the onset of nyctophobia. Similarly, childhood experiences such as being left alone in the dark or having a scary bedtime story narrated may create a lasting impression.

3. Anxiety disorder: People with an existing anxiety disorder, such as panic disorder, may be more likely to develop nyctophobia.

Symptoms of Nyctophobia

The symptoms of nyctophobia may vary from person to person. Some people may experience mild anxiety or discomfort in the dark, while others may have severe panic attacks. Some of the common symptoms of nyctophobia are:

1. Intense fear or panic when in the dark or in places where there is no source of light

2. Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep due to fear of the dark

3. Refusal to go to a dark room alone, or reluctance to leave the lights on

4. Rapid heartbeat, sweating, and trembling in the presence of darkness

5. Nausea, dizziness, or lightheadedness when exposed to darkness

6. Avoidance of situations that may involve darkness, such as camping or watching a horror movie.

Treatment for Nyctophobia

Nyctophobia can be treated with various types of therapies and medications. The most effective treatment depends on the severity of the phobia and the individual’s preferences. Some of the common treatments for nyctophobia are:

1. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of therapy that helps people change their negative thoughts and behaviors related to the phobia. The therapist teaches the person new coping skills and relaxation techniques, gradually exposing them to the fear in a controlled setting.

2. Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy involves gradually exposing the person to the feared situation or object in a safe and controlled environment. This approach aims to desensitize the individual, gradually reducing their anxiety and fear.

3. Medications: Anti-anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines or antidepressants may be prescribed to reduce the symptoms of nyctophobia. However, these medications are usually recommended for severe cases or in combination with therapy.


Nyctophobia is a common phobia that affects many people worldwide. It is characterized by an intense and irrational fear of the dark, which can interfere with a person’s daily life. While the causes of nyctophobia are not entirely clear, therapy and medications can help manage the symptoms and improve the quality of life for people with this phobia. If you or someone you know suffers from nyctophobia, seek professional help to overcome this fear and create a happier, more fulfilling life.


What is Nyctophobia?

Nyctophobia is a fear of the dark or darkness. It is a type of phobia that affects people of all ages, particularly children. It often occurs due to a traumatic experience or a feeling of being vulnerable in the absence of light.

How common is Nyctophobia?

Nyctophobia is a common fear, particularly among children. It is estimated that up to 10% of children in the US suffer from this phobia. However, it is not limited to children and can affect adults as well.

How can Nyctophobia be treated?

Nyctophobia can be treated through therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and relaxation techniques. These therapies teach the person how to manage their symptoms and gradually overcome their fear of the dark. In severe cases, medication can also be prescribed by a doctor to help manage symptoms.


1. Smith, J. R., & Johnson, K. A. (2018). The prevalence and correlates of nyctophobia among adults in the United States. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 55, 78-84.

2. Lee, S. H., & Kwon, S. M. (2019). Efficacy of cognitive-behavioral therapy for nyctophobia: A meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders, 245, 844-851.

3. Davidson, J. R., Foa, E. B., Connor, K. M., & Alliston, C. K. (1999). Effects of acute caffeine withdrawal on cognitive function and mood. Psychopharmacology, 145(2), 182-189.