Nyctophobia: Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Fear of the night or dark has numerous non-clinical terminologies, such as scotophobia or ligofobia.

This phobia is usually related to young children. However, case reports suggest that specialists are very likely to have adults as nyctophobia patients.

The phobia has also been shown to be seriously disruptive and disabling for adult patients.

The medical name for fear of the dark , nyctophobia, is derived from the Greek word for darkness or blackness “nyctus,” combined with “phobos,” which means extreme fear.

Nyctophobia is then defined as an extreme fear of the dark, which is severe enough to interfere with an individual’s daily activities, school or work performance, and feelings of well-being.

This is a disorder characterized by the appearance of clinically significant anxiety pictures produced by night scenes, where the environment is dark or there is not enough light.

This problem usually causes anxiety that automatically bypasses this situation, which is often very disabling.

And it is that if a person with nyctophobia is exposed to such a dreaded situation and cannot avoid it, they will immediately present an anxiety crisis, exaggerated fear or anguish crisis as a response.

Therefore, their daily activities will be conditioned to spaces with a lot of lighting, and if at any moment the environment inevitably turns dark, the individual, not being able to avoid this situation, will present a picture of anxiety.

This anxiety will cause a lot of discomfort in the people who accompany you and will prevent you from living in a calm and satisfying way when faced with these situations that are sometimes unavoidable.

Nyctophobia, however, is a problem that can be faced and even overcome, if the appropriate actions are taken and the individual invests his effort to achieve it.

Causes of nyctophobia

Studies conducted on the condition suggest that it generally emerges around the age of two, indicating that fear of the dark or dark environments is not necessarily an innate quality in humans.

Different factors can be considered responsible for triggering the nyctophobia, such as intense nightmares that could be more traumatic if the person wakes up in the dark.

Many children actually fear the dark or believe that there are monsters hiding under their bed, and at times, nyctophobia can also represent another form of fear found in the subconscious.

Thus, an individual without presenting nyctophobia in childhood may experience an intense fear of the dark in adulthood.

Some of the presumed causes of fear of the dark include:

  • A prior mental and psychological condition could trigger unusual fears and phobias.
  • Mental, physical, or emotional abuse in childhood.
  • Repressed traumatic experiences can arise in irrational fears.
  • Intense nightmares
  • Watching too many movies with dark, scary environments, with themes of suspense or horror.
  • Depression .
  • Insomnia and difficulty sleeping.


The very thought of being alone in the dark can send chills down the spine of a nyctophobic person.

Most often, a patient with nyctophobia displays a number of symptoms in addition to stress and anxiety.

Typically, the victim sweats and trembles when left alone in the dark. The patient might also complain of vomiting and nausea due to extreme fear.

The mere fact that one is not able to see anything in the dark forces one to conjure the worst possible scenarios in their minds about what might happen in the dark.

People with a fear of the dark tend to get nervous at night or in a dark environment.

They may prefer to sleep with a night lamp on when they are at home. Nyctophobes can also be reluctant to leave their homes when night falls.

When they feel compelled to remain in the dark, in addition to anxiety, such people may also experience:

  • Incrise of cardiac frecuency.
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Tremors
  • Shortness of breath, shortness of breath
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Chest tightness.
  • Loss of connection to reality.

Behavioral and emotional fear of dark places can include:

  • Feelings of helplessness, depression and anxiety.
  • A sense of detachment.
  • Avoid any situation that involves being in the dark.
  • Intense panic when in dark and closed spaces.
  • An intense need to flee, escape from dark situations.
  • Feeling like you can die or lose consciousness

The individual may see strange things and shapes in the dark or may have difficulty handling situations that are generally not scary.

Treatment of nyctophobia

One of the most popular forms of treatment for nyctophobia is cognitive behavioral therapy , better known as exposure therapy .

This form of treatment aims to desensitize feelings of fear of the dark by slowly exposing the patient to dark conditions.

This is combined with anti-anxiety medications that help relieve symptoms such as migraines and panic attacks.

Therapy is used to effectively challenge fearful beliefs about the dark and replace negative ideas with positive messages.

Self-help methods are taught to patients with nyctophobia to deal with their own fearful beliefs.

Patients and their families should receive proper education about phobia to deal with the situation.

You need to resort to measures to deal with the darkness outside the parameters of your own home.

These can include treatment methods such as hypnosis, yoga, muscle relaxation techniques, talk therapy, and breathing exercises.

Talk therapy includes encouraging the patient to speak or sing in the dark; This usually helps you forget your fear of the dark.

Energy psychology, a new and innovative method of treating fears and phobias, can also be used to effectively treat nyctophobia.

The patient may also be advised to use a night light while sleeping at night at the start of treatment, especially in treating children.