Nyctophobia ( also known as lygophobia )
is a mental illness characterized by an intense dread of darkness and gloomy settings.
It is frequently referred to as “night terrors.”
The phrase is derived from two Greek words: nyktos (night) and phobos (sleep), respectively (fear).
According to the experts at Mind Journal, the disease is defined as “an intense and unreasonable dread of darkness or the night that may create stress, worry, tension, uncertainty, and sadness.”
In spite of the fact that a fear of darkness may be a normal aspect of growth, a significant fear of darkness in adulthood can interfere with everyday functioning and general well-being.
According to research 1, being in a dark environment may cause the human brain to respond by triggering a “startle” reaction, which results in the production of particular hormones that increase the sufferer’s experience of worry.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), nyctophobia is classified as a sort of particular phobia condition, which is a subtype of generalized anxiety disorder.
The dread of the dark may persist in some people even after years of experience, but in others, it may have grown into an actual fear or phobia.
Patients suffering with this illness experience extreme anxiety 2 at night or in dark environments.
People with this kind of personality may avoid entering into dark rooms on a daily basis and may carry a flashlight with them everywhere they go.
Additionally, persons who suffer from nyctophobia will sleep with their lights on at night and will get frightened as the day goes to night.
It is impossible for them to go into a dark environment such as a theatre without feeling uncomfortable.
According to a recent research, college students may also experience a significant level of dread of the dark.
“This fear may be a classical dread found in conditioned children that has not been outgrown, or it may have developed into a more realistic fear of the dark that plays on people’s fear of being victimized in the dark,” the article notes.
” According to the findings of the survey, around 54 percent of participants in a sample study classified darkness as one of their top five phobias.
Symptoms and Signs of Nyctophobia
The symptoms of nyctophobia are quite similar to those of other phobias, which makes it difficult to differentiate between them.
When people suffer from this phobia, they experience illogical anxiety that causes them anguish when they are alone in the dark.
With each passing day, the symptoms may get more severe and may interfere with everyday activities, school, and job. They may potentially contribute to the development of other health problems.
When you have nyctophobia, symptoms are triggered when you are in the dark or even when you are thinking about conditions in which you may find yourself in the dark.
A few of the more prevalent physical and emotional manifestations of the illness are listed below:
1. Physical Signs and Symptoms
The following are some of the physical symptoms related with nyctophobia:
- Having difficulty breathing
- The pace of one’s heartbeat is racing.
- the feeling of having a dry mouth
- A feeling of tightness or discomfort in the chest
- A sensation of paralysis in the limbs or across the body
- Sensations of tingling
- Awareness or senses that are more acute
- Stomach aches and pains
- Shivering or shaking as a result of fear
- Flashes of heat or cold
2. Emotional Signs and Symptoms
The following are some of the emotional symptoms related with nyctophobia:
- Extreme apprehension about impending danger or tragedy
- An overwhelming sense of being confined and unable to escape
- You’re experiencing overwhelming anxiety or panic.
- An overwhelming need to get away from the darkness
- A dread of the dark that has persisted for a lengthy period of time
- Feeling out of control, or having thoughts that revolve on your death
- Self-detachment or the sensation of being “unreal”
- Feeling helpless in the face of your fears
Avoiding social interactions or professional tasks because of apprehension Being terrified of the dark is causing a significant amount of sleep disruption in some people.
It should be emphasized, however, that a fear of darkness does not always mean that the individual suffers from a phobia.
However, if your anxiety begins to interfere with your daily activities, it may be an indication of nyctophobia.
In addition, children between the ages of three and six years are terrified of things such as ghosts, monsters, and strange sounds.
and it definitely does not necessarily imply the presence of a mental illness.
If you observe any of these symptoms, you should seek medical advice immediately.
If these symptoms are indicative of another condition, it must be checked out by a correct diagnosis by a medical specialist.
The diagnosis will make it simpler for the doctor to design a treatment plan that is tailored to your specific needs and circumstances.
Some of the most prevalent variables that contribute to the development of nyctophobia in people, particularly youngsters, are as follows:
1-Experiments That Were Disturbing
It is possible that any kind of traumatic occurrence related with darkness that has a lasting influence on the brain might be a plausible basis for the development of nyctophobia in humans, particularly in youngsters.
When a youngster is punished on a frequent basis, such as by being locked in a dark room, this may cause him or her to develop a fear of the dark.
Other traumatic events that occur in the dark or during the evening, such as abuse, domestic violence, or car accidents, may also result in nyctophobia in certain people.
After such an ordeal, the victim is left with horrible recollections as well as new insights about the dangers associated with the night and darkness.
According to a 2013 research 3 on the dread of darkness among adults, which was associated to poor sleeping habits, such a phobia might be triggered by any traumatic experience that occurred during childhood (e.g., sexual abuse).
The researchers revealed that 68 percent of participants in the study claimed that it was a typical childhood dread, and 46 percent (who are also bad sleepers) reported that they had an adult fear of the dark.
2- Mental Health Issues in the Past
Individuals who suffer from chronic mental health issues are also more likely to suffer from phobias as a result of this.
It is possible that the patient may acquire this illness if he or she has a history of past mental problems, such as depression, as a result of a lack of mental energy.
People who are nyctophobic may be caused by simple situations like as experiencing a sudden blackout or being alone in a dark room for an extended period of time.
The findings of a 2017 study 4 demonstrate that significant progress has been made in the recognition of fear circuits and mechanisms, as dysfunctions in these circuits/mechanisms can lead to chronic psychiatric post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other types of phobias, including specific phobias, among the various disorders.
3- Factors Influencing Evolution
The evolution of humans is associated with the development of nyctophobia.
People used to go hunting in the dark and come face to face with dangerous monsters throughout the early periods.
Darkness is connected with bad deeds, monsters, and other paranormal creatures, among other things.
In addition, it makes darkness the central motif of horror films.
Consequently, nyctophobia may also be the product of learned behavior that has been handed down over the course of human evolution.
According to one research, darkness also enhances the perception of a person’s other senses.
A person who cannot see the source of a noise or movement is more likely to suffer intense terror if they hear or sense something that they don’t recognize.
According to a survey conducted in the United Kingdom in 2012,
According to the results of the study, roughly 40% of those who took part stated they were afraid to go about the home alone in the dark.
In fact, 10% of respondents said that they would not even contemplate getting out of bed to go to the toilet in the middle of the night if the situation demanded it.
A person suffering with nyctophobia should seek medical attention if he or she exhibits symptoms such as the following.
- I’m having trouble sleeping.
- In the dark, you may be experiencing exceptional levels of anxiety or anguish.
- Have further grounds to suspect that he or she may be suffering from the disease
- The terror that you are experiencing is extreme and maybe ridiculous.
- Because of his/her anxiety, he/she avoids some situations altogether.
- Suffering with these symptoms for at least six months is considered chronic.
- It is also possible that the doctor may ask inquiries in order to gather information about the patient’s psychological and social history.
In addition, the doctor may use the diagnostic guidelines from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) on specific phobias to make a formal diagnosis based on the following criteria – the patient has a phobia of something that they are afraid of doing or saying
Having an excessive or irrational dread that is produced by the presence or perception of a certain item or situation (in this case darkness).
The exposure to the dreaded object or scenario nearly always results in an instant feeling of anxiety, which may progress to the point of becoming a panic attack if left untreated.
When youngsters are stressed, they may weep, throw tantrums, freeze, or cling to a parent or caregiver.
By understanding and realizing that the fear is unwarranted or out of proportion to the actual danger, the patient is able to reduce or eliminate the anxiety. This characteristic, on the other hand, may be lacking in children.
The phobic scenario(s) is either avoided or experienced with intense anxiety and anguish, depending on the circumstance.
The act of avoiding, nervous anticipation, or problems via the feared situation(s) interferes with daily routine, work, school, functioning, or social activities and relationships in a significant way.
A persistent worry that lasts for at least six months is characteristic of this condition.
In this case, the fear, panic attacks, or avoidance associated with the specific object or situation are not considered to be symptoms of any other mental disorder, such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Separation Anxiety Disorder (e.g., avoiding school), Social Phobia, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Panic Disorder, or any other mental health condition.