Fear of the Dark - Nyctophobia

Nyctophobia is the clinical name for “Fear of The Dark”. It comes from the Greek words “nyktos - genitive of - nyx” (night), and “phobos” (fear).

Nyctophobia is a limiting and disabling disease, a common phobia among children, but it can also be found in adults. It is, like claustrophobia, an irrational fear of something that the sufferer knows is not dangerous, but for some reason it creates a panic attack or similar uncontrolled reaction.

Nyctophobia and claustrophobia have a lot in common as the both are triggered by the Amygdala in the brain and are both irrational reactions to stimulus.

Recognising and understanding these fears in relation to the float tank experience is important both as a user of float tanks and as float tank owner. Some float tanks allow the user to control the lighting from within allowing them to gradually reduce the amount of light as they become more comfortable with lower and lower light conditions. Simply being able to control the dark gives us power over the fear.

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The fears that are linked to the dark is made up in the mind, and often have roots in childhood plays or stories that have manifested an irrational though-train that leads to a panic attack or similar. It is the brains perception of what might be hiding in the dark or what could happen that scares the sufferer.

Some researchers such as Sigmund Freud claim it to be a manifestation of separation anxiety. This can be seen in many kids that feel leaving their parents side can be a highly traumatic experience, while others have no problems with this at all.

Studies have shown that the fear of the dark is rarely found in children under 2 years of age and so it is led to believe that this is not something we are born with, but something we learn to fear. This can come from a traumatic experience linked to the dark, a ghost story, being trapped in a dark room or having a bad experience of some sort in the dark.

A reason why we don't fear the dark before we reach 2 years of age can be related to the fact that we don't understand the concept of fear or can link this to scary stories or “monsters in the dark” earlier.

Many children with Nyctophobia have parents that have the same fear. This leads to the conclusion that parents might teach their kids to fear the dark out of behavioral actions. Children learn from the behaviors of their parents and can develop the same ideas and fears, just by how the parents react to the dark, confined spaces and even to movies and music.

Scary movies and telling scary stories in the dark is one of the most common way to become scared of the dark, so it is the imagination that might end up incapacitating, limiting and disabling the sufferer.

Reactions / Symptoms

For a person to be diagnosed with Nyctophobia, James G. Hollandsworth’s Physiology and Behavior Therapy states that 4-12 of the following symptoms should be present.

  • Dyspnea –hunger for air
  • Palpitation – rapid beating of the heart
  • Chest pains or discomfort
  • Choking or smothering sensations
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Feeling of unreality
  • Paresthesia – tingling in hands and feet
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Sweating
  • Faintness
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Fear of dyeing
  • Going crazy
  • Other uncontrolled action

Treatments can be Psychotherapy or Exposure Therapy, gradually longer time spent in the dark together with a trusted one or walking in the dark talking about positive things. This can also be done by yourself, by thinking positive, and trying to spend longer and longer time by yourself in the dark. Listen to happy music in a familiar room and don’t try to push yourself too hard as it might give a relapse if you end up scaring yourself.

Some people also find a solution using EFT.

Exposure Therapy can be done this way: