Achluophobia is the scientific term for fear of the dark. This is also called as scotophobia or nyctophobia. Nyctophobia is derived from the Greek term “night” whereas scotophobia is derived from the Greek term “darkness”. This may happen in adults and children. In this specific type of phobia it is not the darkness itself that the person fears but the possible dangers or whatever the person imagines when in the dark. Experts suggest that it is normal to experience fear of the dark especially during childhood over the course of the year this fear then disappears. However when the fear of darkness falls to a severe condition, then it is considered as pathological.
What is phobia?
Phobia is defined as the irrational fear of a certain object or a certain situation. This is what the American Psychiatric Association define phobia. A person with a specific phobia experiences that he or she is in danger or fears that they may be harmed. There are different types but it is differentiated into 4 different types. These are the fear of animals like snakes, spiders, rodents, etc; situational phobia like fear of leaving the house, fear of driving or riding airplanes; medical phobia where a person fears receiving injections, paying a doctor’s visit or fears when seeing blood; There are also environmental phobias like fear of water, lightening, storms and others.
Having fears on a certain event or situation is common and in the United States, it affects more than 10% of their population. Phobias affect women more than men. Interestingly, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders states that phobias can be life-long problems especially when it is not resolved.
Causes of Achluophobia
Fear of the dark can happen for certain reason, for instance, a person has a bad experience during a certain even or situation which traumatized him or her. There is a fear that certain experiences will happen again and exposure to darkness can trigger such traumatic experience.
Another probable cause is that there is a subconscious fear that becomes pronounced spontaneously. This means that something lead them to thinking that certain events will happen they are in a dark place or a darkened room. Movies especially horror films can lead to thinking that something creepy comes out in the dark. Because of this Achluophobia happens and the person then insists not sleeping without a nightlight and also refuses to walk in darkened rooms.
Achluophobia (Fear of Darkness)
Signs and symptoms of achluophobia
Some physical manifestations include intense fear when exposed to a dark area. Other physical manifestations also include increased in heart rate, sweating, feeling nauseous, increased blood pressure, confusion and even passing out. Anxiety can also be developed in achluophobia.
Fear of the dark and separation anxiety disorder
Experts like Sigmund Freud came up with an idea that the fear of the darkness is a manifestation of a condition called SAD or separation anxiety disorder. In this situation, an individual will experience extreme anxiety when they are separated with someone from their homes or somebody where a person has a strong connection or attachment.
Experts suggest that an exposure therapy will works based on 2 premises. First is that when a sudden exposure to a certain fear will lead the achluophobic patient to change their beliefs when facing the fear. The second premise is that the patient who runs away from this darkness will have their fears grow stronger by running away. This solution is effective especially when the sudden exposure to darkness happens. However experts suggest that this technique is only done when a certain fear will not harm the person or there is no eminent danger involved. This technique is effective only when the patient is up for it.
This treatment method is one of the most suggested treatments in dealing with different kinds of phobia. Desensitization is like exposure therapy but it does not involve direct exposure to the feared event or situation or animal. This is also called as inurement where the patient is assisted in slowly unlearning their phobia and anxiety. It usually involves repeated exposure to the stimuli and then slowly the person becomes unresponsive or does not show signs of anxiety over their phobia.
There are different levels involved when doing the systemic desensitization. The first step is exposure to the fear or stimuli in a relaxing manner. After going through this phase without feeling scared or showing intense emotions, then the patient will move on to the next level and expose you to the same stimuli. The patient may need friends or family members to go through this process. For instance, in the first level, the patient along with a group of friends will stay in the dark. It is important that the patient feels relaxed and try to hold on their emotions. Once this level is passed, they move on to the next level where the patient is only accompanied with a close friend. And if this level is passed, then the patient can go into a darkened room or area alone without feeling too much stress or anxious.
Cognitive behavior therapy
This form of therapy is based on a principle that the human emotions are caused the person’s thoughts and perception regarding the situation the person is in. This is one of the best methods of therapy when it comes to different behavioral problems, depression, addiction, phobia and others. This is because the patient is able to change their behavioral pattern and then channel their negative emotions into thinking of something else again.
There are different components when undergoing into the CBT. The first one is the functional analysis wherein the person is able to identify the problem or their false beliefs. In this process, it unravels who their thoughts and feelings in a certain situation results to the maladaptive behavior. The second part deals with practicing new and practical skills that will benefit them when faced in the real situation. Here, different coping skills are discussed so that the fear of darkness will slowly subside.
It is important that during the cognitive behavior therapy the concerned individual will take small steps towards their betterment or in cases of phobia, they will unlearn the feelings and emotions experienced when facing the stimuli.