written by: Charlotte Raynor
• edited by: Paul Arnold
• updated: 2/24/2011
Noctiphobia is an overpowering and irrational fear of darkness or the night. Common amongst children it also observed in some adults who can be paralyzed by their fear.
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What is Noctiphobia?
Many people who suffer from noctiphobia refuse to sleep in a dark room and will at all costs avoid going into a room that has no lights. They may carry items such as lighters, flashlights or matches with them to ensure that they are never in the dark. The actual fear that the person has is not just of the darkness, but of imagined dangers that could be concealed by the dark.
Typically, individuals who are noctiphobics feel anxious and frightened in circumstances that wouldn't bother anybody else. There usually is no reasonable explanation as to why they are frightened. The mind seems to exaggerate the situation the person is in and depicts it in a way that makes them scare themselves.
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Noctiphobia, just like most other phobias, may be caused by a number of factors. It may have developed because of a traumatic event in the past or in childhood. There isn't a large body of research on the etiology of this particular phobia, but genetics, brain chemistry and heredity combined with life experiences play a large role in phobia development.
Phobias result from actual daily life traumas; therefore, a traumatic incident that may have taken place in the dark is mechanically and constantly related to fear and anxiety. Or there may be other reasons why an adult did not grow out of a fear that is quite common amongst young children.
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Noctiphobia symptoms can vary from person to person and range from a minimal amount of dread, fear and anxiety to symptoms that are mostly associated with panic such as irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath and rapid breathing. A person can also experience dry mouth, sweating, nausea, shaking and the inability to speak fluently. Additionally, noctiphobia symptoms can cause a person to vomit and in extreme cases the phobic may fear for their own life.
Most adults who have noctiphobia are surprised to learn that there are many people who are just like them and that what they are experiencing is actually a common phobia. Unfortunately, it is often not spoken about for fear of ridicule.
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Noctiphobia can be so severe that it interferes with a person's ability to function in their daily life. For example, those who suffer acutely do not venture out at night which can seriosuly hamper and harm their social life.
When noctiphobia becomes troublesome enough to interrupt a person's ability to function, it is time to look for treatment for this fear. Anti-anxiety medications are sometime used but these can have side effects, and they do not cure the phobia, they just help the individual deal with the symptoms.
The most common forms of treatment are counseling, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy and Neuro-Linguistic programming. The aim is to help the individual understand the cause of their fear and to change how they think about the dark and the situations and environments where they might experience it. In so doing, symptoms are minimized.