Fear Of The Dark Phobia: Is It Keeping You Awake?

fear of the dark phobia

Do you find yourself avoiding being in darkness? Do you sweat, shake, feel anxious or ill at the mere thought of the lights going out at night? If so, it could be that you have a fear of the dark phobia.

Fear of the dark is one of the most common phobias, especially for children. Even children who don’t have a phobia will commonly think about what might happen if they’re alone in the dark.

For those with a phobia, this worry can be irrationally powerful, with their brain conjuring up vivid and frightening images of what might be hiding in the shadows.

But many adults also still experience it, and it can lead to a range of personal and social problems. For example, adults might avoid dark spaces as much as possible, feel anxious or depressed, and refuse to sleep alone.

In this article, you’ll find out what can cause the phobia, the symptoms and approaches to treatment. I’ll also discuss some fascinating research showing that it might be the cause of insomnia for many adults.

Did you know?

There are 4 different terms for this phobia:

  • Achluophobia
  • Nyctophobia
  • Scotophobia
  • Lygophobia

Nowadays, the term nyctophobia is most commonly used, followed by achluophobia. If you investigate the history of the 4 words there may be some small differences in exact meaning. In this article, I’ll refer to it generally as nyctophobia.

Nyctophobia comes from two Greek words:

  • Nyctus – night or darkness
  • Phobos – fear

Statistics

It’s hard to find reliable statistics about nyctophobia. In 2017, a poll of 2000 British adults by Bensons for Beds revealed that 17% regularly sleep with a light on. And 20% do some bedtime checks, like closing wardrobe doors and making sure there’s nothing lurking under the bed.

According to the statistic brain website, 11% of the US population suffers from a fear of the dark phobia.

Interestingly it’s the fourth most common phobia according to them, with public speaking at number one, followed by a fear of death and spiders.

That number does seem a little high though, especially if you consider that the Royal College of Psychiatrists states that 1 in 10 adults will experience any anxiety or phobia at some point in their lives.

Whatever the exact number may be though, it’s clear that a large number of people are frightened by darkness, both children and adults.

Causes of nyctophobia

A popular evolutionary theory is that being scared of the dark was useful in the past. Our ancestors were more likely to be attacked by nocturnal predators, so they developed a practical anxiety about being vulnerable at night.

This would help keep children safe, as it takes a few years for them to realize that whilst dangerous, it wasn’t necessary to fear the dark.

In modern times, experts believe that nyctophobia is commonly associated with a traumatic experience in the past.

It’s understandable that small children are afraid of the dark with their highly active imaginations. But for a diagnosed phobia to continue into adulthood, they might have experienced trauma such as:

  • Life-threatening situations: crashes, fires or other accidents.
  • Childhood sexual or physical abuse, or neglect. Some children are punished by being kept in the dark for example.
  • Exposure to films, television, literature and stories containing horror, gore, ghost and paranormal activity.
  • Adult torture, attack or mistreatment.

In addition to this, the Royal College of Psychiatrists points out that many other factors can play a role: some people are genetically more likely to experience anxiety; drugs, alcohol and stimulants like caffeine can also lead to increased anxiety levels.

Some mental health problems can lead to irrational fears and anxieties. And even some physical illnesses, such as thyroid conditions.

Symptoms

Younger children might exhibit some of the following behaviors when faced with being in the dark:

  • Bed-wetting
  • Crying
  • Tantrums and screaming
  • Thumb-sucking
  • Freezing
  • Regression to baby talk
  • Refusal to sleep without a light on
  • Wanting to sleep with parents
  • Fear of monsters

Physical symptoms

Older children and adults may develop some of the following physical and psychological symptoms:

  • Breathing problems: shallow, fast breathing
  • Chest pain, heart palpitations or feeling choked
  • Feeling sick
  • Low appetite or binge eating
  • Shivering or shaking
  • Aches, pains and soreness

Emotional and social signs and symptoms

  • Thinking about death
  • Feeling intense fear
  • Fear of being attacked by monsters, ghosts or other bad entities
  • Repeated checking of places in the house for monsters
  • Refusing to sleep alone
  • Refusing to go out after dark, or into dark places or rooms
  • Feeling like running away when thinking about being in the dark
  • Trying to stay awake all night
  • Sleeping with a light or television on
  • Depressive disorders
  • Disruption to sleep
  • Problems with school or work

Treatment

Helping children with a fear of the dark

It’s a natural and healthy part of a child’s development to be scared of the dark. But if it becomes an issue which affects their well-being, it’s helpful to speak to a doctor about it.

It may be tempting to rationalize with young children, but this can be difficult; young children don’t tend to deal with rationalizing very well.

So telling them that their fear of monsters is silly because there aren’t any monsters might not have the effect you desire. It may just make them embarrassed and less likely to talk to you about it.

Instead, it’s important to listen to them and make them feel understood. Limit how much TV they watch before bed, and be careful older members of the household don’t expose them to scary things.

You can spend some quality time with them before bed and do something relaxing and positive such as reading, drawing or talking. Then you can ask if they want to be checked on after a few minutes or an hour. And if they feel they need a comforter, teddy, night light or blanket, then make sure they have it.

Finally, one of the best ways to help them feel good about going to sleep is to ensure they have a calming and consistent bedtime routine.

Adult treatment

The good news is that phobias are treatable at any age. So if you’re afraid of the dark and it’s causing you significant distress or problems, it’s a good idea to seek professional help.

Depending on your access to healthcare, you may be able to ask your doctor for a referral to a therapist. In severe cases they may prescribe medication to help you with your anxiety. But they are more likely to recommend either therapy or self-help.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most common approach for treating anxiety disorders like phobias. It’s known to be an effective way of treating them, and can have a positive result in just a few sessions.

The therapist may help you to uncover the root of the phobia, and help you identify the thought process you go through, and then restructure that process.

They might decide to help you with a technique called systematic desensitization. That means gradually spending time in situations which spark the fear, but in small, safe and controlled steps. That way you slowly but surely learn to overcome the anxiety, only taking the next step when you feel comfortable.

There’s also the option of self-help. This is great if you don’t have access to professional help. And even if you do, self-help can be an empowering and effective path to take. For some ideas about how to do this, have a look at the excellent phobias and fears page on the helpguide.com website.

Nyctophobia a major cause for adult insomnia?

In 2012, researchers at Ryerson University Sleep & Depression Laboratory in Toronto showed that many adults with insomnia may in fact be afraid of the dark.

Reported in science daily, the study leader Dr Carney said that some insomniacs they treat would sleep with a light, television or computer left on. Some would fall asleep on the couch, but when they woke up and went to bed wouldn’t be able to fall asleep again.

In the study, 93 college students were given 2 questionnaires: the insomnia severity index and a fear of the dark questionnaire.

They discovered that nearly half admitted to having a fear of the dark phobia. Furthermore, 46% of poor sleepers admitted this compared to 26% of good sleepers.

The researchers also conducted an objective test of fear of the dark using the startle reflex, whereby subjects would blink in response to a stimulus.

The students wore headsets and small bursts of noise would be played sporadically. They found that when tested with a light on, both good and poor sleepers responded to the noises in the same manner. However, when it was done in the dark, the poor sleepers were more startled.

Furthermore, they found that as time went on during the experiment, the poor sleepers would continue to be startled each time it happened. In contrast, the good sleepers got used to the disturbance.

Implications for insomnia treatment

Dr Carney says that this study could have implications for the treatment of insomnia, particularly Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

A CBT practitioner might suggest a patient leaves the bedroom if they can’t sleep, then return and try to sleep later.

However, it might not be so effective if there’s an underlying phobia. Every time they return to the dark bedroom, the fear would come back, thus preventing them from falling asleep. So CBT would have to perhaps involve the treatment of the phobia first.

So perhaps if you’ve tried getting up and going into another room when you can’t sleep, but find you still can’t when you return, it might be worth trying out a night light to see if it makes a difference.

Your views

Are you or your child scared of the dark? How has it affected your life and how have you coped with it until now?

Feel free to share your story in the comments below.

References

Anxiety, Panic and Phobias (Anxiety panic phobias) http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/expertadvice/problemsdisorders/anxiety,panic,phobias.aspx

Beesdo, Katja, Susanne Knappe, and Daniel S. Pine. “Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders in Children and Adolescents: Developmental Issues and Implications for DSM-V.” The Psychiatric clinics of North America 32.3 (2009): 483–524. PMC. Web. 2 Sept. 2015.

American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “Some adults with sleep disturbances are actually afraid of the dark, study says.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 June 2012

Phobias and Fears (Symptoms, Treatment, and Self-Help) http://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/phobias-and-fears.htm

43 CommentsLeave a comment

  • It has affected my life a lot, I don’t make plans for night time, no friends over or me over at their place. I don’t go outside around night time, I go into panic attacks, I stay up until sunrise and some days don’t sleep at all, I often have ‘accidents ‘ or pee myself because I’m too afraid to get up, I spend the night crying, and holding my chest it often aches , my eyes are often swollen from crying , I distance myself from everyone and end relationships when I get too close to people due to fear they won’t understand and fear of judgement.

    • Hi Abby
      Thanks for your comment. I’m sorry to hear it’s affecting you to this extent. It must be extremely upsetting and stressful for you to feel this way every night.
      I think in your case, where the phobia is very strong, it’s important to get professional help – which should make a big difference to you. Depending on which country you’re in, I would start by speaking to your personal doctor to ask for access to a therapist or search for a local one yourself. A cognitive behavioural therapist should be able to help a lot. If you don’t feel up to going out to find that help, you can search online for a therapist as you can get help online without having to meet in person.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I don’t know if you’re still reading and or answering these comments.. I’m a 26 year old single mom of two. My 4yo started to have these.. nightmares? Weird dreams. Would sometimes wake up screaming and crying and just very frightened to the point where I would need to turn lights on to make sure he was awake and let him know that it wasn’t real and that he was with me and everything was ok. And it took a while but I think he outgrew it, except I started to be afraid of the dark. As I lay in bed right this second, so very tired desperately needing to sleep because I’ve got to be up first thing in the morning for work and I’m just laying here thinking about worst case scenarios in which I am not successful in keeping my children safe. I’m starting to think I hear noises and I cannot turn on the side. I feel like something will creep up behind me. The only way I ever get sleep anymore is when I completely pass out from how tired I am. It’s been going on for a little bit now. And I’m not entirely sure of how to even refer to it let alone address it so any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi Sandra
      I am indeed still answering the comments! Sorry to hear you’re going through this at the moment. It sounds like sleep deprivation is an issue for you, which in itself can contribute to anxiety and also make you more sensitive to noise in the dark and sleep hallucinations. Perhaps you could speak to your doctor about your feelings, and see if they recommend a therapist. I’d also do what you can to dedicate more time to sleep, and focusing on making your bedroom relaxing and safe to be in. Try using a soft night light for a while too to see if that helps.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I used to have problems as a child sleeping and early adulthood. I have managed this and now always have a small light on and can sleep, until recently.
    I used to have a feeling of dread when I was a child, and I would see a gigantic eye above me, starring at me, so big and vivid I could even see the eyelashes, and when I closed my eyes tightly, there would be this tune penetrating into my head. All sounds dramatic but it was terrifying.
    This has suddenly returned and I don’t know why and don’t know how to stop it.

    • Hi Carrie
      Thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear the old fear has returned. Perhaps it would help to find ways not to focus on it when it happens. Try to do simple breathing and relaxation exercises in bed if you feel it coming on.
      And are you under stress recently? Perhaps new stress, anxiety or life changes have triggered it.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I’m so scared of the dark. I started watching scary movies very young probably about 7 or 8 ish and I just recently got fear of the dark. I picture people breaking in and trying to hurt me and it’s gotten so bad I can’t sleep without a huge knife by my bed. I always feel like someone’s watching me about to attack me. I’m also scared of being alone o carry a knife around when I’m alone. I have no idea what caused this but I hate it I have to have a light on or I have a panic attack but If someone’s in the room with me I’m fine with the light off. I won’t even sleep with the light off with the tv on the tv and the light has to be on cause I need some type of noise and a light.

    • Hi Marissa
      Thanks for your comment and for sharing your fear of the dark here. Sorry to hear it’s gotten to the point that you feel unsafe and need to carry protection. I think that this is something that would be good to talk to a professional about, to be honest. It can’t be nice for you having so much fear all the time, and it is something that a therapist could help with. I’m not sure how old you are, but I would talk to someone you can trust about this and also talk to your doctor and ask them if they can recommend someone to help you cope better with it.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I am 16, i often times feel something is either with me or watching me and have hallucinated several times to the point of crying, im going to see a psychiatrist for depression, as a child my 2 older brothers and sometimes my dad would scare me at night and i was also exposed to horror movies as a child which in turn took its toll, what should i do?

    • Hi Hayden
      Thanks for your comment and for sharing your experience. I’m sorry to hear you’re dealing with these issues. It’s not uncommon for people to develop an anxiety in the dark – especially if they watch horror films at a young age I think! I remember watching horror films in my early teens and having trouble sleeping for several nights until I finally started to forget about what I’d seen. I think the best thing is to attend your appointment, speak openly and honestly about how you feel, and accept support where it’s available. If you have close family or friends ou trust and can speak to, that’s great. There are also lots of useful online support groups you can access. And try some of the advice in this article, and the others about hallucinations at night, which might give you some comfort and tips for coping.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I am 65 and while not exactly scared of the dark, am terrified of darkness and someone breaking in ….I have no reason for this, no previous experiences, but so scared I don’t sleep for more than two hours at a time…I am exhausted! The house creaking and cooling down wakes me up …..footsteps on the landing!! I know no one is there, but can’t settle and sleep – so very tired…….I leave a light on all night but it doesn’t help much. Anyone got any advice.

    • Hi Purplelily
      Thanks for sharing your experience. This sounds like something some cognitive behavioral therapy could help with. I would start by talking to your doctor about it, and asking them to recommend someone you can talk it through with, and get help with finding ways to deal with the nighttime anxiety you have.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Hi I started with some sort of cold bug or virus in december….sysmptons have been an ongoing cough and blocked nose the cough has been coming or going for some time and Im awaiting the results of chest xrays taken today simply because the symptons have lasted so long. Lately however the issue of my nose blocking when i get into bed has become severe and is exacerbated if i sleep in the dark I feel as if Im going to suffocate. Leaving a light on at least lets me get some sleep. Im seeing my GP later this week but cant help feeling he might find me rather foolish. Im 57.

    • Hi John
      Thanks for your comment. Hopefully your doctor helped you with this problem. I think it makes sense that not breathing properly and being in the dark can be unpleasant – nothing to feel foolish about!
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Hi!
    I think that my nyctophobia is back again.
    I used to have this phobia since childhood. I was a victim of sexual harassment by my brother from childhood up until i was 16 years old. My mother covered everything up. No professional help from a psychiatrist or police. The attacks happened mostly at night, me sleeping, when all the lights were turned off. I never slept with a peace of mind since then.
    I thought i got over it when i started living and sleeping with my older step-sister who wants the light off when i was at the age of 21. Then she got married after 2 years. So i have been sleeping by myself again with my bedroom light brightly turned on.
    Now at 26, I dated a guy 5 months ago and i started sleeping over in his place sometimes him in my place. There was never a chance i had a good sleep whenever i was with him. He likes the room dark but since he knew that i can’t sleep in dark we leave a nightlight on. But it did not work on me. I slept with him 4 times now.
    Im thinking of spending more time with him at night so i can get used to a nighight at least. By the way, i have never told him about the harrasment back in my childhood. He have no idea but he asked me once why i cant not sleep without a light but i opted not to answer and changed the topic. He never ask again. I am scared that once he learned about my past he will pity me or leave me. I dont like that to happen. I’ve Never told my trauma to anyone except to my older step-sister who didn’t grow up with me during childhood.
    What else do you think are the ways for me to cope from nyctophobia? I need your help. 😔

    • Hi Lucky
      Thanks for your comment and for sharing your experience. I’m very sorry to hear you’ve experienced something so dreadful, and I think it’s completely understandable you’d have difficulty sleeping unless the conditions are as you need to feel comfortable.
      My advice would first and foremost to consider trying counselling. Not only can they help you work through the past experiences, but they will hopefully also be able to either help, or advise you where to find help, with the phobia. They might also be a good place to start if you ever feel you need some closure for what happened.
      However, if you don’t want to do that, you could still find a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) practitioner who specializes in phobias. You could also your doctor to recommend one, or search online, depending on what’s available in your area.
      There is also the option of self-help for phobias. Again, if you search online you can find many good websites offering advice. And bookshops, or online again, will also offer books helping with that.
      Finally, I’d just explain to your BF that this is the way you need to sleep, and ask him to be understanding and patient if it comes up. We don’t always have to explain the root cause of the way we are. It should be enough to just ask him to accept it and work with you to find a way you can both sleep. Personally, I’d consider the sleeping in separate bedrooms idea, because that’s what my partner and I do and it works fine!
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Hey I am 30 yrs old guy and suffering from this so called fear of darkness, during childhood I used to watch scary shows but along with family, some where around 13-14 I stop watching any scary movie or show, but the fear is still thr and I am growing old, it’s getting worse. I work on ship which makes it impossible to get away from things which I afraid , I still try to avoid dark places when I am alone , hence it is effecting my professional and personal life. I am from India and can’t find good help here, please advise as i can’t sleep at night alone but during day I can , even if no one is around. Please help and I have read all comments/CBT but still don’t know what exactly I should do?
    Awaiting your kind advise

  • Hi Ethan
    My daughter is 17 years old and has a severe phobia which is much worse in the dark but also when she is alone, even in the day time or at night with all the lights on. Like many of the people who have posted here, she feels there are things lurking that want to attack her. We live in a very safe home and we have never had an intruder and i do not believe she has ever been abused. I do believe these are unseen entities like ‘spirits’, shadows etc. I’m not sure if this fear could have become embedded from films she has watched or whether she may well see spirits. Either way, the fear is real to her and no amount of rationalising helps. Do you have more detailed information of where this type of fear my come from and ways to deal with it as lights and music don’t seem to help. We are seeking help from a therapist although I don’t believe she has ever dealt with a problem like this before. It is extremely reassuring to see how common this fear is and that many adults suffer from it as I have been so concerned that my daughter isn’t ‘growing out’ of her fears.
    Thank you for your interest in the subject and the help you have given people through your advice.
    Sonya

    • Hi Sonya
      Thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear she’s having such difficulties. I imagine that if you believe in spirits and entities too, then she might have picked up on that at some point, so rationalizing it now might be difficult – assuming she did listen to you speak about this belief at some point? I don’t have much more in the way of advice I’m afraid. Hopefully the therapist can help get to the bottom of it and help her develop ways to cope better. It is a phobia which can be overcome, so give the therapist time to work with her on it.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I’m 15 and I have had Nyctophobia for as long as I can remember. I’m scared of the dark especially when I’m alone. I always hold my breath and keep my limbs close to my body, my heart rate increases and check my surroundings constantly. My mother sleeps with me, I cannot sleep otherwise. Every time I’ve tried sleeping alone I tell my parents to keep their bedroom door open, I cover myself with whatever I have, though I feel safer(not really) under blankets even if I’m sweating. I’m afraid that something is going to attack, kill or scare me so I don’t even let an inch of my hair out from under the blankets. I will probably stay awake for 3 hours after I get in bed, sleep for 1-2 hours, then wake up again and can’t sleep again. My parents try to say to me that there is nothing to fear about and that I’m safe, but it hasn’t helped me. I see shadows, my scariest experience was when I was 13, I was trying to sleep alone and I suddenly felt like something was watching me, I ever so slowly raised the blanket so I could see and a very black shadow stood in the corner of my room, I was so scared I covered myself quickly, after a while looked again, didn’t see the shadow, jumped up, got my pillow, turned the lights on the way to my parents room, which was a room away and jumped on their bed and slept with them. If my parents aren’t at home, I won’t sleep at all. I don’t really know what to do, when I was around 11 I told myself ‘it’s going to go away when I’m older’, but it hasn’t.

    • Hi Nefeli
      Thanks for your comment. I can totally understand your worry. It’s not nice being afraid of the dark, and losing so much sleep won’t help you keep a straight head either.
      It will definitely get better as you get older, but I also remember still being a bit afraid of the dark when I was 15 and lived in a particularly scary house.
      Can you get, or ask your parents to get, a night light to keep in the room? It might help you to feel more reassured. It might also help to speak to a professional about it, especially if the lack of sleep is affecting how you feel during your day, and other important things like your school work, activities and social life. There’s not harm in speaking to your doctor and telling them how you feel and asking if there’s an expert you can speak to who can help you find ways to cope better.
      I also suggest trying out different self-help ideas. If breathing is an issue for you, one simple thing you can do is some slow, calming breathing exercises when you’re in bed. Controlling your breathing naturally helps people feel calmer, and also helps distract your mind from scary thoughts. You can do this exercises:
      1. Breathe in slowly through your nose for a count of 4.
      2. Hold it in for a hold of 2.
      3. Breathe out slowly through your mouth for a count of 4.
      4. Repeat until either you feel calmer, or even until you fall asleep.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I’m 25 years old and I have always been scared of the complete darkness. I always need some sort of light in the room. When I moved in with my husband it was easier to bear the darkness although even then it made me a little nervous. In the apartment we lived in, there always was a really bright light outside so our room was never completely dark. He’s now out of the country and will not be returning anytime soon and I live in a house where the room gets completely dark. I always have the TV and my 3 year old son sleeps in the room with me too. I still have trouble falling asleep at night. I don’t know why I can’t sleep good anymore.. part of me wants it to be dark and the other is too scared. I never had a traumatizing experience as a kid so I’ve always thought it was unnecessary to see a therapist about it

    • Hi Maria
      Thanks for your comment. Sometimes it’s hard to work out exactly where our fears come from, and many people have fears without any particular traumatizing experience – especially the common fear of the dark. You could try talking to a therapist about it if you feel it’s something you’d like to work on. And in the meantime, try sleeping with a soft nightlight in the bedroom which keeps it dark but with just enough light to make you feel relaxed in bed.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Thank you for this article. I have always had a bad fear of the dark and when i was a kid i tried to overcome the problem by pretending everything around are friends – for eg, i would talk to my bed or the bathtub or my sink ( i know it sounds insane now but it worked then! at least until i had a better sense of reality 🙁 )

    I have always had problem sleeping in the dark. It gets intense when i’m alone. My imagination goes wild and i always feel like i have to “keep an eye out”. If someone were in the room, i either have to have any kind of physical contact — just a mere touch us enough comfort for me to realize tt someone is around. If for example i am on a holiday and i am in different beds with my friends, my mind would start going wild again as long as i’m the last to fall asleep.

    Lately i’ve been on a week long prescription of cough mixture which are drowsy and i have never had such great sleep for this long a period of time. Now that i’m off it, the gears in my head are moving again and i am starting to wonder why i have such an irrational fear. Your article is of great comfort to me knowing that i’m not alone with this problem. But i do miss my good sleep.

    Do you think i can rid this by solely self-help?

    • Hi Goh
      Thanks for your comment and for sharing your experience. I think it is possible to overcome it with self-help, and it’s definitely worth seeing it positively and believing you can! You could try some of the ideas in the article, and also maybe research online or in your bookshop/library for ways to deal with phobias. There’s lots of self-help advice available. Otherwise, if you can, perhaps try enlisting the help of a professional. And by the way, it was probably the anti-histamine in the medicine which helped you sleep. You can find over the counter sleep aids with similar active ingredients if you ever need something to help you sleep again, but they’re best avoided long term.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I’m 18 years old and the furthest I can remember is when I was 3 years old,I would just sit on my bed and not be able to move and I would sit like that for about 10 minutes each night and then scream and cry and it would last for days. My mum took me to the doctor and they said it was my imagination and I’m only reflecting on what I’m seeing like tv but we never had a tv and I was not aloud to see or hear anything scary. I remember it so clearly and every time I think about what I used to see it makes my anxiety levels go higher. My parents used to say “stop it, it’s just your imagination” and my dad would turn my light off and leave me upstairs knowing I could not leave my bed in case I was taken away. My mum thought I was insane but I used to see this man he was standing with black mist around him and sometimes he would change him appearance to either make me feel better or scare me to death. I seen him since I was 3yrs old til I was 15. And it was embarrassing I couldn’t have friends over and I felt like I was not normal. A lot of bad things happened through my life though but I felt like I was being punished for it and sometimes I felt like it wasn’t me in my own body yet I couldn’t explain this to my parents because they thought their daughter was insane and they both where terrified of me. I’ve never told anyone this because I just don’t want to be called insane but it was real it still haunts me to this day my to has to be loud and I have extra bulbs next to my bed and I’m constantly looking beside me and all around me. My sister turned a light off and pushed me in a room and held the door for a joke. My body wouldn’t let me turn it back on I just panicked and got out of control angry I kicked a hole through the door so I really think I need you opinion or what you think it might be ? It’s not just the dark I’m scared of it’s also being in a room on my own for too long with or without the light off. Im just constantly terrified my ex got a black eye because he looked at me for like 20 secs without saying anything and it reminded me of that thing that used to watch me in the darkness and I think i panicked that much I started holluccinating and his face stared to change into something non-human so I beat the crap out of him

    • Hi Jamie-Leigh
      Thanks for your comment. I think with the fear and anxiety you have, it’s a good idea to talk to a professional about it. I know you’re concerned about telling people in case they think you’re insane, but actually, many people have phobias – including yours of the dark and being alone – and a therapist is a good way to tackle those. Their job isn’t to tell you you’re insane and lock you up, or anything as dramatic as you might see in movies. It’s simply to listen and then help give you techniques for dealing with it. If you can find a way to move past your worry of being branded insane, it’s probably the best move you could make if you want to deal with it.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Hey
    I am very scared of dark. I always feel like ghosts and spirits will attack me.i am very religious person and believe that God will protect me but i dont know why at night i get very scared. I am a single child .I am 17 and because of this fear i sleep with my mom. My dad sleeps alone.All my relatives make fun of me. My mom also always taunts me. I want to start sleeping alone very badly.. i am going to join college in september(i am an indian) so i will be im hostel and in india mostly in each room 3-4 students sleep i am relieved but till september i want to sleep alone and during holidays whenever i come home fr my hostel also i want to sleep alone
    Please help me!
    Hina

    • Hi Hina
      Thanks for your comment. You’re not alone in experiencing this, and it’s brave of you to want to deal with it. That’s a very positive step to take! A good thing would be to speak to a professional about it, but if you think that’s not possible, perhaps try some of the advice in the article and comments. You could try sleeping alone, but with some light and maybe sound too to start with. Then slowly reduce how much light and sound you have over a few weeks. You might find you need at least a little bit of light for a long time, but if you can at least get used to sleeping alone with just a soft night light, that’s a great improvement!
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Hi. I’m 16 and I have a fear of basements mirrors and the dark. My room has all three. It’s so bad at night I try to stay up or hide under the covers even if I start sweating. I’m too scared to even poke my head out. I can’t tell my parents. Any ideas? I’m afraid I’ll see a ghost in the mirror and I got locked in a basement in the dark by a cousin when I was little and now have a problem with basements. All this together I’m starting to lose it.

    • Hi Emily
      Thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear you’re experiencing these worries. I can totally understand because I was similar when I was a teenager. I remember going through a whole process of searching my room and the attic, believe it or not, before I could rest easy. And then in the dark I had to make sure all my fingers and toes were well under the covers! It’s not a nice feeling.
      I think the best thing is to try and tell your parents about it. Talking can help a lot in these situations. You could also try sleeping with a night light on, or maybe even the radio or a talk show on quietly that gives you comfort.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Hey, I am 18 years old and I think I need help.
    Everything is perfectly fine when my boyfriend is with me during the night, but now he is away for a whole month and after two days I am already desperate for help. I am just so afraid of putting the lights out. I moved my sleep to the couch, where I can cuddle in one of the corners because the bed was too big for me alone. Now I stay up every night until I just get too exhausted to keep my eyes open. Then I get about 4 hours of sleep, but it isn’t very good sleep. Before I can even think of sleeping I have to check every window and door to be closed and every room to be empty. It is just stressing me so much, I am thinking about seeking help by a doctor, but I hate admitting my weaknesses.I have been afraid of the darkness since I was a child, but I don’t know why. I have read so much that it usually comes from some traumatic event, but there was nothing that I can remember. I had a decent childhood, but I always needed a lit light or something for the night. I always have circles around my eyes because I don’t get enough sleep, but I have no idea how to solve my problem.
    Hopefully you can give me some advice as to what I could do.

    • Hi Karin
      Thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear you’re having so much difficulty sleeping. It’s nothing to be embarrassed by. Perhaps rather than see it as a weakness, you could try and see it as a strength to want to deal with your fears. I think seeing it in a more positive light like that might help you to accept help. Often in life there are things where we need a bit of professional help, and that’s fine. I’d try to sleep with a soft night-light on for a while, and maybe even the radio and see if that helps. But I’d also talk to your doctor and see if you can get a referral to a CBT practitioner who can help with the fear. Hopefully you’ll be able to overcome it with a little guidance.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I have nyctophobia again. It comes and goes. It hasn’t been this bad since pre teen. Afraid someone exchange my daughter I sleep with or my husband suddenly is someone else. Bit touch, reassuring words and warm music help. Yesterday I realized so much about my childhood, how I was just an extension of my father and I am still run by those beliefs he instilled in me. And my mother was jealous. I think that is why it is spiking. If this fear seeps into the day, like not trusting people are who they say they are I don’t know what to do. Am I really going crazy then? This day fear happened to me when I was 11-12, Gould neither be alone nor with ppl for fear of them Boeing disguised. Took half a year of cold fear.

    • Hi Sara
      Thanks for your comment. Have you ever spoken to a professional about this, like a doctor or therapist? Perhaps they’ll be able to provide you with some help in dealing with this.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Hello! my name is Anushree, i m 19 years old but i am afraid of darkness nd sleep alone after sarching on google i found that its call Phobia..now i can help myself . This article is realy helpfull to me

    • Hi Anushre
      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you found the article helpful – I hope you do manage to sleep better now you have a better understanding of what you’re dealing with.
      Regards
      Ethan

    • Hi Mehfisha

      Thanks for your comment. Perhaps it might help to make your house feel warm and occupied – have good lighting and the TV or radio on. Then maybe even sleep with a soft light on and the radio if you don’t find it disturbs you.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I am a 66 year old woman. I have not had a full nights eight hours sleep since I was a child.
    I have been afraid of going to sleep in a dark room for as long as I perhaps since I was was seven or eight.
    I never sleep in a room without some form of light so I can make out everything in the room. I used to dread the time the light went out and would put my head under the covers and breath shallow breaths like I was hiding. Eventually when i did fall asleep I would inevitably wake and be still afraid and beg one of my sisters to stay awake with me. I could not tell my parents, they would have just laughed it off and told me not to be a coward. Sunrise gave me huge relief and still does. Going to see a couple Dracula films added even more anxiety to what I already was suffering but never seemed to bother my sisters or friends.

    This fear has become part of my life ever since and I am amazed and envious of people who just go to bed and sleep without giving it a thought.
    I know my fear of letting go and falling asleep in the dark has no rational basis consciously. I can let go and have a short nap in the daytime but at night I wake and sleep sometimes reading until I fall back to sleep usually near dawn.

    The only time I can let go and fall asleep in the dark is when I drink wine and at least then I get a few hours of sleep together. I am aware that drinking wine is not ideal I have read so much about insomnia. To see it affirmed that insomnia can be caused by fear of the dark is such a relief but it makes me sad to think that I have reached my age when addressing the cause would have made my life so different. Insomnia has affected my memory and studying and has not helped when life brought its problems.

    I am now considering hypnotherapy.

    • Hi Patricia
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, it’s a shame that you didn’t stumble across this as a reason for your insomnia in the past. But you know what they say, better late than never! I think it’s a good idea to consider getting a talking therapy to see if they can help you deal with this once and for all.
      Best of luck!
      Ethan

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