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Do You Have A Fear Of The Dark?


What are the symptoms of fear of the dark? How it can affect people and how to overcome fear of the dark…


Night-time for humans, is a time to sleep and as darkness falls and we cannot view outside life so easily, we naturally become more anxious with feelings of vulnerability. When we are awake or alert and it is light outside, we feel safer because we can see clearly. We are aware that when we sleep at night, we are to an extent oblivious of what is going on around us because we are not conscious and alert.


Psychologists and researchers believe that humans having a fear of the dark comes from genetic encoding within us to keep us aware so that we avoid predators at night. In primitive times we would not have had the safety of bricks and mortar to protect our families and especially in places like Africa or countries with dangerous wildlife, we would have avoided being outside after dark. Nowadays, before we go to bed at night, we lock the doors to keep ourselves safe and the majority of us sleep with the landing light on, or some kind of dim light interrupting the complete darkness around us. Fear of the dark is often understood by its sufferers as an irrational phobia, yet it is very real and debilitating to those who experience it.


An abnormal fear of the dark phobia is known as Achluophobia and it is believed to be caused by an extreme fear or anxiety caused by a negative experience from the past, perhaps in childhood. Fears are emotions that are produced from the subconscious mind and are triggered to protect us from danger. The subconscious has a purpose to initiate survival and create emotional reactions in order to warn or protect us. However, fears can become irrational and in the case for most of us, fear of the dark is usually illogical or unreasonable as we are usually safe. Symptoms of fear of the dark are that a person truly believes that if they are subjected to darkness, something will harm them. Physical symptoms can appear such as trembling, heart palpitations, shallow breathing, panic attacks, nausea and screaming or crying. Psychological symptoms can be as extreme and disturbing as a genuine belief that the person will die if they are subjected to darkness. There are several reasons why people may have a fear of the dark:
GHOSTS: It is extremely common for people to believe that if they are in darkness, they will see a ghost or spirit. Regardless of religious beliefs, the fear of seeing or hearing an evil or unwanted entity, is one of the biggest reasons people do not want to sleep in the dark.
CONTROL: If the person feels a strong need to constantly feel in control of their life, they do not want to be subjected to darkness for fear of feeling vulnerable or exposed.
MONSTERS: Most commonly thought of as a fear in children, but no matter what age you are, monsters can be a genuine fear of the dark. The monster under the bed or in the cupboard when we were a child is an instilled fear that many adults still feel is real.
CRIME: Understandably, a lot of crime is carried out at night in darkness, and many people who fear the dark believe that a burglar or criminal could enter their home in the night when they are sleeping. Adults with children will feel even more fear of the dark as they are naturally protective.
THOUGHTS: Some people may fear the dark because their mind starts to race with thoughts or worries of anxiety about what is going on in their current life. Having a dim light in the bedroom reduces feelings of uncertainties or burdens and gives them objects to focus on if they are lying awake.


There are several ways to treat fear of the dark and night phobias and unless severe cases are treated then tiredness and lack of sleep can affect our waking hours. Many people who fear the dark have trouble sleeping, thus affecting their working and home life. To overcome fear of the dark, a person needs to recognise what the fear is and address the situation. Overcoming a fear can take time and patience but more than anything, the person needs to want to do it. Most adults will understand that their fear is irrational but depending how strong the phobia is, may feel extreme anxiety or dread at even attempting to begin to face their fear. Methods such as Hypnotherapy, Meditation and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy have all been proven to treat fear of the dark phobias. Exposure Therapy is a method that exposes the sufferer to darkness slowly, until they feel comfortable in the understanding that there is nothing to be afraid of and that they feel safe. This may not initially help people who have an extreme phobia, so instead a therapy called Systematic Desensitisation can be used. This therapy aims to treat the anxiety that is linked with the phobia, without exposing the sufferer to darkness.



Fears, anxieties and worries can play a large part in our life whether we are awake or asleep. Everyday stress can exaggerate fear and gives us the feeling that we are not in control of our lives. Problems in relationships or at work can keep us awake at night or we may experience confusing dreams when we are anxious. If you need clarification on a current situation, or you want to feel more in control of your life, speak to one of our gifted Readers at TheCircle. We will give you compassionate insight and guidance for a happier future.

PUBLISHED: 07 October 2016
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