A well-known fact is that fears affect all age groups regardless social status and life experience. However, specialists proved that certain phobias are more common in childhood. Nyctophobia or the fear of the dark takes the first place among phobias that occur in childhood.
The fear of the dark in children
There was a sociological survey of 200 mothers with children under the age of 10. Mothers were given a list of 30 types of fears and were offered to arrange them according to frequency and intensity of anxiety that their children have. The majority of women (over 80%) chose the fear of the dark. It means that 8 out of 10 children experience the fear of the dark. It was found that children’s anxiety is in the subconscious and it does not always need anything to trigger it. In most cases, emotions and feelings experienced in childhood have a temporary nature and they will disappear. It is important to treat your fears in a proper way, identify and understand the nature of their occurrence.
The fear of the dark in adults
There is a different situation when an irrational fear of the dark does not go away in adulthood but becomes more frequent and severe – a person develops nyctophobia. According to statistics, about 10% of the world’s population experiences phobic fear of the dark.
It is rather difficult for adults to admit that they have “silly” and “childish” anxiety even if the fear interferes with life. People who have nyctophobia prefer to be silent and not to pay attention to the problem, so they delay a visit to a specialist.
Manifestations of nyctophobia
Nyctophobia can occur at any age. Although it often happens in early childhood. A child, once experienced strong fear in the dark, forgets about it over time but this fear does not go away.
If a healthy person in a dark room or dark areas feels uncomfortable and uncertain and experiences the natural anxiety, a person with nyctophobia reacts in a different way. He experiences strong fear that leads to panic attacks. He tries to escape (no matter where), cries for help in order to reach the nearest light source.
Many adults hide their fears from others and explain their strange behavior (for example, refer to poor eyesight, the inability to move in the dark). Their arguments for ordinary people sound very convincing, it indicates that a person has demonstrative traits. However, he finds himself in a room without light, the person with nyctophobia does not have time “to show his actor skills” and his panic and fear becomes obvious.
As a rule, going to bed is associated with a traditional ritual: they carefully check the serviceability of electrical appliances and prepare alternative sources of light – lanterns, candles. In addition, people with nyctophobia have one thought in their heads before falling asleep – “Survive by all means!”.
Quite often, the fear of the dark is linked with the fear of death. The person with nyctophobia experiences the fear of death in the dark. Thanatophobia may be noticeable and unnoticeable. Quite often, the person with the combination of these anxiety disorders can not sleep in a room if there are no other people or he creates his own imaginary interlocutor.
Symptoms of nyctophobia
Physical and emotional symptoms occur when the traumatic situation is approaching – darkness.
- increased heart rate;
- increased blood pressure,
- stomach upset,
- shaking, sweating, chills;
- muscle weakness;
- stammer, loss of voice.
Emotional signs include nightmares, bad dreams. Changes in behavior include the appearance of nervous habits and increased physical activity – “attempts to escape”.
Is it dangerous?
According to American scientists, the presence of phobic fears in people of mature and old age is a sign of early death. Such a conclusion was made by scientists of Brigham and Women.s Hospital. After studying blood samples of 5,243 female patients (from 42 to 69 years old), they examined existing phobic symptoms and measured the length of telomeres. (A telomere is a region of repetitive nucleotide sequences at each end of a chromosome, which is believed to be a marker of biological and cellular aging). The comparative analysis has shown that people with high levels of anxiety have considerably shorter telomeres, it means that aging process is faster.
What causes nyctophobia?
Often, nyctophobia begins when a baby is in a mother’s stomach. It is the first baby’s meeting with fears. An unborn child feels increased mother’s anxiety, her feelings. Of course, he does not realize what is happening but the brain and the nervous system remember mother’s reaction to fear. I.e. a fetus has the ability to fear and individual reactions towards fear.
Also, the occurrence of nyctophobia depends on social factors, the specific conditions of development, genetic factors, the individual characteristics of the psyche.
The fear of the dark in children occurs as a result of the child’s anxiety due to the lack of a mother nearby. At the age of one year, even when the mother leaves for a while, in a dark room, the baby experiences signs of anxiety. Although the mother does everything right, as a consequence, the child “obtains” the first neuroses. The lack of gentle, friendly, warm attitude of adults, especially the mother, enhances the fear of darkness.
Another cause of nyctophobia development according to scientists: if parents have the fear of the dark, the probability that children develop this phobia is about 80%. Parents are an example for their children, there is a tight emotional bond between them.
Human imagination begins to work at the age of 3. In a dark room, objects look different than during the day. Many adults sleep all their lives with the light on because they are afraid of what their own imagination might draw in the dark.
Constant stress at work or at home affects the general psychological state. When a person stays alone, he starts thinking about his problems. So, he may experience the feeling of loneliness, anxiety, insomnia and the fear of the dark.
Many doctors believe that the fear of the dark is developed due to lack of vital body minerals which are responsible for maintaining a stable emotional state. It is necessary to go out, consume the right food and go to bed earlier.
In most cases, children’s night fears go away over time. There are people who have a very strong character and willpower to struggle with the fear of the dark. Unfortunately, not every person is able to fight his fears on his own.
Psychologists warn that ignoring clear and intense symptoms of nyctophobia is not safe. Without treatment, this phobia may lead to other serious mental disorders.
Therefore, if you experience discomfort, anxiety, and fear in the dark, you should consult a psychologist or psychotherapist. Timely and appropriate treatment is a reliable method to beat this phobia for good.
Do not hide your fears. If you do not get rid of them as a child, it is never too late to deal with them right now. Defeat your fears, live peacefully and happily and there will be nothing to be afraid of!