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Information About Achluophobia (Fear of Darkness)

Information About Achluophobia (Fear of Darkness)

The fear of the darkness is the most common phobia prevalent among children and adults, alike. This fear is called achluophobia. This article discusses the various aspects of this phobia.
PsycholoGenie Staff
Alternate Names for Achluophobia
  • Myctophobia
  • Nyctophobia
  • Lygophobia
  • Scotophobia
Everyone possess a natural modicum of fear of the dark and unknown. This fear is further exacerbated when one indulges in watching movies and reading books from the horror genre. However, this is quite natural and understandable, since the human body lacks night vision, and as such, is ill-equipped to navigate dark areas. In such a situation, the fear of darkness itself induces caution and alertness, that helps in navigating a dark environment. This fact is the reason why this fear exists in all humans, in varying degrees. Most people experience this fear in mild forms, and can easily overcome it by consciously distracting themselves. However, sometimes, the fear is intensified in individuals, irrespective of the age, causing the person to experience crippling and irrational anxiety when put in a dark environment.

This intensification of natural fear gives rise to a phobia called achluophobia. It is defined as an irrational, persistent, and extreme fear of darkness, arising due to the brain's impaired perception of the possible scenario in a dark environment. Research regarding this condition yields that, the phobia starts to manifest itself around the age of two, and then starts to progress and evolve into a full-fledged phobia as the person becomes an adult. In darkness, the individual starts imagining and perceiving frightening images and creatures, that only act to increase anxiety levels. In such a state, every sound appears ominous and scary. Also, the brain often induces involuntary muscle movements in the body (twitching, scratching sensation, or goose bumps), that further aid the irrational fear, causing the person to believe that the creatures are real and are actually physically touching him/her. A common precaution taken by such afflicted individuals is the use of a nightlight that dispels complete darkness in the room. However, at times, this is also found to be counter-effective, since the device allows the formation of weird shadows of the objects in the room.

Causes
The most common cause of this phobia is the occurrence of a traumatic event in the past of the individual. This event usually involves being alone in the dark. The event can be anything, ranging from being locked in the dark as a punishment, to being mugged in a dark alleyway by an armed robber. It could also be the result of watching horror movies, reading scary stories and novels, playing supposedly supernatural games such as planchet and ouija, etc. It could also be due to strong recurring nightmares. Other scenarios that can instill this phobia include traumatic events like sexual abuse and/or domestic violence, car accidents, etc., at night. Experiencing sleep paralysis can also trigger achluophobia.

Symptoms
► Aches and pains
► Rapid and shallow breathing
► Heart palpitations
► Shivering and trembling
► Chest pains
► Suffocation
► Nausea and vomiting
► Reduced appetite
► Panic attacks
► Feeling of dread
► Thoughts of death
► Fear of being attacked
► Refusal to sleep
► Forced insomnia

Treatment
This disorder is basically psychological, but exhibits physical manifestations as well. Hence, the treatment must involve psychiatric as well as clinical treatment. Clinically, the person can be prescribed drugs and medication that would help in controlling the biochemical and biophysical response to the phobia in the body. The medications can help address issues like panic attacks, nausea, vomiting, heart rhythm, breathing, etc.

Additionally, psychiatric help should be sought. This would involve counseling sessions to identify the crucial cause behind the phobia. Identification of the cause is vital to help overcome the phobia itself. This is done by engaging in hypnotherapy, behavioral therapy, art and aroma therapy, etc. Desensitization may also be used.

Most phobias do not necessarily cripple the daily activities of an individual, but in case the condition is hindering daily routine activities, one must seek medical help immediately.

Achluophobia is the most commonly seen phobia in children. People like Stephen King and Keanu Reeves have also been known to be afflicted by it. As with any other disorder, physiological or otherwise, the most important step for treating the fear is to first identify it. Once an identification is made, appropriate counter-measures can be implemented. This is a valid psychological condition, and not just an over-reaction or over-sensitiveness on the part of the affected person. Hence, one must exhibit calm and considerate approach towards people suffering from this condition.