Nyctophobia (Phobia of The Dark)

Nyctophobia or phobia of the dark quite often starts at a young age. To some extent this is normal as children quite often fear the unknown or things they cannot see. The fear might go on to become a phobia if thoughts become irrational, excessive, or impacts day-to-day living.

In this case the first thing to keep telling and reminding yourself of, is that darkness, in itself, cannot harm you and it is important to correctly identify the actual cause of the fear.

Is it really the dark or is it perhaps things that happen during darkness that are the cause of the problem?

Perhaps, for example, it is actually a fear of moths which only come out during darkness but you have, over a long period of time, associated the fear with the darkness rather than the moth? Or perhaps you are scared  of what could happen in the darkness? Both of these examples show that it isn’t actually darkness that is the problem. 

So now let us take a look at what you can do to overcome this phobia, afterall;

All phobias can be overcome by desenstising the mind and body

It is essential that you remember that by shutting out the darkness, i.e. by putting on all the lights and shutting the curtains to avoid seeing the darkness, you are not ever going to overcome the fear, all you are doing is  coping and so prolonging the phobic reactions.

The following steps are for an acute sufferer so you can start at whichever point is applicable.

  1. Use “cognitive” thinking to start changing the way your thoughts react to oncoming darkness. Ways to do this would include arguing with yourself so that when the fears of darkness thoughts come into your mind you continually challenge them with the realisation that darkness cannot harm you. Alternatively, you could use an audio recording of real facts. This recording should then be played on a regular basis to continually remind you of the truth. “Cognitive” therapy will eventually change the way you think from negative to positive from “What if?” to “So what”.
  2. Make regular and frequent use of a muscle relaxation CD   It is impossible to feel anxious, worried or  frightened if all the muscle groups in the body are relaxed. Once the muscles are all relaxed, the nerves are inactive and so no messages of fear are transmitted to the brain. It often takes several weeks or even months of practice to get good muscle relaxation so don’t expect the CD to achieve an overnight miracle. The more often you practice, the sooner you will start to relax properly. 
  3. Next, you have to start exposing yourself to the actual darkness. This should be done gradually in order to slowly increase your confidence. The first step might be to buy a light dimmer and slowly but surely reduce its intensity.
  4. Start with one room being slightly darker than any other and keep going in there until your anxiety level reduces which, it must and will. Perseverance is the key.
  5. Slowly but surely increase the darkness level in the room. You can use breathing exercises or No Panic’s Crisis Message to help keep your anxiety levels under control.
  6. Steadily reduce the amount of light you have on throughout your home.Remembering that small steps lead to great journeys.
  7. Practice being in a darkened room during daylight. Using this step actually produces darkness to order and can be very helpful in dealing with the real thing at night times.
  8. Gradually open your curtains bit by bit at night. Start off with only a crack. Make a point of looking at or through the crack. Build up to eventually having the curtains wide open.
  9. Get used to having the lights off during the hours of darkness.
  10. Walk outside during darkness using your recording to keep reminding yourself of the reality that darkness cannot harm you.
  11. Go out into the night or sit in your home with all the lights off.

Obviously all the above take time are not learned at once. We admit it takes some people longer than others to overcome the fear. Many darkness phobia sufferers have tackled and overcome their fear by using this type of cognitive/behaviour therapy and don’t forget that the people who have beaten their phobia using this method do not have special abilities, they are just normal people like you and me.

No Panic does not claim that self-help Cognitive Behaviour Therapy offers the only way to overcome a phobia. However, these methods do have the highest proven success rate – some 80%!!

If you would like to start a recovery programme and feel you need our support then please take a look at our different recovery programmes available.                                             

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