Description, Causes and Risk Factors:
Fear of darkness.
The fear of the dark is a common fear or phobia among children and, to a varying degree, of adults. Fear of the dark is usually not fear of the darkness itself, but fear of possible or imagined dangers concealed by the darkness. Some degree of fear of the dark is natural, especially as a phase of child development. Most observers report that fear of the dark seldom appears before the age of 2 years. When fear of the dark reaches a degree that is severe enough to be considered pathological, it is sometimes called achluophobia.
It is common for many young children to be afraid of the dark because they think that there are monsters hiding under their beds and in their closets. Other children might even be terrified of the dark because of some of the nightmares that many children will have. These sorts of fears come about as a result of things that they do not yet quite understand and this lack of understanding can be manifested into fear of the unknown, such as being afraid of the dark. Of course, this is usually easily taken care of by installing a nightlight, or the child will grow out of it as they get older and understand that there is really nothing there to be afraid of.
Some researchers, beginning with Sigmund Freud, consider the fear of the dark as a manifestation of separation anxiety disorder.
An alternate theory was posited in the 1960s, when scientists conducted experiments in a search for molecules responsible for memory. In one experiment, rats, normally nocturnal animals, were conditioned to fear the dark and a substance called "scotophobin" was supposedly extracted from the rats' brains; this substance was claimed to be responsible for remembering this fear. Subsequently these findings were debunked.
People who suffer this will often suffer symptoms such as anxiety, nervousness, insomnia and/or sweating. If a person goes on suffering this for long enough without getting the help that they need from an online counselor, they will not be able to function properly in their lives as a result of their anxiety.
Other symptoms of Achluophobia include:
- Muscle tension.
- Gasping or shortness of breath.
- Uncontrollable trembling.
- Rapid heartbeat.
- Feeling out of control.
- Feeling trapped and unable to escape.
- Overwhelming feeling of impending disaster.
The vast majority of cases of achluophobia are self-diagnosed. The person realizes that their fear of darkness is irrational and has severely compromised their daily functioning.The achluophobic person may then schedule an appointment with their doctor to discuss their phobia. Typically, the doctor will never make a diagnosis of achluophobia based on that first appointment. More routinely, the doctor, after ruling out any physical reason for the phobia, will refer the individual to a mental health professional for further assessment and evaluation.
In order to deal with those irrational beliefs you can use exposure therapy (where you will get exposed to darkness until you discover that there is nothing to be afraid of in there). If you are too afraid to get directly exposed to the feared situation then systematic desensitization could be used. Systematic desensitization is a method of therapy that is helpful in treating anxiety and phobias without involving direct exposure unlike the case with exposure therapy.
In systematic desensitization the feared situation should be divided into different levels. For example in the case of fear of darkness level one could be staying with a friend in a dark room, level two could be staying alone in the same dark room and so on.
After you divide your fears into levels you should then try to experience each of these levels while controlling your emotions. If you succeeded to go through a certain level while feeling relaxed then you should move on to the next until you manage to go through them all.
Finally cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) can help you get over your fear of darkness. Since emotions are triggered by thoughts and since thoughts result from beliefs therefore changing certain beliefs can prevent certain emotions from being triggered. That's exactly how CBT treats fear of darkness. By changing your beliefs about darkness you will no longer fear afraid in dark places.
NOTE: The above information is for processing purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.
DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.
Related article: Photophobia
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