Achluophobia is the fear of darkness. This phobia is known by a variety of other names, including nyctophobia and scotophobia, and it is pervasive in both children and adults. Some people find coping techniques for their achluophobia, finding a way to live with it, while others actively seek treatment. There are an assortment of treatment options available to people who suffer from this condition.
There are a number of reasons why achluophobia can develop. Sometimes it emerges in response to a specific event or trauma, with the patient fearing a repeat of the event. In other cases, it seems to appear spontaneously, reflecting a subconscious fear which has become more pronounced. People who fear darkness may insist on sleeping with a nightlight, and they often refuse to walk around at night, or express fear when they move through a darkened house or room.
Sweating, increased heart rate, nausea, high blood pressure, intense fear, confusion, and a variety of other physical symptoms can accompany a fear of the dark. Someone with achluophobia may also develop more severe symptoms if he or she is mocked, developing anxiety about the phobia in addition to anxieties about the darkness which increases emotional stress. Additional phobias may also develop; for example, a child who is told not to be afraid of the dark might also start fearing monsters under the bed or in the closet.
Treatment approaches to achluophobia vary, depending on the specific case and the age of the patient. Cognitive therapy which includes discussions about the origins of the phobia is common, and some therapists also like to use hypnosis, art therapy, and other techniques to access the subconscious. Some therapists also encourage the use of desensitization, in which the patient is exposed to darkened environments with the therapist present to provide support. Over time, the length of exposure can be increased. Medications such as anti-anxiety drugs may also be used to manage the physiological symptoms.
An important thing to be aware of with achluophobia is that the fear of the dark is very real, and it is a valid psychological condition. People should not be ashamed for feeling nervous or frightened in the dark, and it is a good idea to seek help early, before the symptoms become more severe. Supportive friends and family are also critical for patients, and people should refrain from teasing patients who experience a fear of the dark.