Why are you afraid of animals

Lights off - fear on: The fear of the dark

Dark streets, flickering lights and apparently walking figures in front of the window. Many will know it: the fear of the dark.

An evolutionary fear, which is a very common feeling in childhood, but can develop into an anxiety disorder in adulthood. This article will tell you what causes this fear and what you can do to overcome it.

The power of darkness

The night can be fascinating and scary at the same time. It gives us the silence, the moon and the shining stars - but also the dark and apparently threatening. The fear of the dark and the dangers lurking in it, such as the monster under the bed or the strange man behind the door, is widespread in childhood.

At its core, the fear of the dark has an evolutionary background and goes back a long way to our ancestors.

Fear warned us of possible dangers lurking in the dark and made us more alert and cautious. For example, our ancestors were able to get to safety from nocturnal predators more quickly - so the fear of the dark was vital. To this day, fear fulfills this warning function, but it can sometimes overshoot the mark.

From fear of the dark to nyctophobia

Usually, the fear of the dark diminishes with age. However, if the fear persists in adulthood and exceeds the helpful level, it is called nyctophobia.

The term Nyctophobia is derived from the Greek words “nyktos” (night) and “phobos” (fear). A phobia is an excessive fear of certain situations or objects that are actually harmless. In nyctophobia, the darkness triggers fear.

Those affected report that the thought of the dark itself can often trigger fear in them. Often physical symptoms such as palpitations, shortness of breath and a feeling of weakness occur, which can extend to a panic attack. This can mean that those affected avoid situations in the dark and, for example, do not leave the house after dark. Falling asleep without a night light sometimes seems impossible. This can severely limit daily life.

Causes: ghost stories and stressful life events

There are many causes of nyctophobia. Fear of the dark can arise when fearful thoughts are taken from other people's films, books or stories.

Sometimes a personal disposition, such as a strong fantasy or imagination, can intensify these horror stories. But also stressful events in childhood or adulthood that were experienced at night or in the dark can justify nyctophobia. Our brain then connects the darkness with the negative events and saves them as a possible threat.

5 strategies to overcome fear of the dark

What can you do now to break this connection between darkness and fear? In addition to psychotherapeutic offers, there is also a lot that you can already try out on your own. We have listed five helpful strategies you can use to overcome your fear of the dark.

1Travel around the earth in your mind

Become aware that at this moment the sun is shining in another part of the earth. Imagine the sun and its warmth. What are the people doing there right now? Focusing on a new, positive thought can alleviate your fear of the dark.

2Decorate yourself to relaxation

Relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation and breathing exercises can help you withdraw from the outside world for a brief moment and focus on yourself. In this way, the body can be supported in finding its way back into a state of rest.

3Be aware of the two sides of the dark

Focus on the fascinating thing about the night: There are many things that you can only perceive in the dark. Observe the stars, the moon and be aware of the noises of the night. Maybe you can hear an owl call.

4Get into a thought experiment

The world is still the same at night as it is during the day, only without sunlight. Become aware of this reality and take a short mental walk into the night. Find a route you know and set off. Imagine putting on “sunglasses” with which you can see everything through the daylight. The view of the world is already different. Look around consciously on your way and imagine what you have seen in daylight. Does something sound familiar to you?

5 Get professional support

If you have a full-blown fear of the dark, it can make sense to seek professional support: Cognitive behavioral therapy has proven to be an effective method in the treatment of anxiety. This form of therapy is about identifying your personal triggers of fear and learning how to deal with them in a helpful way. You can find out more on the subject in our article on the course of psychotherapy.

The HelloBetter online training panic

Do you find yourself in the descriptions of nyctophobia and fear determines your life? Then our online training Panic could be just right for you.

In this training you will receive valuable information about anxiety and panic attacks and you will learn effective strategies to effectively reduce and prevent panic attacks. You can find an overview of the content and the option to register under the link above for the training. Do you need immediate help? Then take a look at our article "Fear out of the blue - How to get rid of panic attacks", in which we have put together a first aid plan for panic attacks.

Categories Anxiety & PanicTags Overcoming fear, coping with fear, panic, phobia