Noctiphobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by an
abnormal, irrational, and intense fear of the night and
the silence and darkness that accompanies it. In
actuality, the fear is usually more that some unknown
harm is concealed and lurking in the darkness (e.g., a
monster, ghosts, vampires, werewolves, the boogey
man) rather than actual fear of the darkness itself.
Shadows in the dark can also take on frightening forms,
which increases anxiety.
Noctiphobia is a problem that is common in children and can often be treated well with a
night light, a calming sound during bedtime (e.g., white noise, light instrumental music),
use of a comfort object (e.g., stuffed animal), relaxation techniques (e.g., deep breathing,
thinking of peaceful scenes), and reassurance from a parent or guardian. These
techniques can also be helpful in adulthood although reassurance would come from
reminding oneself that the situation is actually safe. This can be facilitated through
cognitive behavioral therapy which aims to alter one’s emotions by altering the thought
processes that cause them.
Not all fear of the dark is abnormal because some fear of darkness in childhood is a
normal adaptive response although it does not typically occur before age two. The fear
becomes pathological when it significantly impacts everyday functioning (e.g., difficulty
sleeping, worse performance at work or school the next day due to fatigue).
Some consider noctiphobia to be a form of separation anxiety disorder because it often occurs when the
person is alone in the dark. However, it actually a specific phobia (abnormal and intense fear of
something). Notctiphobia is also known as fear of darkness, nyctophobia, achluophobia, lygophobia, and
scotophobia. Noctiphobia comes from the Latin word "nox" meaning "night," and the Greek word "phobos"
meaning "fear." Put the two words together and you get "night fear."