What is Nyctophobia?

Nyctophobia, also known as achluophobia,  lygophobia, scotophobia or myctophobia, is the irrational and intense fear of darkness. It is a specific phobia and all these terms are used interchangeably. This might be thought of as a “primal” fear of the unknown or what might be “hiding in the dark”, such as monsters, criminals, etc. Phobias of this type are also often related to a fear of losing control.

Considered a specific phobia, nyctophobia is believed to be more prevalent in children, though many adults admit to having it.

The name originated from the word “nyct” which is Greek for “night” or “dark” and the word “lygo” is Greek meaning “shadow”.

The name is variously spelled as “myctophobia”, “nyctiphobia” or “nyktosophobia”.

Symptoms of Nyctophobia

Phobics may have a compulsive need for light at all times, even at night and may have reduced appetite (or conversely overeating or binge eating).

Other signs include a refusal to sleep alone or to leave the home after sunset, trying to stay up all night and waking up several times during the night.

This phobia also engenders thoughts of death or dying, and is a fear often associated with thanatophobia.

  • extreme anxiety, dread
  • shortness of breath
  • rapid breathing
  • heart palpitation
  • excessive sweating
  • nausea
  • dry mouth
  • confusion / inability to articulate clearly
  • lack of focus
  • irritability
  • diarrhea
  • shaking
  • feelings of powerlessness
  • obsession with the subject of the phobia
  • fear or feelings of losing control
  • avoidance behavior
  • headaches

Learn more about phobia symptoms

Causes of Nyctophobia

Nyctophobia has been associated with evolutionary causes.

Nyctophobia is a specific (or “isolated”) phobia, centered on non-social key factors. Isolated phobias tend to have some previous trauma (often in childhood and often physically injurious) as a root cause; a fear of bees may stem from an injury in childhood, for instance.

Upbringing can also play a role, such as parental warnings about a direct threat (such as “snakes can bite and kill you”) which is especially notable in cases where a threat is more imminent. (An allergy to bees or peanut butter, for instance, would naturally reinforce a real medical concern.)

It is thought that genetics and hereditary factors may play a role in specific phobias, especially those related to a danger of injury. (A primal “fight or flight” reflex may be more easily triggered in those with a genetic predisposition, for instance.)

By contrast, social phobias (like a fear of body odor or touch) are less well understood, are driven by social anxiety and are broadly labeled as “social anxiety disorder”.

In all kinds of phobias, external experiences and / or reports can further reinforce or develop the fear, such as seeing a family member or friend who is affected. In extreme cases, indirect exposures can be as remote as overhearing a reference in conversation or seeing something on the news or on TV and movies.

Nyctophobia, like most phobias, stems from a subconscious overprotection mechanism, and as with many phobias can also be rooted in an unresolved emotional conflict.

Learn more about the causes of phobias

Treatment for Nyctophobia

  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)
  • Habit strategies to relax
  • Cognitive therapy (CT)
  • In vivo exposure
  • Response prevention
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Group therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Energy Psychology
  • Medication
  • Meditation

Learn more about phobia treatments

Book Shelf

The list of books below are hand picked by the staff at Massive Phobia. It's a mixture of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Habit Strategies, Trauma Healing, Mindfulness, Meditation, Buddhist Knowledge and Somatic Study. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did.