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Achluophobia - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Achluophobia is the fear of darkness. For more information, read the article below.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Siva Anoop Yella

Published At December 7, 2022
Reviewed AtDecember 7, 2022

What Is a Phobia?

Phobias are a type of anxiety disorder where people have excessive fear, which is uncontrolled. These fears are extreme and persistent. Fear can be of an animal, object, person, activity, environment, or situation. The fear is uncontrolled and can present little or no real danger. People with phobias are generally aware of their fears but find it difficult to overcome them.

What Is Achluophobia?

Achluophobia is fear of the dark. 'Achluo' in Greek means darkness, and 'phobia' explains fear. The most common type of phobia usually affects most children and very few adults.

Achluophobia is common and is not due to the dark itself, but it is commonly due to the imagined dangers of the darkness. Fear of the dark is commonly encountered in children below the age of 2 years, but only when the degree of phobia is severe enough to be treated pathologically is it termed achluophobia.To some extent, the fear of the dark is natural, urging the stages of child development.

Therefore every time a person fears darkness is not achluophobia. But when the fear is uncontrolled or cannot be overcome with age, it is important to visit a therapist or seek help. The reason or the initiation cause of the phobia is unknown, but some researchers suggest that fear of darkness manifests as a separation anxiety disorder. Some children fear imaginary objects in the dark, like monsters or nightmares that terrify them. The fear is so intense that even the thought of being in the darkness scares them.

What Are the Symptoms of Achluophobia?

The symptoms of Achluophobia range from mild to severe, and these symptoms can be similar to those presented by other phobias like claustrophobia (fear of closed spaces). These symptoms are the physical reactions to the darkness.

Some of the common physical symptoms include:

  • Dry mouth.

  • Muscle tension.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Breathlessness.

  • Tremors.

  • Hyperventilating.

  • Tachycardia.

  • Feeling trapped and unable to escape.

  • Crying.

  • Acting clingy.

  • Tantrums or mood swings.

  • Dizziness.

  • Nausea.

  • Sweating.

Other symptoms include:

  • Avoiding going in the dark or being in complete darkness.

  • Fear even at the thought of darkness.

  • Guilt or shame about being afraid of the dark.

  • Panic at being in the dark or even thinking about the darkness.

  • Desperation to get out of the dark.

  • Difficulty sleeping alone in a dark room.

  • Avoid going to the washroom alone at night.

The above mentioned symptoms can be annoying, but the fear of the dark can be overcome early.

What Causes Achluophobia?

The cause of achluophobia, just like other phobias, is unclear. It is considered that phobias develop probably due to genetic and environmental factors that enhance the fear and its effects. Some people associate their fear of the dark with a specific negative experience or some story they are told. In such cases, an area of the brain termed the amygdala plays a role and stores it in the brain memory. Fear involves the amygdala area of the brain. This tiny region records reactions to experiences, bringing back the scariness when you experience a similar situation. Due to this process of memory and repeated episodes, it becomes difficult to determine if the etiology is learned or inherited.

How Is Achluophobia Diagnosed?

Achluophobia is self-diagnosed in most cases, as a person realizes the fear of darkness is severe and difficult to overcome. Severe cases might require routine appointments with the doctor as the diagnosis is never made in the first appointment. In self-diagnosed cases, the patient seeks medical help for further confirmation, evaluation, and treatment to overcome the phobia. The physician eliminates all the physical and environmental factors of fear.

How Is Achluophobia Treated?

Phobias are disorders that last for a very long duration since their onset; these disorders are often left untreated and cured as the person develops an understanding to overcome their fears. But chronic and severe cases require medical help and attention as these people are prone to mental health disorders like anxiety and depression as they withdraw from social interactions due to guilt about their anxiety. Such cases are prone to substance abuse and can sometimes land in life-threatening situations like shock, which can even cause the death of a person.

Treatment in cases with achluophobia aims to motivate and educate the subjects by eradicating their imaginary thoughts. Some of the commonly used treatment methods include methods of psychotherapy.

These treatments are advised and recommended only when the fear of the dark affects an individual's daily life and normal social functioning.

  • CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy): Cognitive behavior therapy is a behavior management therapy where an individual is trained and motivated to convert unhealthy or negative thoughts into productive and positive ones. A therapist uses different modes of communication to alter the thought process and overcome the fear.

  • Exposure Therapy: Exposure therapy is used and considered the most effective treatment method. This therapy is a method where a person is repeatedly exposed to fearful environments under a therapist's guidance until they are confident enough to be in the dark on their own.

What Are the Complications of Achluophobia?

Any fear or phobia can lead to severe physical or life-threatening complications like:

  • Shock.

  • Tachycardia.

  • Anxiety.

  • Depression.

  • Loneliness.

Conclusion:

Achluophobia is used to describe the fear of the dark. The cause of the phobia remains unknown and is commonly encountered in children but can also be seen in adults. The condition is self-diagnosed and can be treated.

Dr. Siva Anoop Yella
Dr. Siva Anoop Yella

Psychiatry

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