Fear of the dark

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"Scared of the dark" redirects here. For the song by Lower Than Atlantis, see Changing Tune.
Nightlights such as this one may be used to counteract fear of the dark.

The fear of the dark is a common fear or phobia among children and, to a varying degree, of adults. Fear of the dark is usually not fear of darkness itself, but fear of possible or imagined dangers concealed by darkness.[1] Some degree of fear of the dark is natural, especially as a phase of child development.[2] Most observers report that fear of the dark seldom appears before the age of 2 years.[3] When fear of the dark reaches a degree that is severe enough to be considered pathological, it is sometimes called achluophobia, nyctophobia (from Greek νυξ, "night"), scotophobia (from σκότος - "darkness"), or lygophobia (from λυγή - "twilight").

Some researchers, beginning with Sigmund Freud, consider the fear of the dark as a manifestation of separation anxiety disorder.[4]

An alternate theory was posited in the 1960s, when scientists conducted experiments in a search for molecules responsible for memory. In one experiment, rats, normally nocturnal animals, were conditioned to fear the dark and a substance called "scotophobin" was supposedly extracted from the rats' brains; this substance was claimed to be responsible for remembering this fear. Subsequently, these findings were debunked.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ William Lyons (1985). Emotion. p. 75. ISBN 0-521-31639-1. 
  2. ^ Adele Pillitteri (1995). Maternal and Child Health Nursing. ISBN 0-397-55113-4. 
  3. ^ Arthur T Jersild (2007) "Children's Fears", ISBN 1-4067-5827-2, p. 173
  4. ^ Sigmund Freud (1916). Vorlesungen zur Einführung in die Psychoanalyse [Introduction to Psychoanalysis]. I once heard a child who was afraid of the darkness call out: 'Auntie, talk to me, I'm frightened.' 'But what good will that do? You can't see me;' to which the child replied: 'If someone talks, it gets lighter. 
  5. ^ Louis Neal Irwin (2006) "Scotophobin: Darkness at the Dawn of the Search for Memory Molecules", ISBN 0-7618-3580-6