Fear of the dark

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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