Nyctophobia Blog

What is Nyctophobia?

Nyctophobia, or the fear of darkness, it is a common phobia that affects many people both children and adults worldwide. For those who suffer from this condition, the darkness can feel overwhelming and cause extreme anxiety and fear. It is often accompanied by anxiety, panic attacks, and avoidance behaviors. While it may seem like a trivial fear, it can significantly impact a person's quality of life.  Coping with Nyctophobia can be challenging, but there are various techniques and therapies that can help manage the condition. This blog will provide top tips for coping with Nyctophobia and discuss how Therapy partners can help with Cognitive behavioural Therapy (CBT)


Prevalence of Nyctophobia within the UK

However, there is limited data available on the prevalence of Nyctophobia, specifically in the UK. 

One study conducted in the UK assessed the prevalence of various  phobias in the general population, including fear of the dark. The study found that approximately 11% of the UK population reported having a specific phobia, but the prevalence of fear of the dark was not reported separately (McEvoy et al., 2016).

Another study conducted in the UK assessed the prevalence of fear of the dark in children aged 4 to 12 years. The study found that approximately 40% of the children reported having some degree of fear of the dark, but only 7% met the diagnostic criteria for a specific phobia of the dark (Muris et al., 2001).

Overall, while there is some data available on the prevalence of fear of the dark in the UK, more research is needed to provide a comprehensive understanding of the prevalence and impact of this phobia specifically in the UK population.



Nyctophobia is  classified in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition) as a specific phobia under the category of anxiety disorders. It is characterised by excessive and persistent fear or anxiety about the dark, which can lead to significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning.

The ICD (International Classification of Diseases) also recognises Nyctophobia as a specific phobia, but it is categorised under the broader category of phobic anxiety disorders. The ICD-11, which was released in 2019, includes nyctophobia as a specific phobia under the code 6B40.0.


Top tips to help cope for sufferers of Nyctophobia:

  1. Identify triggers: The first step to coping with Nyctophobia is identifying the triggers that cause fear and anxiety. Once you identify these triggers, you can learn to avoid or manage them effectively.

  2. Relaxation techniques: Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can help calm your mind and body and reduce anxiety.

  3. Positive self-talk: Positive self-talk is a powerful tool that can help you overcome negative thoughts and feelings. Use affirmations such as "I am safe" or "I am in control" to replace negative self-talk.

  4. Nightlights: Using nightlights or leaving a dim light on can help ease your fear of darkness.

  5. Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy is a form of CBT that involves gradually exposing yourself to the feared situation. For Nyctophobia, exposure therapy may involve gradually spending more time in the dark or practicing visualization techniques.

  6. Seek professional help: If your Nyctophobia is severe or interfering with your daily life, it may be helpful to seek professional help. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is effective treatment for phobias, including nyctophobia   A therapist trained in CBT can help you develop coping strategies and provide support as you work through your fear.


How Therapy Partners can help with CBT for Nyctophobia:

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a widely used and effective form of therapy for treating anxiety disorders, including Nyctophobia. CBT aims to help individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to their fear and anxiety.

Therapy partners can support clients  with Nyctophobia using  CBT.


How it Works

During CBT, the therapist collaborates with the individual to identify negative thought patterns and behaviors related to their fear of darkness. The therapist then helps the individual develop coping strategies, such as relaxation techniques and positive self-talk. Exposure therapy is also used in CBT to gradually desensitize the individual to their fear.

Research has shown that CBT is highly effective in treating anxiety disorders, including Nyctophobia. In a study published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, researchers found that CBT was more effective in reducing fear of darkness than exposure therapy alone.

Nyctophobia can be a challenging condition to cope with, but there are various techniques and therapies that can help manage the fear and anxiety. Identifying triggers, practicing relaxation techniques, positive self-talk, using nightlights, exposure therapy, and seeking professional help are all effective ways to cope with Nyctophobia.

Therapy partners can help  in providing support and encouragement during CBT treatment for Nyctophobia. With the right techniques and support, individuals can overcome their fear of darkness and live a more fulfilling life.



  • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).
  • Antony, M. M., & McCabe, R. E. (2005). Phobic disorders and panic in adults: A guide to assessment and treatment. American Psychological Association.
  • Craske, M. G., Kircanski, K., Zelikowsky, M., Mystkowski, J., Chowdhury, N., & Baker, A. (2008). Optimizing inhibitory learning during exposure therapy. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 46(1), 5-27.
  • Fernandez, M. C., Medina, P. C., Ruiz, L. P., & Martinez, A. F. (2016). Effectiveness of cognitive-behavioural therapy in the treatment of phobias: A meta-analysis. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 30(4), 293-311.
  • Gregersen, T., & Wynn, R. (2018). The relationship between anxiety disorders and fear of the dark in children and adolescents: A systematic review. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 49(3), 376-391.
  • Muris, P., Merckelbach, H., & Mayer, B. (1998). The revised version of the Fear Survey Schedule for Children (FSSC-R). Behaviour Research and Therapy, 36(2), 213-218.
  • Ollendick, T. H., & Davis III, T. E. (2013). Empirically supported treatments.
  • World Health Organization. (2019). ICD-11 for Mortality and Morbidity Statistics. (Version: 04/2019).


Data Prevalence:

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 12% of adults in the United States have a specific phobia, and about 75% of those people have a fear of the dark. Nyctophobia is also common in children, with up to 50% of children between the ages of 6 and 12 experiencing a fear of the dark.