Noticing that many people have a strong Fear of the Dark, Online Clock decided to explore the subject by doing research. Once our research was finished, we transformed it into the Infographic found below. Enjoy!
For those of you unable to read images, here is a transcript:
Why Are We Afraid of the Dark ?
When a normal fear becomes intense, persistent and irrational, it develops into a phobia. Achluophobia and Nyctophobia are two terms used to describe a phobia of the darkness or the night.
Some experts believe that fear of darkness is genetically-coded in humans: our ancestors were simply afraid of being eaten by nocturnal predators. While the senses of other nocturnal creatures evolved over time to compensate for lack of light, humans remained comparatively helpless in the dark.
In a study of lion attacks on 474 humans in Tanzania from 1988 to 2009, 60% were attacked between 6 pm and 9:45 pm. 40% were attacked at any other time.
Most of the attacks occurred during the span of darkness between sunset and moonrise, a period of time that lengthens following the full moon. Hourly attacks were 2 to 4 times higher in the first 10 days after the full moon than during the 10 days before it.
Children’s Fear of Darkness
Fear of darkness is one of the most common fears among children.
Fear of darkness is most prevalent in children between 4 and 6 years old.
It begins to decrease in the majority of children after age nine.
Sigmund Freud believed that our fear of darkness is linked to separation anxiety and the absence of our mothers. He wrote, “The yearning felt in darkness is converted to fear of darkness.”
102 children between 8 and 12 years old were asked to list what they fear. The children mentioned a total of 49 different situations or stimuli. “The Dark” was the third most listed, with 17 children (16.7%) citing it as something they feared.
It’s Not Only Kids Who Are Afraid
For some, fear of darkness persists into adulthood. In 2001, a Gallup poll found: 5% of adults say they are afraid of the dark. 8% of these adults were female and 2% were male.
A recent study of 93 undergraduate students hints that the percentage may be even higher. Many adults experiencing insomnia may be afraid of the dark.
Of those who reported being afraid of the dark, 46% were poor sleepers and only 26% were good sleepers.
The researchers created an objective test to verify the responses. Participants listened to bursts of noise through headphones while in a bedroom with the lights on and then with the lights off. Poor sleepers were more startled by noises and these reactions were heightened when the lights were off.
The Dark Consequences
Studies have shown that darkness is good for us and not embracing it might actually be harmful. Prolonged exposure to light before one goes to sleep suppresses the release of the sleep hormone melatonin and may increase risk of mood disorders, sleep disorders and obesity.
Is The Fear Justified By Crime Statistics?
It’s natural to feel vulnerable in the dark, but should we be any more worried about being a victim of a violent crime after the sun sets? The U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey keeps data on violent crime (rape, sexual assault, simple and aggravated assault, robbery) and the time of occurrence as reported by victims.
The statistics Analyzed include: Crimes of Violence (attempted & completed combined), Completed Violence (negative effects on victims) and Attempted Violence (attempted but not completed)
Though many people are afraid of the dark, crime statitics do not clearly show that this fear is justified.
One effective form of treatment for phobias is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. A trained therapist helps one confront the feared object or situation–in this case, darkness–in a gradual and methodical way until the fear is reduced or conquered.
If you suffer from a Fear of Darkness, please ask your physician for help!
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- Craig Packer, Alexandra Swanson, Dennis Ikanda, Hadas Kushner, “Fear of Darkness, the Full Moon, and the Nocturnal Ecology of African Lions”
- Mireia Orgilés, José P. Espada, Xavier Méndez, “Assessment Instruments of Darkness Phobia in Children and Adolescents: A Descriptive Review”
- P. Muris et al, “What is the Revised Fear Survey Schedule for Children Measuring?”
- Gallup News Service, “American Fears”
- Moss TG, Atwood ME, Crowe BM, Carney CE. SleepVolume 35, 2012, Abstract Supplement, “Are People with Insomnia Afraid of the Dark, A Pilot Study”
- TA Bedrosian, Z M Weil, R J Nelson, “Chronic dim light at night provokes reversible depression-like phenotype: possible role for TNF”
- U.S. Department of Justice, National Crime Victimization Survey 2008, table 59