Home Anxiety Fears at Nighttime

Fears at Nighttime

by Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I’ve been suffering from some issues since I was little. I have always been scared when it’s dark. I hear noises in the house and outside, but I don’t see what’s making the noises. It makes me feel afraid to go to sleep and I usually end up being awake until the sun rises. If I do fall asleep, I almost always get awakened by nightmares. These nightmares often involve someone breaking in, violence, someone haunting me (usually children who went missing/were killed or something that was on TV), abandonment, or being trapped.

I also won’t go out at night, even on my own property unless someone is with me and the place is well lit and there are no bushes or trees nearby.

I’ve seen shrinks before, but they didn’t help and my family just tells me to get over it/suck it up and that I’m too old to be afraid of this kind of stuff.

Am I being paranoid?

Paranoid is a psychological term often associated with psychotic illnesses. It does not seem applicable in your case. You have unreasonable fears that have been reinforced over the years. It seems more like a phobia than paranoia.

Your refusing to go out at night reinforces the idea that the dark should be feared. Also adding to the problem is the fact that you won’t go outside when you hear a noise that should be investigated. Believing in those ideas and engaging in those behaviors strengthens your phobia.

In a way, your family is correct. If you did confront your fear, it would be eliminated but the “cold turkey” approach can be distressing. I would advise against it, unless it was part of a treatment approach facilitated by a therapist or you felt confident about facing your fears.

The amount of fear one should have about any situation should match the probability of an event occurring. For instance, one aviation expert recently noted that the probability of dying in a plane crash was as likely as being struck by lightning seven times, yet despite these odds many people continue to have a fear of flying. Based on the aforementioned probability, one should have very little fear of flying.

You did not mention exactly why you are afraid of the dark. From what you have written, your fear seems irrational. Because this is a long running problem, you should consider specialized treatment if it continues to hinder your life. Choose a therapist who specializes in phobias. Well trained therapists, using the right approach, can cure phobias fairly quickly. With treatment, you can eliminate this problem. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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