It’s Halloween, which means some things that seem a little spooky can seem downright terrifying. Even something as simple as a darkened room. In fact, according to a U.K. survey, about 40% of adults report that they’re still afraid of the dark. So if you’re an adult who feels creeped out without a night light, you’re not alone. Being afraid of the dark can be triggered for a number of reasons. What we’re happy to hear is that there’s no reason to hide in the sometimes spook shadows. It’s a totally rational and common fear, so we are feeling very reassured.
Fear of the dark has many causes, and it often starts when we are kids.
It’s rare that people are actually afraid of the dark. People fear what the dark is hiding. Because we can’t see in the dark, we feel exposed and unprotected. Fear is an evolutionary response. Before we had houses, locks, and security systems, the dark was very dangerous. Dangerous animals or predators could be looking. When you think about it like that, being afraid of the dark sounds totally understandable.
In adulthood, a fear of the dark can cause a number of irritating side effects.
According to a small study, half of the participants who described themselves as “poor sleepers” also identify as being afraid of the dark. That fear can be powerful enough to even cause major insomnia, which can really affect your daily life. In the U.K. survey, 10% of participants reported being so afraid of the dark that they would not get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.
Colleen Carney, a psychology professor at Ryerson University, says the key to getting over a fear of the dark is first to recognize it. Once you accept that it’s a problem, the solution is exposure therapy. The problem is that the dark is difficult to contain, so it’s hard to see it as a containable threat. So don’t be surprised if it takes a lot to get more comfortable in the dark.