There's a specific scientific reason why you're afraid of the dark

Callum Jones

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There's a specific scientific reason why you're afraid of the dark

Featured Image Credit: Tero Vesalainen/Eugene Sergeev/Alamy

As children, it is not uncommon to go through the 'scared of the dark phase' and needing to have the hall light on when you hit the sack at night.

Some of us may have this going into adulthood and may remain as a fear for many years, but there is actually scientific evidence as to why we may be afraid of the dark.

The dark is often associated with scary things - whether that is horror films or ghost stories - they are often set in the dark, which can give us that negative perception.

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However, the real reasoning as to why we are scared of the dark goes way beyond them scary horror films and creepy ghost stories - but they do play a part in it.

Martin Antony, professor of psychology at Toronto Metropolitan University and author of The Anti-Anxiety Program, has done in-depth research on why we are scared of the dark.

He describes being scared of the dark 'prepared fear', which he says 'means we’re prepared or predisposed to develop fears of some things more than others'.

Antony told Huffington Post: "We were probably built throughout evolution, through natural selection, to develop this fear, and the dark would be one of those situations that we’re predisposed to fear more easily."

There is a reason as to why many of us are scared of the dark. Credit: Tim Skipper / Alamy Stock Photo
There is a reason as to why many of us are scared of the dark. Credit: Tim Skipper / Alamy Stock Photo

The professor says fears such as the dark stem from situations that would have been perceived as dangerous to our ancestors.

Others include fear of heights, snakes and spiders - which will sound very familiar to a lot of us.

Anthony also noted that a fear of the dark may come from the unknown. Obviously, it is hard to see in the dark, with a sense of the unknown of what may be out there - hence the fear and worry.

The professor added: "Most of the things that make us feel uneasy are things we see as unpredictable and outside of our control."

While the fear of the dark may be worrying you, Krystal Lewis, a clinical psychologist at the National Institutes of Mental Health, says a fear of the dark is actually quite common, especially with children.

"Fears are a normal part of childhood development," Lewis said.

"We see a fair amount of kids who are afraid of dark, which is developmentally appropriate."

Being afraid of the dark is actually quite common for children. Credit: Tero Vesalainen / Alamy Stock Photo
Being afraid of the dark is actually quite common for children. Credit: Tero Vesalainen / Alamy Stock Photo

Despite that, Lewis has said it is essential to track the fear and how it may interfere with your everyday life.

Lewis says that if it does impact your relationships and daily activities, you may want to seek some help.

Treatment from a mental health professional may be appropriate, such as exposure therapy, which as its name suggests, helps tackle the fear head on.

Topics: News, Science

Callum Jones
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