What is Sciaphobia?
Sciaphobia, also known as Sciophobia, refers to an intense fear of shadows. A person with Sciaphobia will start having severe feelings of anxiety and panic whenever they see a shadow. It could be a shadow of a person, animal, or an object. The fear is so intense that it interferes with their daily lives. Some people with Sciaphobia avoid going out in the day as they are scared of the shadows made by the sun. Such people, even if they go out, will consciously look out for shadows and be hypervigilant in fear of getting across one of them.[1,2,3]
Sciaphobia generally stems in people who are scared of darkness. This usually starts from early childhood and goes on well beyond when they are adults. There have also been cases where people with Sciaphobia have required hospital admission due to full blown panic attacks due to Sciaphobia. However, this condition is not as common as some of the other phobias like fear of water or fear of heights. Experts believe some sort of chemical imbalance in the brain is responsible for Sciaphobia in many people.[1,2,3]
What Causes Sciaphobia?
Sciaphobia can be caused due to a variety of reasons of which the most common are
Childhood: Children who have parents who themselves are uncertain or have some form of phobia are more likely to develop Sciaphobia later on in life.[2,3]
Previous Bad Experiences: A person can also develop Sciaphobia if he or she have had previous bad or traumatic experiences related to shadows, especially females who have been stalked in the past.[2,3]
Genetic Makeup: A person with a direct first degree relative with Sciaphobia is more than likely to develop this condition than normal people.[2,3]
Phobia in general is a very vast topic and numerous studies and analysis have been done as to why phobias develop. The basic consensus reached as far as causes of phobias is that they develop as a result of genetics and certain external factors like a traumatic incident in childhood or recent past. Conditions like agoraphobia have more complex causes which are not entirely known. Chemical imbalances in the brain are also believed to be one of the causes for conditions like Sciaphobia in many cases.[2,3]
What are the Symptoms of Sciaphobia?
Severe anxiety or even a full blown panic attack is the primary symptom of Sciaphobia. The fear and anxiety is so intense that it affects their overall level of confidence and self-esteem. Their capacity to make decisions on a day to day basis also gets impacted. People with Sciaphobia know and realize that their fear is out of touch with realty but their thinking becomes incoherent whenever they see a shadow or are in the midst of a triggering factor.[2,3]
People with Sciaphobia are also at risk for developing other mental disorders depending on the severity of Sciaphobia like anxiety disorder or OCD. Additionally, people with Sciaphobia also will have increased muscle tension, sweating, and shaking.[2,3]
How is Sciaphobia Treated?
Sciaphobia does not have a targeted treatment. The approach taken to treat other forms of phobias work equally well with Sciaphobia also. This includes a combination of therapy and medications. Cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and talk therapy are some of the well-known methods to alleviate the symptoms of Sciaphobia.
Cognitive behavioral therapy and talk therapy deals with the patient talking to a group of people with similar symptoms about their fears and different ways that they adopt to cope up with it. It is quite effective and decreases the symptoms of anxiety and fear in people. These therapies also improve the thinking of the patients and provide means of maintaining a clear mind even during the midst of anxiety due to fear.[1,2,3]
Exposure therapy deals with exposing the patient slowly to their fear which in this case is shadows. The primary aim of this form of therapy is to desensitize the patient from their phobia by continuously exposing them to their fear and gradually with time the symptoms start to clear up. However, the efficacy of this type of treatment is quite limited. Anxiolytics and antidepressants when combined with the above mentioned therapy is also extremely effective for people with Sciaphobia.[1,2,3]
Just taking the medication alone is no sufficient and it should always be in combination with therapies. If a person believes he or she has symptoms similar to that described of Sciaphobia then it is best to consult with a psychologist or psychiatrist to formulate the best treatment plan and finds effective means of managing the symptoms of Sciaphobia.[1,2,3]