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What Is Sciophobia Or Fear Of Shadows? Causes, Symptoms And Treatments

With the release of a horror/comedy movie trailer Laxmmi Bomb starring Akshay Kumar and Kiara Advani, a word 'Sciophobia' has come into highlight. For people who have not heard of this before, it is a type of phobia or say, a type of anxiety disorder characterised by irrational or exaggerated fear of shadows.

In this article, let's discuss sciophobia and its causes, symptoms and treatments.

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What is Sciophobia?

Sciophobia is a medical term for the shadow of fears. The phobia is categorised in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in the category of anxiety disorders. In people with sciophobia, even a mere thought of shadows can trigger the irrational fear or intense anxiety which may result in panic attacks.

Sciophobia is common to other phobia types such as phasmophobia (fear of ghosts), autophobia (fear of being alone), nyctophobia (fear of nighttime), achluophobia (fear of darkness) and necrophobia (fear of dead things).

When Sciophobia Worsens?

The fear of shadows is common in infants and usually, go with time. It worsens when the fear aggravates with years and starts interfering in day-to-day activities, leading to declining of the quality of life. Sciophobia is also considered an illogical fear as shadows are not harmful and are just a projection of objects.

People with sciophobia are unable to differentiate between the shadow and touch of reality. They get anxious and consider them a sign of horror or the presence of unwanted visitors or things that may harm them.

With time, they start avoiding getting exposed to shadows, which develops into stimuli and then, a habit of avoiding their source of fear (which are shadows). Even when a person with sciophobia sleeps, they prefer sleeping in a well-lit room to avoid the formation of shadows by the things present in their room.

They also seem to freak out, scream or cry when they encounter their own shadow image. These people hate social gatherings as the fear of moving shadows cast by people make them anxious for longer.

The condition affects the social, professional and personal lives of a person and may lead them to self-isolation.

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Causes Of Sciophobia

There are no exact causes of sciophobia, however, a combination of genetic and traumatic life events can trigger the condition. Experts believe that a person with a family history of anxiety disorders are more prone to develop the condition when combined with certain traumatic events of the past.

However, being genetically predisposed of sciophobia does not always cause you the condition until triggered by some serious scary life events. This is the reason why some develop the phobia, while others do not, instead of a presence of the genetic factors. [1]

Another reason for sciophobia is the presence of other types of phobias. If a person fears ghosts or dark time, the chances of triggering fear of shadows are more. Children whose parents have sciophobia can also learn the behaviour and develop the condition or some stories of ghosts associated with shadows can heavily impact a child's mind and cause them the condition.

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Symptoms of Sciophobia

  • Out of touch with reality [2]
  • Low self-esteem
  • Lack of logical thinking
  • Sudden anxiety on seeing a shadow
  • Unable to deal with intense emotions
  • Sweating or trembling due to fear
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea

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Complications Of Sciophobia

  • Intense anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Insomnia or difficulties in sleeping due to fear
  • Lack of productivity
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Avoiding shadow spaces at home
  • Isolating oneself or always wanting someone to accompany for their daily activities like going to the bathroom.

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Diagnosis Of Sciophobia

As sciophobia mostly begin during childhood, it is important to keep a check on your child's fear habits and consult a medical expert if you notice the aforementioned symptoms for proper diagnosis and early treatment. The condition is diagnosed by physical examination and measuring the symptoms on the scale of DSM-IV. [3]

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Treatment Of Sciophobia

Some of the common treatment methods for sciophobia includes:

  • Medications: It includes anti-anxiety drugs to lower anxiety levels.
  • Exposure therapy: Here, a person is exposed to his/her fear of shadows and given coping mechanisms to deal with them.
  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy: This therapy helps a person replace their scary thoughts of shadows with the positive ones.
  • Dialectical behaviour therapy: It helps people to calm down and control their intense emotions.

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List Of Helpline Numbers

COOJ Mental Health Foundation (COOJ)- Helpline: 0832-2252525 | 01:00 PM - 07:00 PM ( Monday to Friday)

Parivarthan- Helpline: +91 7676 602 602 | 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM (Monday to Friday)

Connecting Trust- Helpline: +91 992 200 1122 | +91-992 200 4305 | 12:00 PM to 08:00 PM (All days of the week)

Roshni Trust- Helpline: 040-66202000, 040-66202001 | 11:00 AM - 09:00 PM (Monday to Sunday)

Sahai Helpline: 080-25497777 / Email at - SAHAIHELPLINE@GMAIL.COM | 10 AM- 8 PM (Monday to Saturday)

Sumaitri: 011-23389090 / FEELINGSUICIDAL@SUMAITRI.NET |2 PM- 10 PM (Monday To Friday); 10 AM - 10 PM (Saturday and Sunday)

Sneha: 044-24640050 (24 HOURS) / 044-24640060 | Email at- HELP@SNEHAINDIA.ORG |8 AM - 10 PM

Lifeline: 033-24637401 / 033-24637432 | Email at LIFELINEKOLKATA@GMAIL.COM | 10 AM - 6 PM