Do I Have Nyctophilia?

by Dr. Lorin Bradbury

The question below came through the Delta Discovery website. The person writing the question does not know English well as noted below, so I made some grammatical changes for readability, while leaving as much of the question intact as possible.

Question: Hi! First of all, I’m sorry that I’m not good in English. Here is my question: I don’t know if I have nyctophilia, but I really love being alone, rather than being in social situations. I more than love to stay in my room in a total darkness, thinking about a lover, or the past, or worrying about future, rather then daydreaming or thinking about some plan to succeed in life. I don’t want to stay like this because it can’t help me to improve and learn new things. Sometimes I have tried talking to my friend or family, but I can’t talk too much. I get exhausted, and it drains my energy. It gets me frustrated because I’m more comfortable staying quiet and peaceful. l want to have a lot of friends—cheerfully and full of laughing. I want to escape into my world, and I do nothing to improve myself. And whenever I push myself into social situations, I feel a lot of pressure, like I’m going to burst. Can you give me some advice? Thank you.

Interestingly, this is the third time a question on this topic has come the editor during the past year. Until I received the first question on this topic, I was unaware such a condition existed. Since I had to research the topic before writing on it the first time, I will present the information I found earlier below. I was surprised by what I found.

Nyctophilia means “Love of darkness or night; finding relaxation and comfort in the darkness.” It’s different from insomnia. An insomniac is someone who has difficulty sleeping at night. Insomnia is a physical condition, whereas nyctophilia is a psychological condition.

Similar to the individual who wrote the question above, one nyctophiliac wrote the following statement: “I love the darkness, it makes me happy. I feel a sense of relief as I sit in the dark and listen to the sound of the clock ticking by. I know it’s not good for me to stay awake like this, like a ghost, in complete darkness.”

Though nyctophiliacs find it difficult to fall asleep, it’s not because of jet lag or a rotating work schedule affecting their biological clock; it’s because the person craves the experience of sitting in the dark. According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book, Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, nyctophilia is a sexual paraphilia and the nyctophiliac derives sexual pleasure and arousal by a “love of night”. Given this information, I’m not sure the person who authored the question above meets the criteria for a sexual fetish.

The recommended treatments are primarily psychological in nature and include some of the following: Psychoanalysis, hypnosis, behavior therapy, cognitive therapy, and drug therapy. No treatment is recommended unless the condition becomes problematic for the person in some way, or the person comes under scrutiny of the legal system.

I feel this is outside my scope of practice, so I suggest you contact someone who is more familiar with the condition. As noted above, the condition may respond to one of the therapies listed above.

Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected]

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