How To Manage Teraphobia In Children And Adults

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated February 22, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

As a small child, were you ever scared to sleep in the dark? Maybe you were terrified at the thought of a monster lurking under your bed or anxious about the source of nighttime creaks. If so, you were probably like a lot of other children your age who also feared the dark. While most people grow out of this fear, in some cases, a fear of monsters persists into adulthood. If this fear develops into a phobia, it’s called teraphobia. Once teraphobia is identified, it can be addressed and managed appropriately through different methods of treatment.

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What is teraphobia?

Teraphobia is defined, simply, as the fear of monsters. In many cases, it may extend to a fear of the dark, since many people imagine beings like monsters or aliens to emerge from the dark. A fear of monsters in the dark is fairly common among preschoolers and elementary-aged children. While teraphobia often fades away as the years go on, many teens and adults can also fall victim to this kind of phobia. In some cases, this fear may become so overwhelming that it prevents people from basic functioning, like leaving their homes in the evenings or getting enough sleep at night. 

Fear is a completely rational human response to actual danger, and it’s worth noting that feeling slightly afraid or disturbed at the thought of a frightening creature doesn’t mean you’re teraphobic.

fear is labeled as a phobia when it is associated with an unreasonable level of fear and impacts an individual’s daily living through avoidance behaviors.

All phobias are a subset of anxiety disorders.

How to support children with teraphobia

If you’re the parent of a child with teraphobia, it’s important to remember that, in most cases, children don’t require treatment; symptoms may naturally fade with time. You can stay sensitive to your child’s fears by:

  • Validating their feelings. Do not simply tell your child their fears are silly; to do so may cause feelings of shame in young children. Instead, comfort them while gently reminding them that monsters are not real.
  • Showing them that there is nothing to fear. Go into their room and shine a light into the dark corners. If possible, plug in a night light or place glowing stars on the ceiling to give them comfort during the night.
  • Establishing a comforting bedtime routine. The structure of a comforting bedtime routine can reinforce a child’s feeling of safety during the night. For example, reading a story or singing a song before bed each night may help children relax enough to fall asleep.
  • Consultingwith your pediatrician. If you’re struggling to support your child through teraphobia, you may want to give your concern with your pediatrician. They might have additional ideas to help, like giving your child “monster spray” to empower them to face their fears. “Monster spray” is simply a spray bottle filled with water that a child can spray into the dark corners of their room before bed.
  • Getting support from a child therapist. Sometimes, teraphobia will require intervention by a therapist, especially if it is rooted in real-life situations like bullying. A licensed specialist can help children come to terms with their fear and understand that it is part of their imagination. In therapy, children may be encouraged to draw, write, or even act out their fear. Therapy may help your child learn valuable coping mechanisms.


Treatment options for teraphobia

Children aren’t the only ones who may benefit from treatment for teraphobia; adults with teraphobia may choose to get treatment to help them overcome their fear. Since phobias are rooted in anxiety, treatment often includes anti-anxiety medications, sleep medications, or therapy. Each of these may be effective for teraphobia.

If the fear has religious undertones, like those who are afraid of the devil, demons, or other supernatural forces, it may be helpful to see a therapist who practices or studies the same religion. Incorporating spirituality into the therapeutic process can help individuals with teraphobia feel more understood in their specific fear.

Signs of teraphobia in children

Often, children can be quick to let a parent or adult know they are afraid. They may ask questions like, “Will you check under the bed?” or “Can you look in the closet for me?” These questions may indicate to parents that their child is dealing with teraphobia. However, some children may not exhibit obvious signs of teraphobia. Instead, they may display sudden insomnia, a lack of appetite, or a refusal to go outside in the dark. Parents may not immediately recognize that these signs are related to teraphobia. By asking a child questions, parents can gain more clarity about the situation.

Signs of teraphobia in adults

Adults living with teraphobia may experience similar symptoms to people living with generalized anxiety disorder. For example, adults may notice a racing heartbeat, dizziness, or nausea when thinking about something that frightens them, like characters or scenes from horror movies. They might avoid going outside when it’s dark and lose sleep during the night. 

Effects of teraphobia

Most phobias, including teraphobia, negatively impact the health of those affected. Teraphobia specifically may cause difficulties sleeping, which is detrimental to the health of children and adults. For children, a lack of sleep may cause them to become extremely tired and fatigued, making daily tasks like basic motor functions and focusing on schoolwork incredibly difficult. Similarly, adults with teraphobia may underperform at work or have trouble completing daily tasks like cooking healthy meals, exercising, or parenting. In extreme cases, those living with teraphobia may develop insomnia. 

Another common effect of teraphobia is a loss of appetite. Anxious feelings may cause nausea or an upset stomach, which can cause both children and adults to obtain insufficient nutrition and further reduce their energy levels. Teraphobia is also associated with headaches and edginess or irritability in everyday situations.

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Online therapy with BetterHelp

Online therapy for teraphobia may help adults living with this phobia overcome their symptoms. Individuals can receive mental health care through BetterHelp, an online counseling platform, in a way that feels most comfortable to them. Therapy can be obtained by video call, phone call, or via chat depending on the client’s preference and availability.

The efficacy of online therapy

Phobias fall under the umbrella of anxiety disorders, making anxiety, panic, avoidance, and fear the main symptoms treated in therapy. Online therapy has been found to be just as effective as in-person therapy for treating anxiety symptoms, including phobias and panic disorders, in adults, children, and teens. If you need support moving past your fear of monsters, the dark, or anything else, connect with a supportive licensed therapist online.


Everyone has a unique set of fears, but if those fears start to interfere with your daily life, treatment may be necessary to help you overcome them and regain control over your routine. If you’re a parent of a child or an adult living with teraphobia, support is available for you. An online therapist can give you support while you navigate your child’s diagnosis, or they can teach you coping mechanisms to help you overcome your own fear. When mental health challenges arise, you can find readily available support online.
It is possible to overcome phobias
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