Coping With Astrophobia or the Fear of Outer Space
The mysteries of outer space are intriguing for many Earthlings. But for some people, it turns to fear. Astrophobia is a severe and irrational fear of stars and space. It is one of the specific phobias that are related to a defined object or situation.
For many, astrophobia is strongly connected to a fear of aliens. Films such as Alien play into the fear that hostile intelligent life may exist outside of our planet. Many of these films involve doomsday scenarios, in which life as we know it is threatened by an extraterrestrial attack.
Connections to Other Fears
Astrophobia may also be connected to fears of the dark, being alone, or being away from home. Movies such as Gravity address the cold emptiness of outer space. Astrophobia can also stem from a fear of space exploration, triggered by real catastrophes as the explosions of Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia. The film Apollo 13 exposed the real danger that is associated with the space program.
If you have astrophobia, you aren’t just uneasy with the thought of space, stars, or alien life. You have a persistent fear and anxiety related to it possibly affecting your life.
The symptoms of astrophobia are similar to those of other common phobias, which include:
- Shortness of breath
- Feelings of terror
- Rapid heartbeat
Depending on the exact nature of your phobia, you may find yourself unable to watch films about aliens. You might be preoccupied with locations such as Roswell, New Mexico or Area 51 in Nevada. Obsessions with these places stem from conspiracy theories about unidentified flying object (UFO) sightings and claims of a government cover-up of alien interactions. You may retain a healthy skepticism about those theories, but worry about what it could mean if they were true.
Exhibiting an interest in such a topic doesn’t mean you suffer from astrophobia. But if the interest turns to an obsession that can prove life-limiting, you should seek help from a mental health professional.
Astrophobia can be treated in the same way as any specific phobia. The focus of treatment will be helping you to unlearn your negative beliefs about space. You will be taught healthier messages and coping skills to help you avoid panic. Types of treatment for astrophobia include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy: In this treatment, your therapist works with you to gradually change the way you think, counteracting your automatic thought patterns that connect stars or space with danger.
- Psychotherapy: Traditional analysis with a therapist.
- Behavioral therapy: Reinforcing desirable behaviors and eliminating unwanted ones.
- Exposure therapy: Gradually reducing avoidance of stars and space and increasing exposure.
- Relaxation techniques: Focusing on healthy habits that reduce anxiety.
- Meditation: You can use this as a relaxation technique.
- Medications to treat anxiety: These may help in conjunction with other forms of therapy.