Astrophobia (A Complete Guide)
In this blog we will go through the symptoms, causes and treatment of Astrophobia.
What is Astrophobia?
Astrophobia is an intense fear of stars and outer space.
This is a specific phobia and the mere mention of the stars and celestial space can elicit an excessive amount of anxiety in the sufferer.
Stars have been the subject of romance and aspiration, but for the ones suffering from an intense fear these celestial bodies are a source of acute anxiety.
For them to be outside at night under the sky is very difficult.
Media and Literature has created a hype of alien stories where the world is attacked and taken over by them, this leaves many scared that a similar event might take place.
The constant watch of the sky to make sure that nothing is falling out of it, is one of the behaviors common in these sufferers.
The falling star and the fear of the entire sky as a roof without support anytime coming down takes the form of an extreme showcasing of anxiety.
Astrophobia is an irrational fear of stars and outer space. This phobia is related to defined objects and situations.
It can very easily be extended to the fear of aliens, or a fear of the darkness as well.
This fear keeps them indoors and they avoid going out at night.
Symptoms of Astrophobia
The symptoms of Astrophobia resemble those of an anxiety attack.
These symptoms leave the person with phobia totally out of sorts and impresses in them an intense fear that will drive the sufferer to avoid going out or in future even not leave the house in extreme cases.
a) The PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS may include:
- Rapid heartbeat at the mention of the stars or sky
- Avoid to look at the stars
- Avoid going out at night
- Dry mouth
- Raised blood pressure
- Ringing sound in ears
b) The PSYCHOLOGICAL SYMPTOMS may include:
• Fear of losing control
• Mood swings
• Fear of dying
• Feeling of helplessness
This feeling stresses the person into assuming that he has no coping strategies at the time of crisis.
The crisis being the onset of a panic attack.
This hopelessness itself again consumes the mind into inactivity and the person may suffer from depression, thinking that there can now be nothing that can be done to either improve his condition or to stop the world from coming to an end.
• Feeling of hopelessness
When all hope is lost is when the person actually diminishes from existing.
And this is the exact state of being of the person suffering from Astrophobia.
They lose all hope of ever being out of this condition and nothing new fascinates them.
Causes of Astrophobia
As is common in specific phobias, the cause of Astrophobia may lie deep in the person’s childhood or its onset may be due to an environmental factor.
Genetics also plays a pivotal role in the cause of developing Astrophobia.
Other causes can be as follow:
• Learned behavior
• Traumatic experiences
Etiological Models of Astrophobia
1. Biological (Genetic) Model
Genetics also determines how a person reacts and feels. Therefore, people inherit fears and phobias as well from their families.
The brain cells (neurons) release certain chemicals called neurotransmitters.
Serotonin and Dopamine are two neurotransmitters that in depleted state can cause anxiety like symptoms.
2. Psychodiagnostics Model
If a person has suffered from a traumatic experience in early childhood it can have severe dire impact on his later life.
A childhood traumatic experience could be where children often see an alien attack movie or read books that have a detailed attack or pictures of distorted aliens killing or consuming humans.
These images leave a lasting impact on the vulnerable mind.
3. Behavioral Model
According to this model, irrational fear of stars and sky may be caused through behaviors that are learned by replication.
Children often replicate unique behaviors of their adults, parents or a favorite aunt or uncle.
If a family member is already suffering from anxiety or is scared of the sky or even going out at night, then chances are higher that only by observing the child may develop fear of stars.
Treatments of Astrophobia
Astrophobia can be treated through different treatments.
These include Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Exposure Therapy (Systematic Desensitization), Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction MBSR) and forms of meditation.
1) Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
In CBT the therapist helps the client to amend his thoughts so that a desirable behavior can be achieved.
This therapy is effective, because if the thoughts or cognitions alter then there will be a lasting impact on behavior.
The therapist helps the client to discover the reason for this thought, his behavior in regards to stars and sky.
This therapy is goal oriented and short termed. Therefore, the results are seen soon. It changes the way a person thinks and feels.
CBT does not focus on probing the past to resolve current problems, rather it concentrates on the present situation.
Our thoughts determine how we act or react to certain stimuli and situations.
Therefore, negative thoughts bring about a negative behavior response or an undesirable behavior.
Whereas, positive thoughts propagate desirable and healthy attitude and response.
For the treatment of Astrophobia, the therapist separates the problem into parts.
These may include: thoughts, feelings and actions.
- What thought is invoked at the sight of stars?
- How do you feel when you look at the stars?
- What do you do when you look at the stars at night? OR What do you do when night comes?
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is a form of CBT and designed by Albert Ellis.
According to Ellis, “people are not disturbed by things but rather by their view of things.” This is what subjective perspective is.
In Astrophobia, the person sees the stars as threatening, not because stars are dangerous, but because he ‘views’ them as posing some kind of threat to his existence.
2) Systematic Desensitization (Exposure)
This is one of the most common therapies used in treating phobias and an effective way to desensitize the patient.
In this therapy the client with phobia is exposed to the stimulus (stars) gradually with varying durations of time.
Every time the ‘exposure’ of the feared stimulus is increased.
In Astrophobia the client is exposed to images of stars and the sky first.
For the fear to be invoked during therapy, the patient must be exposed to an intense stimulus (one that is feared).
He is also asked to narrate any scene from a movie seen that involved an extraterrestrial attack.
It is a type of behavior therapy developed by Wolpe in the 1950s.
The aim of Systematic Desensitization is to remove the ‘feared stimulus’ and substitute it with a ‘relaxation response.’
Initially a relaxation technique that involves deep breathing is taught to the client.
Then the client is asked to present a list that has a hierarchical presentation of his fears, starting from the least fear evoking situation to the most.
The therapist takes the client through these situations via two methods:
a) In vitro – where the feared sound is made to imagine
b) In vivo – where the client hears the feared sound in reality
The exposure to the phobic stimulus is of varying durations, where the client exercises relaxation techniques and can revert to a previous non-threatening situation any time.
3. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
MBSR involves being aware of one’s own thoughts, feelings and reducing the interference from around the environment.
We do not pay attention to how we process the various stimuli that affect us.
We do not process the way our bodies feel and respond, there is no focus on our thoughts and how these thoughts are influencing our emotions.
In MBSR, the client is ‘woken up’ to actually experience the various senses. ‘Focus’ is the keyword!
In Astrophobia treatment, the client is made conscious to pay attention to his thoughts when he is in the presence of the sound that he is afraid of.
Awareness helps to alleviate the stress symptoms.
Sounds that one hears are most of the time only heard without paying much attention to them.
Therefore, listening to what we hear is the difference that MBSR brings about.
For meditation to be effective during treatment, the mind is cleared off all the clutter of random thoughts.
The mind and body are made to be ‘in sync’ with each other, so that the feared stimulus does not invoke a negative thought.
The client will meditate during the exposure to the stars or sky and concentrate on his breathing patterns in the presence of the feared stimulus.
5. Self-Help Groups
Self Help groups are an effective type of therapy, in which the client does not find himself as a lone sufferer.
These groups are individuals who are afflicted with the same types of phobias.
They come together to share their thoughts, experiences and their coping strategies.
This also helps in developing a ‘sense of I am not the only one’ suffering.
6. Changing Lifestyle
Breaking down the dullness of the daily, helps break down anxiety as well.
• Take up jogging or go for daily walks:
Developing a walk routine can damper the way our negative thoughts control our behavior.
• Indulging in an exercise regime:
Vigorous exercise like aerobics has proved to reduce or alleviate the symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Exercise helps the mind to cope with stress and stressful situations better.
This is what the American Psychological Association has to say about inducting exercise to eliminate stress or phobias.
• Altering eating and drinking habits:
Cutting down on fatty foods and caffeine can improve self-image, that in turn leads to a raised self-esteem.
This finally diminishes the symptoms of stress to a bare minimum.
With high intake of caffeine, the body resembles a ‘fight or flight’ response, thus giving way to anxiety.
• Improving the sleep cycle:
When we get proper rest, our concentration improves.
When the mind is properly rested then only can it view the beauty of the sky and the stars in it.
7. Psychiatric Medication
There are a number of medicines that the Psychiatrist can prescribe if the symptoms of Astrophobia are severe.
1. Anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs)
These should only be taken after the consultation with the doctor and shouldn’t be initiated or discontinued as per personal discretion.
These medicines are not only used to treat depression, but also to alleviate the symptoms of Astrophobia as well as other phobias.
Medicines alone might not be as effective, but if used in conjunction with therapies then the results will be better.
8. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
This kind of therapy is used to regulate the emotions.
A technique called “half-smiling” is used where the client is asked to lift the corners of his mouth when the feared thought comes to his mind.
Apart from this the mind is to be trained to refrain from thinking about the painful stimulus.
Coping Ahead is another technique in DBT that requires the client to sit quietly and think of the feared situation and strategize what he will do.
Frequently Asked Questions about Astrophobia.
What causes Astrophobia?
Astrophobia is caused by a genetic predisposition in the body to anxiety disorders, depression or any other mental illness.
Do I have Astrophobia?
If you dread going out at night only because you’re scared to look up at the sky and stars and expect an impending alien attack, then you should visit a psychologist to discuss your condition.
If you experience shortness of breath or an increased heart rate at the thought of space then seeking help will be advisable.
Is Astrophobia common?
Astrophobia to one extent is not very common but the fear of aliens attacking and imprisoning the human race is a fear that many have due to the media and literature hype.
Phobia itself involves symptoms of panic attack and simple fear has a feeling of dread only.
Can Astrophobia be treated?
Astrophobia like other phobias can be treated with various therapies, like CBT, Exposure therapy, MBSR and if required medication as well.
Titles to read from
- A Guide to Rational Living by Albert Ellis.
- How to Stubbornly Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable about Anything, Yes Anything! By Albert Ellis
- Guided Meditation Bundle for Sleep, Relaxation, Stress Reduction, and Anxiety Relief: Daily Meditations for Deep Sleep, Relieving Anxiety and Depression, Daily Guided Imagery, and Relaxation Techniques by Mindfulness Training
- Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Dr. Danny Penman , Danny Penman, et al.
- Practicing Mindfulness: 75 Essential Meditations for Finding Peace in the Everyday by Matthew Sockolov, Daniel Henning, et al.