What is Spacephobia? (An Overview)
In this blog we will go through the etiology, symptoms and treatments of Spacephobia.
Spacephobia is the irrational fear of outer space. People who suffer from this phobia believe in the conspiracy theories that there is extraterrestrial life on other planets.
The fear is so intense that even the talk of space or images bring about a full-blown panic strike in the person suffering from Spacephobia.
To rid themselves of the panic like symptoms the person suffering from Spacephobia will start avoiding the very source of his/her fear.
This affects their academic and occupational life. The symptoms of Spacephobia are experienced with varying intensities.
This condition demands the person to let go of all logic and give in to the irrationality of his thoughts.
Space is a vast expanse that exists between the Earth and all other celestial bodies. There are numerous galaxies, ones that the humans don’t even know of.
The concept of timelessness in space is something that overwhelms and arouses the senses.
Space is a vacuum with no air and extremely low density particles.
Spacephobia is an intense fear of outer space, of alien strike and getting lost in space.
It is also associated with Barophobia, a fear of gravity in which the person is apprehensive of the weightlessness and may also fear of being lost in space – a vacuum with no gravity.
Although the person suffering from Spacephobia knows that his thoughts have no logic, still when confronted with anything related to space, they would experience the anxiety.
Causes of Spacephobia
Spacephobia may be caused due to the following factors:-
- Genetic Predisposition
Every person has a genetic tendency to contract a disease or go through a mental illness.
This predisposition is embedded in our DNA and is handed down to us over the generations.
If the person’s ancestors suffered from anxiety disorders, phobias, mental illness or even Spacephobia, then chances are higher for him/her to suffer from the same or from either of these.
Phobias are familial and most often than not run in families. Their intensity may vary from person to person, from one relative to the other.
- Biological Cause
Hormones play an important role in causing anxiety disorders, specifically phobias as well.
Thyroid Stimulating Hormones (TSH) is directly related to the etiology of anxiety related problems that occur.
Symptoms that indicate a Thyroid malfunctioning are:
- Changes in menstrual cycle
- Nervous demeanor
- Losing or gaining weight
Low levels of Testosterone (male hormone) can also lead to anxiety.
Serotonin, is also called a happy chemical and depletion of this hormone can also cause anxieties of varying levels.
Dopamine, the ‘feel good’ chemical or neurotransmitter is involved in happiness and a state of elatedness.
When the levels of Dopamine drop anxiety and a feeling of dread become a common forte.
Adrenaline rush is another biological factor that emanates the ‘flight or the fight’ response. This response is triggered when the brain suffers from a threat.
This threat may be caused by a stimulus that causes anxiety. This stimulus is the very stimulus that initiates a phobia fear.
In the case of Spacephobia, this stimulus will be the outer space and all related celestial bodies along with an impending dread of an alien strike.
- Behavioral Cause
Children learn behaviors and attitudes from people around them.
These people may be their parents, siblings, extended family members like uncles or aunts, grandparents or any significant others they are attached to.
In Spacephobia it is often found that if a member of the family or peer group is scared of outer space, chances are higher that the child will also develop Spacephobia.
There are families who do not like to travel away from home and stay around their neighbourhoods.
These people have a high probability of raising kids who will suffer from Spacephobia, as space is too far away from home.
- Traumatic Incidence/s
Spacephobia was on the rise when the space race was on the rise. The entire world ardently watched Apollo 13 and the historic landing to the moon.
Space missions have failed and have been successful as well. The trauma of failed missions can also develop Spacephobia.
- Media, Literature & Facts
Watching Science fiction movies showing space missions and alien strikeaids in developing Spacephobia.
Movies like ‘War of the Worlds’ where the tripod aliens take over the world was pretty scary and people can easily dread the same happening in real life.
Another movie ‘Gravity’ would have caused many to fear the space or being lost in it forever.
The Space Shuttle Columbia disaster was a fatal incident in the United States space program taking place on February 1, 2003.
The Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated as it reentered the atmosphere of the Earth, killing all seven crew members.
Similarly, the Challenger disaster left a lot of speculation and fear that National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) cannot handle space travel.
This led to a phobia of space with varying degrees of intensity.
There is fiction literature where aliens and other celestial bodies create chaos and havoc on Earth, meteor showers and the Northern Lights are all factors that contribute to the onset of Spacephobia.
Symptoms of Spacephobia
Different people display the symptoms of the same phobia differently; with varying degrees of severity.
There are two types of symptoms; Physical symptoms and Psychological symptoms.
The Physical Symptoms include those that involve changes in the bodily sensations and are felt by the sufferer.
- rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
- Sweating and trembling
- dry mouth
- raised blood pressure
The Psychological Symptoms include those that impinge on the mind and are visible through a person’s behavior.
- feelings of dread at the sight of images of space
- fear of dying
- fear of losing control
- fear of harm caused by extra terrestrial beings
- fear of dread at the thought of space and celestial bodies
- feeling of helplessness
- mood swings
Therapeutic Interventions for Spacephobia
Phobias can be treated through a variety of therapeutic interventions. a) Systematic Desensitization b) Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) c) Neuro Linguistic Program (NLP) d) Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction MBSR) d) meditation e) medication
- Systematic Desensitization
This is one of the most common therapies used in treating phobias and an effective way to desensitize the person suffering from phobia.
In this therapy the client with phobia is exposed to the stimulus gradually with varying degrees of severity, varying durations of time.
The degree of severity is hierarchical, ranging from low to high. Every time the ‘exposure’ of the feared stimulus is increased.
In Spacephobia the client is exposed to images of outer space first. For the fear to be invoked during therapy, the patient must be exposed to an intense stimulus (one that is feared).
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 stimulus is made to imagine
b) In vivo – where the client visits the the feared place 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.
- 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 and behavior that follows. 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.
The therapist separates the problem into parts. These may include: thoughts, feelings and actions.
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)
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.
c) Neuro Linguistic Program (NLP)
In this therapy the client is asked to
- Access the phobia in a safe environment.
- Help them to replay the phobia along with happy emotions.
- Disassociate from the phobia.
d) 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!
Alters the emotional attachment one has to his/her thoughts. This attachment is actually the root cause of Spacephobia and other phobias as well.
Meditation helps to disconnect and is by far the quickest, most effective way to do this.
Meditation helps one to detach their thoughts from the emotional content of the phobia.
Meditation helps you to alleviate all irrational thoughts.
Relaxation and maintaining focus gives one the strength to press into the phobic fear and gain access so that it can be eroded, session by session.
e) Group Therapy
Group Therapy is one of the most effective treatments available for phobias. In this the client does not find himself as a lone sufferer.
These groups are individuals who are afflicted with the same types of phobias or anxieties. They come together to share their thoughts, experiences and their coping mechanisms.
This also helps in developing a ‘sense of I am not the only one’ suffering.
f) Routine Modification
The person suffering from Spacephobia is advised to alter his daily routine and bring about a change.
The change is always considered to be a healthy way of dealing with stress and phobias in particular.
- Adopt a walking regimen
- Induct exercise on a daily basis
- Alter eating and drinking habits, especially cutting down on caffeine intake
- Improving the sleep cycle
There are a number of medicines that the Psychiatrist can prescribe if the symptoms of Spacephobia are severe and hinder the daily activities of the sufferer.
- 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 Spacephobia 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.
Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.
What we recommend for Phobias
- If you are suffering from Phobias then ongoing professional counselling could be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you address the fears you are facing.
Weighted Blankets may help you sleep better if your phobias are affecting your quality of sleep. Weighted blankets apply enough weight on you that they make you feel much more relaxed and calm at night.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Siderophobia?
Siderophobia is the fear of the stars.
The person suffering from this will be scared to look uo at the stars and will avoid all types of stimuli that have one thing or the other to do with stars.
What causes Astrophobia?
Astroophobia is a fear of the dark, or fear of being alone, or even away from home.
Is meditation more effective than CBT?
Meditation and CBT are equally effective for the treatment of Spacephobia.
Who was the first man to step on the moon?
The first man to step on the moon was Neil Armstrong.
Below is a complete list of all Phobias which we currently cover.
Titles to Read
- A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
- How To Treat Anxiety With Meditation, not Medication by Dan Coffey
- Overcoming Anxiety: How to Treat Anxiety Disorder and Overcome Anxiety for Life by Susan Belgwin
- Little Book of Mindfulness: 10 minutes a day to less stress, more peace by Patricia Collard | May 27, 2014
- The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh, Vo-Dihn Mai, et al.