Spacephobia (Fear of Space): Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Spacephobia or the fear of space is not a new fear. However, a lot of people may be unable to relate to it because it is more common to see humans star gazing, having dinner under the night sky, or looking into space with a telescope, then talking about how they fear what is above and beyond.

To make things a lot clearer and help you understand the possible causes and ways to manage spacephobia, we have created this comprehensive article on space phobia.

Understanding the Concept of Spacephobia (Fear of space)

The enigma of the stars and the outer space may be fascinating to many over the centuries.

This explains why there are people who spend their entire life studying planetary bodies and trying to understand how the stars affect people’s destiny and life (horoscope and zodiac signs).

However, while the celestial bodies are fascinating to a large population of humans, certain people find things of this nature overwhelming and even develop an irrational fear of space.

This fear may be persistent, mostly irrational (this is common with phobias), and severe that it becomes a disorder known as spacephobia.

The basic definition of Spacephobia or astrophobia is an intense and irrational fear of things that concern the outer space.  This involves the deep fear of stars, the moon, other celestial bodies, aliens, and outer space in general.

This type of phobia is, however, commonly related to the fear of aliens and space travel. Just the mere thought of the outer space and planetary bodies can make the sufferer start having fearful thoughts concerning death.

Many times, the sufferers come to the realization that these fearful thoughts are irrational but are still unable to control it.

Connections of Spacephobia to Other Fears

This phobia may be associated with other common fears, such as fear of being alone, fear of the dark,  or fear of being away or far from home.

Most films depict the outer space as a cold, dark, and limitless emptiness. This means that a person who is scared of the dark, scared of being alone, or scared of being far away from home, would find such movies disturbing or scary.

Again, watching movies and reading books that layout the real-life dangers of space travel, possible uncontrolled technical issues that may arise, the possibility of getting stuck in outer space, possible explosions, exaggerated stories of alien abductions, and spaceship attacks, etc., may promote the development of spacephobia.

Possible Causes of Spacephobia

Spacephobia

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It is very crucial that the cause of any phobia is investigated and identified in order for the right method of treatment to be applied for desired results.

Unfortunately, just like most phobias (specific or not), there is no single identified cause of spacephobia. Scientists are of the opinion that various factors contribute to the development of spacephobia, anxiety disorders inclusive.

The following are some of the factors that can possibly cause this condition:

1. Trauma

Many phobias are as a result of traumatic experiences that have affected the sufferer sometime in the past.

This particular phobia is no different, a past experience that has caused an unpleasant trauma to a person may have the person develop this condition for example; a child who may have had a close relative or parent who worked as an astronaut and then got stranded or died in space may be severely traumatized by the news which can, later on, develop to spacephobia.

Again, some people may just read or see the news about stranded or the death of an astronaut or astronauts and become severely traumatized, which in turn may result in spacephobia.

2. The Media

The media has always been a tool of influence and promotion. However, some people get affected by the lies and exaggeration that comes with the media.

Books, films, cartoons, memes, and pictures may depict aliens to be intelligent life forms that exist outside of our planet, with more advanced technology that they can use to attack and conquer our world. This kind of thing causes irrational fear towards aliens and outer space as a whole,  thus the development of this condition.

Again, reading, watching, and viewing things about space and space travel that have space painted as an inhabitable,  limitless, and dark vacuum, somehow people with other phobias such as fear of the dark,  being left alone, and being away from home may develop this disorder.

3. Background upbringing

Caregivers and parents who are highly anxious may out of their protective nature, coupled with anxiety, may unintentionally narrate stories or fill the children’s head with irrationally fearful ideas towards things pertaining to space. This makes a child develop spacephobia

4. Gene

Sometimes, the cause of some phobias is genetic. If your biological parents were the anxious types, and because that information may be in your genetic make-up, then you are more prone to develop this disorder as well.

Although scientists may not have come to the agreement concerning a single cause of this disorder, they collectively agree on one thing, and that thing is that phobias are acquired and learned behaviors.

No one is born with a phobia, especially spacephobia.

Individuals that find themselves being irrationally afraid of outer space and every other thing relating to it is definitely not born with the condition, but the condition may be as a result of the factors which include – trauma, background upbringing, and the media.

When individual persistently associates their object of fear with the unpleasant feeling of fear,  panic,  shame, and insecurity, then spacephobia is developed.

Symptoms

Persons with this disorder tend to go out of their ways to avoid seeing or reading anything relating to aliens, space bodies, or the space as a whole.  Just mere thinking of aliens,  space bodies, and space ships can cause a person with this disorder to experience a full-blown panic attack.

This can also make the individual avoid looking out in the sky at night in order to avoid seeing the stars,  the moon, and the wide-open dark sky.

Imagining,  reading or seeing anything relating to the outer space, space ships, stars, astronauts, or celestial bodies can trigger an individual to experience the following symptoms:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sharp chest pain
  • Sweating
  • Hot/cold flashes
  • Shaking
  • Screaming
  • Feeling like escaping from objects of fear
  • Fear of losing control or embarrassing oneself
  • The feeling of being disconnected from reality
  • Lightheadedness
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Feeling of terror

Frankly, many people do not understand this type of phobia. Most people do not even know that space phobia is a real condition, and they are actually people who experience this unpleasant disorder.

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However, individuals who suffer from this disorder prefer to keep it to themselves for fear of being laughed at or teased due to the fact that most people do not know and understand this condition. This is a very unhealthy coping mechanism as they tend to lose control when they come in contact with their objects of fear.

This can severely affect the social life of the sufferers as they would prefer to be socially isolated to avoid embarrassing themselves when they come in contact with their object of fear.

Having spacephobia also means that you have persistent and uncontrolled fear and anxiety at the mere thought of anything relating to space, and this adversely affects the normal daily activities.

According to the precise cause of your phobia, you are likely to go out of your way to avoid watching films about outer space,  space travel, meteor strike and showers or aliens, and aliens invasion.

You might develop obsessions with conspiracy theories concerning the space, sighted Unidentified Flying Object (UFO), and claims from certain sources claiming that the government is trying to keep interaction with aliens classified.

However, showing interest in such a topic does not mean that you are suffering from spacephobia. But when this innocent interest becomes an obsession that disrupts your normal daily lifestyle, then you ought to see a mental health professional in order to obtain help.

Treatment of spacephobia (Fear of space)

Spacephobia can be treated like the way others phobias are being treated.

The main focus in treating this disorder is by helping the sufferer to throw away all the negative beliefs concerning space bodies and outer space. The sufferer will be filled up with healthier beliefs and proper coping skills to help the sufferer to avoid and handle panic attacks better.

Fortunately, most phobias are curable. Sometimes, only a single session of therapy can be effective enough to have a person with this disorder cured, especially in mild and moderate cases.

The following are treatments which can be applied to get the desired results:

Self-help

Making a move to help yourself overcome this disorder is the most basic step to take. There are various techniques that can be used to achieve this:

First, you can start by writing down the fears that pull you down. Then write down the at least one positive belief for each fear you come across.

Yoga-practice, Meditation, positive reinforcement, and deep inhalation are all self-help techniques that can be applied to overcome phobias.

Studying healthy information about space, aliens, and spacephobia can also be of help.

Sadly, spacephobia has not been extensively studied in the medical and psychological fields. Therefore, there have not been any registered clinical cases yet.

The method is known to be effective to an extent, but if it does not present any result, you are advised to seek professional help, especially if this condition is having adverse effects on your normal daily lifestyle.

Therapy

This is when your doctor refers you to a professional who can help you overcome this condition.

Generally, there are five therapies known to be very effective in treating phobias and will definitely help in the treatment of spacephobia.

These therapies include the following:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy: This type of treatment involves you and your therapist working together to gradually influence the way you think, ruling out the perception you have of the outer space and everything other things relating to it associated with harm and danger which results in the persistent fear response.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches you to counter negative thoughts with positive ones.
  • Psychotherapy: This involves traditional analytic thinking with your therapist.
  • Behavioral therapy: This helps in behavioral modification by Reenforcing preferred behaviors and attitudes while doing away with the unwanted ones.
  • Desensitization and exposure therapy: This disorder is characterized by avoiding anything pertaining to space, including twinkling stars. This method suggests that you can only overcome your fears by facing them head-on.

In this case, the term “head-on” is an exaggeration, because once you are being exposed to the object of fear “head-on,” you are definitely going to experience a panic attack, which is an unpleasant experience.

This method involves the gradual exposure of the object of fear, in this case, anything that pertains to space. Just little by little exposure while gradually increasing the exposure will help you feel less threatened by each encounter.

This is why it is also called “desensitization” because the more exposed you are to those objects of fear, the more fear diminishes, and the less sensitive you are to such.

This is done under a controlled environment and observation.

You may be asked draw stars, and what you view the space to be, then you are asked to read and sing children’s poems about stars before you are allowed to ask questions and read about space, celestial bodies, and stars, and eventually you are allowed to step out under the dark sky during nighttime to observe the stars scattered on the dark sky.

All this is presented to you in a harmless manner until there is no panic attacks nor fear response.

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  • Hypnotherapy: Hypnotherapy should be the last option considered in therapy; that is, if every other option did not give desired results. This works by reprogramming the subconscious mind to root out the cause of the condition. That is, you are being put into a deep relaxation state until your subconscious mind is open to the thought that will convince you that there is nothing to be afraid of.
  • Relaxation techniques: The focus on a healthy lifestyle, which may include; adequate dieting, proper exercising, enough rest, deep breathing, and relaxation. All of these play a huge role in reducing anxiety.
  • Meditation: Medications may be prescribed to treat anxiety. This may help when used in conjunction with other forms of therapy in order to treat spacephobia.

 Medications of Space Phobia

Just like most other phobias, no medication has been created specifically for the treatment of spacephobia. There are a few medications that may be prescribed to help manage anxiety, but they are not a form of cure for your phobia.

The only way to manage or completely get over the fear of space phobia is to seek professional help from a mental health professional or therapist.

When should I seek help for  Spacephobia?

It is also common for people with rare phobias such as astrophobia or spacephobia to keep their fears to themselves out of concern that they will be mocked by others. This feeling usually arises from knowing that their intense fear for planetary bodies is irrational.

Nevertheless, we encourage people with any form of phobia to speak up and seek help if they have experienced such intense fears for more than six months.

Talk to a doctor, therapist, or mental health professional that is certified and trusted. Do well to make available all information about your symptoms and how they affect your daily life and activities.

It is also helpful to find a focus group with people who have rare phobias, or the same phobia as you. This may provide emotional support for you as you walk through your recovery process.

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Emmanuella Ekokotu
Ekokotu Emmanuella is a sociologist and Anthropologist, writer, and fashion model who lives in Benin city, Edo state,Nigeria.

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