The vastness of the universe, space or cosmos, along with the vast number of stars and celestial bodies that inhabit it, can be as fascinating as it is intimidating to those who observe it. However, if this feeling becomes a heightened fear of them, it is quite possible that we are faced with a case of astrophobia.
Throughout this article we will be talking about this specific type of phobia. We will analyze the characteristics that distinguish it from a normal fear and describe its main symptoms, causes and treatments.
What is astrophobia?
Astrophobia is a psychological disorder that is part of anxiety disorders. Based on its own name, it is easy to deduce that this is an excessive, irrational, and uncontrollable fear of stars or celestial bodies found in the cosmos or the universe.
If we consider the etymological roots of the word, “star” is a term that comes from Latin and refers to all kinds of celestial bodies located in outer space and which are also visible from the earth; while the concept of “phobia” originates from the Greek word “phobos” meaning flight or fear.
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, astrophobia is considered to be an anxiety disorder in which the person he experiences an excessive and irrational fear of the stars, And in which he experiences extremely high anxiety whenever the affected person observes the stars
Although astrophobia is a type of phobia with very little incidence in the population, it can become an extremely disabling disorder, In which the patient is likely to reach the extreme of remaining confined to the house so as not to run the risk of observing the sky.
Therefore, this mental illness can modify and limit the behavior of the person, decreasing their quality of life. Fortunately, there are some very effective treatments for this specific type of phobia that allow the person to overcome this and lead a normal life.
Clinical features of the disorder
Like other phobias or anxiety disorders, astrophobia has a number of clinical features that they make it possible to distinguish it from the usual or non-pathological sensations of fear or dread.
Therefore, in order to differentiate astrophobia from non-pathological fear, it must meet the following characteristics:
- Excessive and disproportionate fear given the real danger of the situation or the phobic stimulus.
- by irrational, Since the person is unable to offer him a logical explanation.
- Inability to control the emotions of fear and anxiety.
- Generation of avoidant behaviors of the situation.
- Fear appears constantly and permanently through the various feared situations.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptoms of astrophobia are those associated with high anxiety. This clinical picture does not manifest itself continuously over time, but only in cases where a person faces or anticipates what will be faced with the phobic stimulus; in this case, the stars and celestial bodies.
These symptoms can be classified into three groups, depending on whether they correspond to physical, cognitive or behavioral symptoms.
1. Physical symptoms
Faced with the appearance of the situation that is the object of the phobia, the central nervous system experiences an excessive increase in its activity, Generating a large number of changes and alterations at the physiological and organic level.
This physical symptomatology includes:
- Increased heart rate.
- Increased breathing.
- Feeling of suffocation.
- Muscle tension.
- Increased levels of sweating.
- Gastric alterations.
- Nausea and / or vomiting.
- Fainting and loss of consciousness.
2. Cognitive symptoms
The onset of a physical symptomatology is subject to a series of inconsistent or extravagant beliefs and ideas about the situation or the phobic stimulus and its presumed danger. These ideas shape the cognitive symptoms and usually appear ahead of time, generating the symptoms of anxiety.
Some of the cognitive symptoms of astrophobia include:
- Distorted thoughts on the stars and celestial bodies.
- Ideas of an intrusive and uncontrollable nature that flood the patient’s mind.
- obsessive speculation on the possible dangers of stars.
- Catastrophic imagination in relation to the feared object.
- Fear of losing control and not being able to handle the situation favorably.
3. Physical symptoms
The main consequence of the anxiety symptoms, named above, is the performance of a series of behaviors or behavior patterns that arise in response to the feared stimulus.
These physical symptoms appear to avoid the dreaded circumstances or to run away in the event that it has not been possible to avoid them. In this way, the person suffering from astrophobia try to avoid having unpleasant emotions like anxiety and distress.
These patterns of behavior are known as sidings and exhaust ducts. In avoidance behaviors, the person performs a series of acts with the intention of eliminating the possibility of having to deal with it.
On the other hand, escape behaviors appear when the person suffering from astrophobia is inevitably confronted with the feared situation or stimulus. Throughout the situation, the person will perform all kinds of acts or behaviors that allow him to escape of that as quickly as possible.
What are the causes?
Although, for the moment, no completely reliable cause has been established to explain the phobias. Researchers point to the possibility that experimentation highly traumatic events or experiences or with a high emotional load, combined with a genetic predisposition to the adverse effects of stress, lay the groundwork for the onset of a specific anxiety disorder such as astrophobia.
In addition, there are other factors such as personality, cognitive styles, or vicarious learning, which can promote the onset and development of an irrational and uncontrollable fear like that of phobias.
Treatment of this phobia
Despite the low incidence of astrophobia, there are very effective treatments and interventions common to other specific phobias through which the person can overcome their fear and continue their life in a normal way.
In the case of specific anxiety disorders such as phobias, the most effective type of intervention is cognitive behavioral therapyWhere, through systematic desensitization (DS), the person can get used to facing the object of their fear.
In this systematic desensitization the patient is exposed in an imaginary way to a series of situations linked to the phobia, which are organized gradually, from the lowest to the highest degree of fear. In addition, relaxation techniques are applied to decrease the level of anxiety.
Another widely used technique is live exposure, Whereby the person is directly and progressively exposed to the feared situation. However, these techniques should always be performed under the supervision and guidance of a mental health professional.