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Fear of Space

Fear of Outer Space

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Updated April 16, 2014

Astrophobia, or the fear of outer space, figures prominently in many horror and science fiction books and films. For example, Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights 2008 creates an interesting juxtaposition between astrophobia and placophobia, or fear of tombstones. In that scenario, a male sufferer believes that certain tombstones are a sign of impending interstellar catastrophe. Although that particular scenario would be highly unlikely in real life, fear of outer space is not uncommon.

What Is Astrophobia?

Astrophobia, or fear of stars and space, means different things to different people. For many, astrophobia is highly connected to a fear of aliens. Films such as Independence Day, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and, of course, Alien, play into the fear that intelligent life may exist outside our own planet and that those life forms may be hostile to us. Many of these films involve doomsday scenarios, in which life as we know it is threatened by an extraterrestrial attack.

Astrophobia may also be connected to fears of the dark, being alone or being away from home. Films such as Space Camp address the cold emptiness of outer space. Astrophobia can also stem from a fear of space exploration, triggered by such catastrophes as the explosions of Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia. The film Apollo 13 addressed the very real danger that is associated with the space program.

Symptoms of Astrophobia

The symptoms of astrophobia are similar to those of other specific phobias. Depending on the exact nature of your phobia, you may find yourself unable to watch films about aliens. You might become obsessed with locations such as Area 51 and wonder about conspiracy theories that claim 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.

If your fear is of space itself, you probably find it hard to watch movies or television shows about the space program. You might avoid shuttle launches and become uncomfortable when politicians and pundits discuss the future of space travel.

Treating Astrophobia

Many people find that their astrophobia requires no treatment at all. If you have no plans to travel into space and do not live in a science fiction-obsessed household, astrophobia may not significantly impact your life. However, you may gradually find that your phobia leads you to avoid such locations as science museums and Halloween events, as well as a large number of movies.

Fortunately, 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. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication are common treatments for astrophobia.

Source:

American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th Ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

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