What Is Astrophobia?

Man showing milky way to little boy, telescope

 Christophe Lehenaff/Getty Images

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

What Is Astrophobia?

The mysteries of outer space are intriguing for many Earthlings. But for some people, it turns to fear. Astrophobia is a severe and irrational fear of stars and space. It is one of the specific phobias that are related to a defined object or situation.

For many, astrophobia is strongly connected to a fear of aliens. Films such as "Alien" play into the fear that hostile intelligent life may exist outside of our own planet. Many of these films involve doomsday scenarios, in which life as we know it is threatened by an extraterrestrial attack.

Symptoms

If you have astrophobia, you aren't just uneasy with the thought of space, stars, or alien life. You have a persistent fear and anxiety related to it which affects your life. The symptoms of astrophobia are similar to those of other common phobias. When encountering the trigger, you may experience:

  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of terror
  • Panic
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Trembling

Depending on the exact nature of your phobia, you may find yourself unable to watch films about aliens. You might be preoccupied with locations such as Roswell, New Mexico, or Area 51 in Nevada.

Obsessions with these places often stem from conspiracy theories about unidentified flying object (UFO) sightings and claims of a government cover-up of alien interactions. You may retain a healthy skepticism about those theories, but still worry about what it could mean if they were true.

If you or a loved one are struggling with a phobia, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Identifying Astrophobia

Exhibiting an interest in space and related topics doesn't mean you have astrophobia. But if the interest turns to an obsession that is life-limiting, you should seek help from a mental health professional.

Astrophobia is not recognized as a distinct condition in the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" (DSM-5), but could be diagnosed as a specific phobia. In order to meet the criteria for diagnosis, you must experience:

  • Excessive and unreasonable fear
  • An immediate anxiety response
  • Avoidance or extreme distress

The symptoms must also affect your ability to function normally, be present for at least six months, and not be due to another condition.

Related Conditions

A doctor or mental health professional must also rule out other possible conditions that might contribute to your symptoms. These could include panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and other specific phobias such as claustrophobia.

Causes

Like other specific phobias, factors such as genetics, family history, and experience can play a part in the development of this fear. Traumatic experiences can also play a part in the development of these fears. Watching frightening films or television shows centered on space can make people fear outer space.

Research suggests that phobias may run in families. Having a family member who models anxiety responses can also increase the likelihood that a person might develop a phobia.

Astrophobia may also be connected to fears of the dark, being alone, or being away from home. Movies such as "Gravity" address the cold emptiness of outer space.

Astrophobia can also stem from a fear of space exploration, triggered by real catastrophes as the explosions of Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia. The film "Apollo 13" exposed the real danger that is associated with the space program.

Treatment

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.

Medications

Medications to treat anxiety are sometimes prescribed and may help in conjunction with other forms of therapy. Antidepressants are another type of medication that your doctor may prescribe to help manage your symptoms.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, particularly exposure therapy, is usually the first-line treatment for specific phobias. Some of the therapeutic approaches that might be helpful include:

  • Exposure therapy: Gradually reducing avoidance of stars and space and increasing exposure along with the use of relaxation techniques.
  • Behavioral therapy: Reinforcing desirable behaviors and eliminating unwanted ones.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy: Gradually changing the way you think, counteracting automatic thought patterns that connect stars or space with danger

Coping

In addition to professional treatment, it can also be helpful to use different coping strategies to relieve stress while you are living with a phobia. Some things that can help include:

  • Meditation: This technique can be useful for calming both the mind and body.
  • Relaxation techniques: Focus on healthy habits that reduce anxiety. Deep breathing, visualization, and progressive muscle relaxation are a few specific techniques you may find helpful.
  • Support: Having loved ones who understand what you are going through can be a great source of solace and comfort when you are feeling anxious.

A Word From Verywell

Many people may have underlying fears of being lost in space or being unable to get back home. Some people might find the idea of zero gravity to be scary, not thrilling. When these fears keep a person from living the life they want or disturb a person’s ability to eat, sleep or work, it might be time to contact a mental health professional with experience treating phobias.

Was this page helpful?
2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th Ed). Washington DC: Author; 2013.​​

  2. Czajkowski N, Kendler KS, Tambs K, Røysamb E, Reichborn-Kjennerud T. The structure of genetic and environmental risk factors for phobias in womenPsychol Med. 2011;41(9):1987-1995. doi:10.1017/S0033291710002436