What Is Astrophobia?


Astrophobia, a combination of the Ancient Greek words “astron” meaning a celestial body, and “phobia” meaning fear, is an often misunderstood and overlooked fear that affects individuals worldwide, hindering their ability to appreciate the beauty and wonder of the cosmos. While astrophobia may not be as commonly recognised as other phobias, its impact on those who suffer from it can be profound. Not to be confused with astraphobia, which is the fear of thunders and lightning, astrophobia can describe a fear of alien life, as well as a fear of the general unknown about the vastness of space. This phobia can have many different subtypes and can affect each individual differently. Religious backgrounds and education can often be strong driving forces of astrophobia. Individuals with astrophobia are often debilitated by their fears. Such worries and fears can also be exasperated by conspiracy theories about unnatural and unproven aerial phenomena, unidentified flying objects (UFOs), and secluded facilities like Area 51, to name a few.

Understanding astrophobia

While healthy scepticism is normal, astrophobia is a specific phobia characterised by an irrational and strong fear of celestial objects, aliens, and anything that encompasses the cosmos. Some notably common fears recognised as being astrophobia are fears of:

  1. Dark skies and the unknown:
    • Fear of the vast and dark expanse of space.
    • Anxiety about the unknown and what lies beyond.
    • Misunderstanding of science due to the often simplified and blown out-of-proportion portrayals of space in Hollywood movies.
    • Distrust of science due to conspiracy theories and the spread of misinformation that are easily accessible and disseminated throughout the internet nowadays
  2. Celestial events and superstitions:
    • Dread of events like solar eclipses, lunar eclipses, or meteor showers.
    • Belief in cultural myths and legends about gods and the solar system
    • Belief in celestial events as being indications of doom or bad luck.
  3. Media portrayals and science fiction:
    • Anxiety in individuals with the phobia is fuelled by sensationalised depictions of space and extraterrestrial life in movies and TV shows.
    • Fear of a full moon bringing about societal unrest.
    • A fear of alien encounters or invasions, that is often perpetuated by sci-fi movies, series and books, as well as some media outlets.

The origins of astrophobia

It is important to note some historical and psychological perspectives and origins of this phobia, as phobias can be passed on as a learned fear throughout generations.1

  1. Historical perspectives:
    • Many religious beliefs refer to heaven and hell, which are often believed to belong in space. Holding space in such a high regard can lead some people to being anxious about deities appearing from ‘the heavens’ (the cosmos), with some people even relating such deities to extraterrestrial life.
    • Horoscopes and astrology can influence people’s perception of the cosmos. Such concepts add an element of mystery and combined with people’s lack of knowledge regarding the cosmos, they can be frightening and dread-inducing.
    • Real-life tragedies such as the NASA Columbia and the STS-51-L Space Shuttle Challenger disaster can make cases of astrophobia spike in the population, as they can be triggering, traumatic, and devastating.2
  2. Psychological factors:
    • The persistence of disorders such as Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and panic disorders in individuals can cause the development of specific and individual traits, one of them being astrophobia.
    • Phobias are easier to pass on in social environments when another individual is exhibiting those phobias, especially a parent, caregiver, or even a peer.

The impact of astrophobia

Astrophobia's effects extend beyond mere discomfort; they can significantly impact individuals and society at large.

  1. How astrophobia affects individuals:
    • Symptoms of astrophobia include anxiety, shaking/trembling, avoiding conversations about anything related to the subject, panic attacks, feeling of dread, breathlessness and a racing heartbeat - symptoms that are common among various cases of phobias.
    • Just like with any phobia, when the phobia becomes clinically significant, it often begins to take a toll on personal relationships, work life and social life.3
    • Hearing about UFO sightings and unusual lights in the sky can be a particularly strong trigger for those suffering from astrophobia. Such events can often validate the fear in individuals, therefore making it more real and more difficult to deal with.
  2. The societal consequences of astrophobia:
    • If astrophobia becomes a common occurrence within a society, it might negatively impact people’s perceptions of general scientific knowledge.
    • Astrophobia being prevalent in society can potentially lead to badly influenced public policies and law decisions, potentially also hurting initiatives that could have otherwise funded space exploration and research projects. Therefore, this could halt our progress in understanding space and the cosmos in general.

Overcoming astrophobia

Overcoming astrophobia is a journey that begins with recognition and acknowledgement of this fear. This section provides guidance on how individuals can conquer their fear of the cosmos and how society in general can work together to hear, understand, and assist individuals with the phobia.

  1. Recognizing and acknowledging astrophobia:
    • As aforementioned, astrophobia can be comorbid with GAD and claustrophobia, as well as panic disorders.
    • This phobia is recognised primarily when fears surrounding space-related topics become excessive to such an unreasonable degree that it interferes with individuals’ daily lives, leading to the development of avoidance behaviours that are limiting to daily life.4
    • It is vital to seek professional help as well as emotional support from loved ones.5
  2. Education and awareness:
    • Promote the role of astronomy outreach programs in demystifying space-related fears through schools, workshops, events, and social media platforms.
    • Advocate for the accurate portrayals of space in media to combat misinformation.
  3. Coping strategies and treatment options:
    • Cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy are the first lines of help offered for those who suffer from phobias, including astrophobia.6
    • Breathing exercises, meditation and mindfulness techniques can provide relief to individuals with this fear and are techniques that are easier to access if the therapy approaches mentioned above are not an option for some individuals.

Inspiring interest in astronomy

A fundamental aspect of overcoming astrophobia is fostering curiosity and appreciation for astronomy. This can be done through several approaches:

  • Joining an astronomy or astrophotography community that takes part in stargazing activities can help demystify space-related fears as well as unanswered questions. Being exposed to proven information based on physics and science in general, can also help to omit theories that an individual was supporting, solely on their lack of expertise on such a topic. This can, therefore, be valuable in the process of overcoming astrophobia.
  • Connecting with nature and taking the time to research space and astronomy can also be therapeutic and grounding.


While the origin of this phobia can vary depending on the patient’s upbringing, lifestyle, education and culture, the distress caused by this phobia to an individual and their social circles can be as equally significant as any other type of phobia. Astrophobia is a unique phobia that warrants attention and understanding. As with all phobias, it often stems from anxiety and panic disorders, which can make it particularly distressing. By exploring its origins, acknowledging its impact, and providing strategies for overcoming it combined with the right dissemination and explanation of proven knowledge, support and treatment, astrophobia can be managed and even be overcome. It is important to seek professional advice from a doctor or a therapist if this phobia begins to interfere with your or someone else’s daily life and if the anxiety-inducing thoughts become overwhelming.


  • 1. Garcia R. Neurobiology of fear and specific phobias. Learning & Memory [Internet]. [cited 2023 Dec 17];24(9):462. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5580526/
  • 2. Mars K. 20 Years Ago: Remembering Columbia and Her Crew [Internet]. NASA. 2023. Available from: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/20-years-ago-remembering-columbia-and-her-crew
  • 3. Mental MHDNJ ,Ngo F. Dealing with the Fear of Outer Space or Astrophobia [Internet]. Medium. 2019 [cited 2023 Sep 21]. Available from: https://medium.com/@mindrootngo/dealing-with-the-fear-of-outer-space-or-astrophobia-d3e7ab2790fa
  • 4.Binder FP, Pöhlchen D, Zwanzger P, Spoormaker VI. Facing your fear in immersive virtual reality: avoidance behavior in specific phobia. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2023 Dec 17];16. Available from: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnbeh.2022.827673
  • 5. National Health Service. Overview - Generalised Anxiety Disorder in Adults [Internet]. nhs.uk. NHS; 2018. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/generalised-anxiety-disorder/overview/
  • 6. Space-related educational resources [Internet]. GOV.UK. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/space-related-educational-resources/space-related-educational-resources
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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