Barophobia is the fear of gravity and the word comes from two Greek words: baros meaning pressure or weight, and phobos meaning deep aversion or fear. A person with Barophobia probably cannot dream of becoming an astronaut. S/he would also refrain from watching movies about space and reading or thinking about gravity in general. A Barophobe would probably hate Sir Isaac Newton for discovering the laws of gravity in the first place. This can be a debilitating phobia because the individual obviously cannot avoid gravity and in extreme cases, may refrain from leaving his/her home due it.
Let us study the causes, symptoms, and treatment options available for sufferers of Barophobia.
What causes Barophobia?
If you are dealing with this anxiety disorder, then chances are that you are wondering what caused it in the first place. You may be asking yourself why you get these panic attacks every time you think of gravity. Perhaps it is something from your childhood that caused it? Perhaps it was due to the way you were brought up or even from reading a book or watching a movie depicting the dire consequences of too much or too little gravity. Maybe you disliked physics in school where you learned about gravity and its powerful effects. Perhaps you understand that gravity is natural and mostly harmless, but you are unable to control how you feel about it.
Some experts in the field of anxiety disorders believe that a ‘single-cause’ may be responsible for most phobias. However, there are others who believe that most anxiety disorders stem from multiple causes. A deficiency in serotonin – a neurotransmitter in the brain – can also be one of the causes combined with childhood trauma, heredity, etc.
Chronic stress can also impact the amygdala – a part of the brain that is responsible for panic and fear. Among psychological reasons, experts blame the phobic’s upbringing that may be filled with abuse, abandonment, or neglect, which can all lead to feelings of guilt, shame, or a sense of insecurity and this could cause phobic avoidance.
It is not that every child who grows up in a dysfunctional family develops fears like Barophobia. Sometimes, it is a combination of childhood conditions and hereditary predisposition towards anxiety that could trigger the phobia.
Significant life-changes, trauma, the use of stimulants and drugs, avoidance of talking about one’s feelings, anxious self-talk, mistaken beliefs, lack of assertiveness, lack of self-nurturing skills, dietary factors, and high-stress lifestyles can all be sustaining causes of Barophobia.
Symptoms of Barophobia
If you are a Barophobe, then you might fear all things pertaining to gravity – the most common thought being that you would be crushed by something heavy, or keep falling if gravity would cease to exist all of a sudden, or that the world as you know it would cease to exist. A Barophobe could experience these thoughts even upon seeing an object such as a balloon float away. This could trigger an intense panic attack characterized by the following symptoms.
- Racing heart
- Shortness or difficulty in breathing
- Dizziness or feeling light-headed
- Sweaty palms
- Trembling or shaking
- Nausea or churning stomach
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Chest pain
- Hot or cold flashes
- Feeling like choking
- Thoughts of death or dying
- Feeling like running away or hiding
- Feeling a sense of detachment or loss of reality
- Thoughts of going crazy or embarrassing yourself
- Feeling like you are going to faint or pass out
The Barophobe understands that s/he is over-reacting but is unable to control these reactions. Not many people understand or realize that for people with Barophobia, life can be very difficult. It is a debilitating condition because, unless you can stuff yourself in vacuum, gravity is pretty hard to avoid. People often ridicule individuals having these extreme or specific phobias as they are unable to grasp the ‘logic’ (or the lack thereof) behind the phobic’s reasoning. As a result, the individuals often feel isolated, lonely, and even depressed.
Treating the fear of gravity
Barophobia is a fairly common anxiety disorder and there are a number of proven ways to deal with it. If your phobia is interfering with your daily life, you must seek help for it. Start by speaking with your family physician. S/he can refer you to specialists or suggest self-help techniques to help you overcome your fear. In any case, you must get help if your phobia causes intense panic attacks and/or you realize that your fear is unreasonable and excessive.
Self-help and facing your fear
As a general rule, self-help is worth a try. You must understand that the more you can do for yourself, the more in control you will feel. The first self-help tip is to face your fear. You can start by reading about gravity or watching a movie about it. When you gradually and repeatedly face your fear, you will learn to face it in a safe and controlled manner. Very soon, your mind will be able to take it without experiencing fearful thoughts or anxiety and panic. Naturally, you must only take on as much as you can handle and not overdo things in the beginning. With each short exposure, you will certainly feel more in control and the fear will lose its power over you.
Meditation and relaxation techniques
Next, as part of self-help therapy and coping strategies, you must practice daily meditation. Meditation will help you relax even when you are faced with the object of your fear. This, in turn, will reduce anxiety and panic attacks. With regular practice, you will be able to experience serenity and quell anxiety before it arises.
Talk therapy is also an effective way to deal with the fear of gravity. Start by talking to someone that you trust. Your family physician can also guide you to a counselor. You could consider joining peer support groups online or offline.
Cognitive behavior therapy
Finally, most phobias can be treated with cognitive behavior therapy or CBT. This therapy aims to identify connections between thoughts, feelings, and behavior to help you manage patterns that lead to your symptoms. The best part about CBT is that it can be practiced by the phobic on his/her own or together with a therapist. People who are afraid to leave their homes can also complete CBT using their computer.