Everyone knows the expression of ‘for tastes, colors’, which is extrapolated to a world as complex and, in turn, as limiting, as are the phobias.
There are many phobias, but the surprising thing is that there are even specific groups of phobias, such as phobias of animals, phobias of environmental phenomena, phobias related to the body …
A rather unknown group of phobias are those that have to do with phenomena of space, being the cometophobia, the fear of comets , the specific phobia that we are going to talk about here. Let’s look at this rare and, in turn, curious phobic disorder.
- Related article: ” Types of phobias: exploring fear disorders“
What is cometophobia?
The cometophobia (from the Latin ‘comet’, in turn from the Greek ‘kometes’, ‘hair, pigtail star’ and from the Greek ‘phobos’ ‘fear’) is the fear of comets. It is a specific phobia that shares a category with other phobias related to phenomena or astronomical objects , such as heliophobia (fear of the Sun), cosmicophobia (fear of cosmic phenomena), meteophobia (fears of meteorites), siderophobia (fear to the stars) or spaciophobia (fear of outer space).
Those who suffer from this phobia feel an irrational fear of comets or phenomena that are related to them, and normally their appearance is related to superstitions or erroneous beliefs about outer space. Although, objectively, comets are only a mixture of rocks, ice and stellar dust, there are those who still believe they are messages from beyond or signs that the end is near. There are also those who believe that they are interplanetary ships sent by aliens to invade Earth.
Whatever the cause behind this phobia, the truth is that the cometophobes have serious problems to witness the passage of a comet, talk about the last time one of them happened or see them in science fiction films and documentaries about outer space .
Possible causes of this psychological disorder
As with other phobias, it is accepted that the factors that cause cometophobia are a combination of external events, such as having experienced a traumatic event, and internal predispositions to the individual , such as their genetics and personality.
In the past, this fear was quite common, since there were no scientific explanations or objective methods to study comets, what they were made of and when their frequency of appearance was. Because of this, in times like the Medieval Age, it was believed that the passage of a comet was a sign that the day of final judgment was approaching, or that the destruction of mankind was just around the corner. These types of beliefs were closely associated with religion and related superstitions.
However, today there are still people who fear comets. One of the reasons is that, whether they have seen comets in science fiction series or have been documented about their potential destructive capacity, comets are seen as something that could mean the end of humanity, if they hit Earth. . Another belief shared by cometophobes is that comets could be interplanetary ships of very advanced alien civilizations that are planning to invade our planet.
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As with other phobias and, in turn, other anxiety disorders, cometophobia implies high levels of stress for those who suffer from it. The symptomatology may vary depending on the level of fear of the phobic stimulus and the degree of frequency with which contact is made. The symptoms and, especially, the anxiety, will appear when the person visualizes images of comets, although the phobic answer can also be given to the simple fact of talking about these cosmic phenomena or thinking about them .
Phobias are disorders that must be treated very seriously, since panic attacks are among the symptoms that can occur. When the person, whether he is a phophobic or suffering from another phobia, manifests one of these attacks, physical problems such as palpitations and heartbeat acceleration may occur.
Other physical symptoms that cometophobia patients may manifest, in addition to panic attacks, are excessive sweating, tremor, chills, irregular breathing, choking sensation , tachycardia, chest pain, butterflies feeling in the stomach, nausea, headache , dizziness, feeling faint, numbness, feeling of needles in the skin, dry mouth, tinnitus, disorientation, increased blood pressure, confusion and hyperventilation.
As for the psychological symptoms we are afraid of losing control, fear of fainting, fear of dying, fear of having an illness, guilt, shame, isolation from others, depression, despair, trouble concentrating, feeling disconnected, anger, irritability , changes in mood, anxiety and widespread fear.
The cometophobia is a very rare phobia and, given that its phobic stimulation is comets, something that in itself is rare, those who suffer from this phobia rarely decide to go to therapy. Actually, unless they work on something related to comets, such as astronomy, people do not see the need to undergo treatment, since they already have the subjective feeling of controlling their disorder. They believe that, as long as they don’t see a comet, they can live a normal life.
This fact is striking when compared to other more common phobic disorders, associated with more daily stimuli , such as blatophobia (fear of cockroaches), acrophobia (fear of heights) or aerophobia (fear of flying). All these phobias are usually seen in consultation because those who suffer from them suffer many limitations when avoiding cockroaches, heights and airplanes, respectively. In contrast, since comets are uncommon, in cometophobia there is no high degree of interference.
However, asking for help never hurts. Comets are a rare occurrence and, because of that, they are really beautiful natural phenomena that, when they occur, their observation is considered an authentic recreational activity and unique experience. The individual with cometophobia not only risks losing a historical event, but also deprives himself of having a good time with his friends and family, who may have decided to spend the night watching the comet pass.
Within psychotherapy, the patient is encouraged to recognize the behavior and thinking patterns that have led him to the situation he is in, what are his beliefs about what a comet is and if he really thinks they are so dangerous as you think they are. In the consultation you can teach strategies to cope with the anxiety associated with your specific form.
Within the pharmacological route, the most prescribed psychoactive drugs for phobias are antidepressants, anxiolytics and beta-blockers . These medications do not cure phobias, but they decrease their symptoms and give the patient a greater degree of well-being. However, to ensure that the person does not have irrational fear of comets or can acquire effective strategies to cope with it, psychotherapy will be the best option to achieve this goal.
Apart from the classic psychopharmacological and psychotherapeutic treatments, there are other less empirically proven options that could have good results on the cometophobic person, such as neurolinguistic programming or hypnotherapy, although, today, there are few investigations that have found that these types of alternative treatments are effective in treating anxiety disorders.