Auroraphobia (Fear of Northern Lights)
Auroraphobia is the irrational fear of the Northern Lights (aka Aurora Borealis). These beautiful curtains of luminous color can be seen from various places such as Northern Canada, Norway, Greenland, New Zealand, Sweden, and Finland, among other areas during late November to March. People suffering from auroraphobia may find themselves experiencing a large amount of anxiety when merely thinking of the Northern lights.
Someone with auroraphobia may make major life decisions such as choosing to live in an area where the northern lights cannot be seen. Though such a conviction may sound irrational, someone suffering from mental illness may think it is completely normal and that it will eventually help “protect” them from their irrational fear of seeing Northern lights. However, due to the fact that the Northern lights can only be seen from specific locations during a certain time of the year, this will likely not be much of an issue.
It may also not be uncommon for someone who is suffering with auroraphobia to also suffer from similar phobias, such as being irrationally fearful of specific colors, like cyanophobia (fear of the color blue) for instance. Though, this will likely vary from person to person. Their anxiety may be so intrusive and intense at times due to their auroraphobia that they may even experience full blown panic attacks which may require them to be hospitalized.
This phobia is likely to be much less common than other phobias such as achluphobia (fear of darkness), cynophobia (fear of dogs), and selachophobia (fear of sharks). Auroraphobia is likely to be much rarer, such as chronophobia (fear of time), limnophobia (fear of lakes), thaasophobia (fear of sitting), and mechanophobia (fear of machines).
Symptoms of Auroraphobia
As is the case with virtually all other phobias, anxiety will likely be the main symptom experienced with auroraphobia. Depending on their genetic predisposition, they may even suffer from other disorders besides auroraphobia. For instance, it may not be uncommon for someone experiencing an irrational fear of Northern lights to also suffer from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) as well. However, this will vary from person to person.
It may also be very difficult for someone with this disorder to even look at pictures of the Northern lights. Doing so may give them immense amounts of anxiety which may even result in them having a panic attack. Just like virtually all other phobias, there will be a spectrum of severity with regards to the symptoms of this disorder which will range from not very intrusive to extremely intrusive.
Below, you will see some more common symptoms of auroraphobia:
Intense anxiety when seeing the Northern lights
Anxiety when thinking of the Northern Lights
May experience full blown panic attacks
Unable to cope with strong emotions
Increased heart rate and rate of breathing
Causes of Auroraphobia
There is no known cause of Auroraphobia. However, genetics and one’s environment may both play very significant roles in the development of this disorder. For instance, someone who has a family history of mental illness, especially with anxiety disorders may have a higher chance of developing auroraphobia. This may be due to them having a genetic predisposition to developing mental illness. If someone were to have such a genetic predisposition, then it may only take them experiencing some sort of traumatic event for them to develop full blown auroraphobia.
Though genetics is oftentimes considered to be a very common precursor to developing any given mental disorder, the unique nature of auroraphobia lends one to think that it may also be environmental factors that would cause someone to develop an irrational fear of the Northern lights. Genetics and environment are likely to both go hand in hand when looking at the causes of virtually any given mental illness.
Other potential causes of auroraphobia are that perhaps they already are suffering from an anxiety disorder such as GAD or OCD for example. If this were to be the case, then it may not take much for someone to develop this specific phobia. For example, someone with GAD may find themselves to be an all around anxious person and depending on certain environmental experiences, it may not take much for them to hone in their anxiety toward a specific area, such as being fearful of the Northern Lights.
A second example can be someone suffering from full blown OCD. This person may find themselves spending a great deal of time throughout their day obsessing about things and performing ritualistic compulsions. It may not take much for them to somehow begin obsessing about the Northern lights by attaching some sort of irrational fear to it.
Auroraphobia Treatments (abridged)
Just as there is no known cause for auroraphobia, there is also no treatment that is specifically designed for this disorder either. However, exposure therapy may be quite advantageous. Exposure therapy works by having the therapist slowly expose the patient to their fear over a given amount of time. Though doing so will likely give the patient a lot of anxiety, it will also help them to become desensitized to their fear so that it will not bother them as much when faced with it again in the future.
It is very important that the therapist is very adept at what they do and have a lot of experience with treating phobias as exposing the patient to too much too soon can be very counterproductive for them and may even worsen their phobia in the long run. In the instance of auroraphobia, the therapist may expose the patient to the Northern lights by showing them pictures or videos of them. These images are likely to cause a great deal of anxiety in the patient, but the more they are exposed to these images the less likely they are to feel anxious.
If you think you may have auroraphobia or if you are suffering from some of the symptoms of this disorder, then you should talk to your doctor as soon as you can so that you can get properly diagnosed and treated. Upon seeing your doctor he may refer you to see a specialist such as a therapist or a psychiatrist.
Yoga Poses for Auroraphobia
There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from auroraphobia. In part, this is due to the meditative state of mind that yoga tends to emit in those who practice it on a consistent basis. Yoga can be thought of as meditation in motion. It can help to relieve some of the anxiety associated with auroraphobia due to the mere fact that by engaging in yoga, your attention will be redirected to something more productive.
There are many different types of yoga that someone with auroraphobia can benefit from, such as hatha yoga or hot yoga, among many others. Nevertheless, regardless of the many different forms of yoga that exist, virtually all of them can help to relieve some of the stress and anxiety that is associated with auroraphobia.
If you have never practiced yoga before, then it may be in your best interest to take a class or watch some guided videos that can help you through each pose. Just like with meditation, the more you practice yoga, the more adept you will become at it. Besides helping you to reduce your symptoms of auroraphobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Auroraphobia
MBSR is an 8-week evidence-based program that offers secular, intensive mindfulness training to help people who are suffering from anxiety, stress, depression, and other sorts of mental anguish. MBSR may be able to significantly help someone who is suffering from auroraphobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with auroraphobia can expect to learn a plethora of different skills that can help them to relieve the intense anxiety that’s associated with their specific phobia.
Talk to your doctor or therapist to see if MBSR can help you to reduce the intensity of your symptoms of auroraphobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.
Meditation for Auroraphobia
There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from auroraphobia. Specifically, mindfulness meditation has been shown to be quite beneficial for helping people to enter into a more equanimeous state. There are many different ways with which you can implement mindfulness meditation and there are also many different meditation apps which are designed to make things as easy as possible for you.
Mindfulness has the potential to significantly help those suffering from auroraphobia due to how it will help one to distract themselves from their fear by refocusing their attention onto something else that does not have any sort of emotional baggage attached to it, such as by focusing on the breath for example. This is one of the most basic ways that one can meditate and be present.
For someone with auroraphobia in the midst of a panic attack, redirecting one’s attention to the various sensations felt when breathing can actually help to reduce the amount of mental anguish experienced during such an influx of anxiety.
To implement mindfulness meditation to help relieve one’s symptoms of auroraphobia, you can do so by paying close attention to the way the muscles in your abdomen and chest contract and relax with every inhale and exhale. You can spend time dwelling on how it feels as your chest expands during each inhale and how it sinks in with every exhale.
Besides focusing on your breathing, you can also focus on the sounds around you, the way your skin feels as you touch certain objects, the way foods taste, as well as the way certain aromas smell. Essentially, honing into your 5 senses can significantly help you to reduce some of the anxiety that is associated with auroraphobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.
Exposure Therapy for Auroraphobia
As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as auroraphobia. It can be an efficient way to help desensitize the patient to their specific fears. Be that as it may, it is imperative that the therapist implementing it on their patient is very adept at doing so. For example, if the therapist were to slightly expose someone with auroraphobia to their fear, then it may not be very effective as they may need a higher amount of exposure to truly trigger any sort of worthwhile change in the patient.
The same can be said for the antithesis of this scenario. If the therapist were to excessively expose someone with auroraphobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their auroraphobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with auroraphobia has a very strong sense of just how severe their symptoms are so that they can know the level of exposure that the patient will likely be able to handle.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Auroraphobia
CBT is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve one’s mental health. It is a modality that is often used to treat people suffering from anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. Someone with auroraphobia may also be able to benefit from CBT as well seeing as how it would allow them to have a much better understanding as to why they think and behave the way they do in relation to their irrational fears.
CBT can be immensely helpful for someone with auroraphobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with auroraphobia is exposed to their fear, they will almost always have an instantaneous subconscious reaction to their fear. Such a lack of introspection is likely a large part of why someone with this condition will suffer to the extent that they will. CBT can help you to take a step back and analyze your fears more deeply than you typically would.
Besides learning to be more fastidious with regards to understanding one’s specific fears, someone with auroraphobia engaging in CBT can also expect to learn various other skills aimed at helping to relieve the anxiety caused by their condition.
Psychiatric Medications for Auroraphobia
These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe auroraphobia due to the fact that people with phobias often experience panic attacks as well. Some common anti-anxiety medications include Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin, among many others.
These types of drugs are not typically taken on a daily basis, but they may be insofar as their auroraphobia is severe enough. However, this is something that you should first discuss with your doctor before you decide to do so to ensure that it is safe and effective.
These types of medications aren’t only for people who suffer from depression as they can also help people suffering from anxiety disorders as well, such as auroraphobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of auroraphobia.
These types of drugs are typically taken on a daily basis. They can indeed help prevent panic attacks from occurring, but they are more so used to help reduce people’s daily anxiety. Talk to your doctor to see if taking antidepressants can help to reduce your symptoms of auroraphobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.
Exercise for Auroraphobia
Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including auroraphobia. Specifically, cardiovascular exercise can significantly help to relieve one’s stress. This is not to say that weight-resistance training would not benefit someone with anxiety, but rather that aerobic exercise is has been shown to be more effective at releasing those feel good chemicals in the brain, such as endorphins.
According to the American Psychology Association, exercise can help to condition the mind to better cope with stressful situations. This makes sense when we take into consideration the high amount of stress that the body is put under during strenuous exercise. So, if you yourself are sedentary, then engaging in some form of aerobic exercise may be able to significantly help reduce your symptoms of auroraphobia by making it much easier for you to cope with the anxiety and stress that’s associated with this condition.
There are many different aerobic modalities that you can partake in to help reduce your symptoms of auroraphobia, such as swimming, biking, skiing, walking, and jogging. You can also acquire the many benefits of exercise by playing sports such as tennis, soccer, basketball, and racquetball, among many other sports. Engaging in some form of exercise consistently may be able to help relieve some of the pain associated with auroraphobia over time.
Limiting Caffeine for Auroraphobia
It is no secret that consuming large amounts of caffeine throughout the day can aid in making you more anxious. This makes sense when we look closely at how caffeine affects our body’s physiology. When we consume a high dose of caffeine, our heart will start to beat faster and we become more tense. Essentially, our body will begin to go into a “fight or flight” state of mind. Such a frame of mind is often a precursor for someone with auroraphobia to experience panic attacks.
So, consuming little to no caffeine throughout the day may be able to significantly help reduce your day to day anxiety. Although doing so will likely not make all of your anxiety go away, it will indeed help you to reduce any unnecessary suffering that you would have otherwise experienced if you were to consume a large amount of caffeine.
Beverages like coffee and tea are often high in caffeine, as well as some energy drinks. In fact, even some foods have caffeine in them as well, such as dark chocolate. Being more conscious of your daily caffeine consumption may help you to reduce some of the symptoms associated with auroraphobia.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Auroraphobia
DBT is a very effective form of treatment for people struggling with emotion regulation. It is often used to treat people suffering from borderline personality disorder. Nevertheless, it can also be very advantageous for someone suffering from anxiety disorders like auroraphobia too. This is due to the numerous amount of coping skills you can expect to learn in a DBT group. These groups typically last about 6 months long and can have anywhere from two people to several people depending on how many join the group.
One very effective DBT skill for helping someone with auroraphobia is half-smiling. This technique works by having you think about that which you fear or upsets you all while slightly raising the corners of your mouth by lightly smiling, thus the term “half-smiling.” Although, it isn’t enough to just think about your fear while half-smiling, you also have to try and refrain from entertaining those painful emotions that your specific fear may evoke.
Mindfulness meditation is also heavily used in DBT and can greatly benefit someone with auroraphobia as it is done in a group setting, which helps to put the patient out of their comfort zone. These group mindfulness practices may include drinking warm tea to hone in on the sense of taste and tactile senses or simply focusing on the breath.
Coping ahead is another very useful DBT skill that can help someone with auroraphobia. With coping ahead, you will want to find a place where you can sit down quietly without distraction. Close your eyes and then think about the many different possible scenarios where you would face your specific fear and overcome it or cope with it. Doing so will help you to be much better adept at coping with your auroraphobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.