Barophobia (Fear of Gravity)
Barophobia is the irrational fear of gravity. Someone suffering from this condition may find the mere thought of gravity to be extremely anxiety provoking, let alone actually experiencing it firsthand. Someone with barophobia may be overly cautious about falling or dropping things to the point to where they will be afraid to do certain things or go to certain places. This would all be due to their intense irrational fear of gravity.
People who suffer from phobias typically avoid that which they fear as best they can. For example, someone who suffers from spacephobia (fear of outer space) may avoid any piece of literature which may have something to do with space or something that may remind them of our complex and vast universe. With this being said, someone with barophobia may have a challenging time with avoiding gravity for the obvious reason that it cannot be avoided, at least not on our planet (excluding artificially constructed zero-gravity environments).
So, due to the fact that it will be virtually impossible for someone with barophobia to actually avoid gravity, their day to day life may be quite challenging due to the amount of anxiety they will experience as a result of their intense fear of gravity. In some extreme cases, they may even experience a full blown panic attack due to their barophobia which may leave them hospitalized.
Symptoms of Barophobia
As is the case with virtually every other phobia that exists, anxiety will be one of the main symptoms experienced with barophobia. Their anxiety may motivate them to not go to certain places or do certain things. This would all be an attempt for them to try and avoid gravity in some capacity. Also, as previously mentioned, their anxiety may be so intrusive that they may even experience full blown panic attacks as a result of their barophobia.
Due to the nature of barophobia, it may also not be uncommon for someone with this condition to also suffer from apeirophobia (fear of infinity) or spacephobia (fear of outer space) seeing as how all three of these phobias are somewhat related insofar as they all share the common trait of dealing with outer space in some capacity. However, this is not to say that someone suffering from barophobia will also suffer from additional phobias too as this will vary from person to person.
Below, you will see some more common symptoms of barophobia:
Anxiety when thinking of gravity
Anxiety when actively resisting gravity
Unable to cope with their anxiety
Muscle tension, shakiness, and sweating
May experience panic attacks
Causes of Barophobia
There is no known cause of barophobia. Nevertheless, genetics and one’s environment may both play very significant roles in the development of this condition. For example, if someone were to have a family history of mental illness, then they may have a higher chance of developing barophobia. This may be due to them also having an increased chance of having a genetic predisposition to develop mental illness in general.
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 barophobia. For example, someone may develop barophobia after violently falling down a flight of stairs or some other traumatic experience that involved the individual falling down in some way.
In the forgoing example, the person who fell down the stairs may blame the Earth’s gravitational pull for their suffering as they plummeted down the stairs, injuring themselves along the way down. Although this is completely illogical, it is important to note that all anxiety disorders bring with them many unreasonable beliefs.
Although we do not know the exact cause of barophobia, the consensus among most mental health professionals is that both genetics and one’s environment may play very significant roles in the development of any given mental disorder. With this being said, it may be beneficial for you to take a look at these two different parameters in your life to see if you may be at risk for developing barophobia.
Barophobia Treatments (abridged)
Just as there are no known causes of barophobia, there are also no forms of treatment that are specifically designed to treat this condition either. Be that as it may, there are indeed several treatments which may be very effective at improving some of the symptoms of barophobia, such as exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and some psychiatric medications.
Exposure therapy is one of the most common forms of treatment for people suffering from phobias. With regards to barophobia, the therapist may expose the patient to their fear of gravity by having them watch videos of satellites in space or of objects falling due to the effects of gravity. Although such video’s may not sound very anxiety provoking, for someone suffering from barophobia, being exposed to such footage may be extremely dreadful. The therapist may also simply drop objects while the patient watches or have the patient drop objects during their session as well, such as a pen, for example.
CBT is another very effective form of treatment for people suffering from anxiety disorders. Upon engaging in CBT, the patient can expect to learn why it is that they think and feel the way they do about gravity. Such knowledge is usually not explored in the mind of someone suffering from an anxiety disorder as they will typically not want to dwell on things that they fear.
If you think you may have barophobia or if you are suffering from some of the symptoms described in this article, then you should talk to your doctor as soon as you can so that you can be properly diagnosed and treated. Upon seeing your doctor, you may then be referred to see a mental health professional such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist for further treatment. Regardless of which healthcare professional you see, it may be in your best interest to have a list of questions with you that you would like to ask them so they can help to clear up any misconceptions you may have surrounding your symptoms.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Barophobia
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 barophobia 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 barophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with barophobia 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 barophobia engaging in CBT can also expect to learn various other skills aimed at helping to relieve the anxiety caused by their condition.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Barophobia
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 barophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with barophobia 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 barophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.
Meditation for Barophobia
There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from barophobia. 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 barophobia 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 barophobia 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 barophobia, 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 barophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.
Exposure Therapy for Barophobia
As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as barophobia. 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 barophobia 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 barophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their barophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with barophobia 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.
Exercise for Barophobia
Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including barophobia. 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 barophobia 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 barophobia, 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 barophobia over time.
Yoga for Barophobia
There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from barophobia. 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 barophobia 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 barophobia 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 barophobia.
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 barophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.
Reducing Caffeine for Barophobia
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 barophobia 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 barophobia.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Barophobia
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 barophobia 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 barophobia 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 barophobia 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 barophobia. 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 barophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.
Psychiatric Medications for Barophobia
These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe barophobia 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 barophobia 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 barophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of barophobia.
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 barophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.