July 20, 2024

The Lake Tribune

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Eclipse Sickness: Unpacking the Phenomenon Following Today’s Solar Eclipse

2 min read

Young woman lying on bed (IStock Photo)

United States (The Lake Tribune) In the aftermath of today’s highly anticipated 2024 Total Solar Eclipse, which brought moments of daytime darkness across parts of the US, social media has been abuzz with discussions about an unusual condition referred to as “eclipse sickness.” Reports have surfaced from individuals experiencing an array of symptoms, from anxiety and headaches to other peculiar sensations, all attributed to the celestial event. But is there any scientific basis to these claims, or is this phenomenon more of a psychological response?

Understanding Eclipse Sickness

“Eclipse sickness” or “eclipse anxiety” describes a range of symptoms that some claim to experience in connection with solar eclipses. Proponents of the concept suggest that the sudden darkness and deviation from normal routines can trigger heightened feelings of fear, stress, and anxiety. Janet Patterson of Bridgehaven Mental Health Services notes an increase in patient symptoms or health service visits around celestial events, including eclipses, though such observations are largely anecdotal.

Contrary to these reports, NASA has categorically denied any direct physical link between solar eclipses and human health, emphasizing that correlations between health incidents and eclipses are incidental and lack scientific support.

Causes Behind Eclipse Anxiety

The anxiety experienced by some during an eclipse may stem from the disruption of familiar routines rather than the astronomical event itself. Amanda Gabehart, a Louisville resident, describes how deviations from the norm, such as those caused by large-scale events like a solar eclipse, can provoke a stress response, disrupting one’s sense of security.

Eclipse Anxiety Versus Other Anxiety Disorders

It’s important to distinguish eclipse anxiety from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and social anxiety disorder, both of which are recognized mental health conditions with established diagnostic criteria and treatment options. Eclipse anxiety, lacking a scientific foundation, is described as occurring specifically around the time of an eclipse.

Social Media’s Role

The proximity of the 2024 eclipse has seen a surge in online reports of “eclipse sickness,” with individuals sharing experiences of unusual symptoms they associate with the event. Experts caution against hastily linking these symptoms directly to the eclipse, suggesting that anticipation or anxiety about the event may play a significant role.

The Scientific Perspective

While a solar eclipse can disrupt normal light patterns and potentially affect circadian rhythms, there is no evidence to support the notion that it can induce stress, anxiety, or physical illness. The primary health concern related to eclipses is the risk of eye damage from viewing the sun without appropriate protection, not the nebulous concept of eclipse sickness.

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