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Why a solar eclipse can cause anxiety

Millions will gather outside to watch the solar eclipse, but a doctor says the event can cause issues with a person's amygdala.
Doctor warns April 8 solar eclipse can cause anxiety
Posted at 9:30 AM, Apr 05, 2024

The April 8 solar eclipse should be a joyous wonder for many, but a doctor is warning that the event can cause anxiety among some. 

There are multiple reasons eclipses can cause anxiety, Dr. Susan Albers, a psychologist for the Cleveland Clinic, said. 

“Our brains have a built-in alarm system called the amygdala, and when there is anything out of the ordinary in our environment, it clicks into hyperdrive and becomes aware of everything that is going on and triggers a fight or flight response, which may make you feel a little nervous,” said Albers.

The other issue is that many will gather in crowded areas to view the solar eclipse. For some, large crowds can cause anxiety. 

Albers recommended that people take deep breaths if feeling anxious. She also recommended trying to find a safe, comfortable spot to watch the eclipse to avoid anxiety. 

“There are many people who are going to be in group environments, and this can often trigger a lot of anxiety or increase the emotional response,” said Albers. “So be prepared if you are in a large group of people that there could be a heightened sense of emotion.”

SEE MORE: 30% unaware solar eclipses can cause eye damage, survey finds

Those who've chased eclipses describe how out-of-this-world the experience can be. 

"The hair on the back of my neck extends up," said Douglas Duncan, emeritus faculty member in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder. "It gets cold, gets really cold. And then the people around me do all kinds of strange things. Some start to cry; some start to applaud; some start to cheer, but everybody does something. So it's quite a profound experience, and you have a challenge. All my career is to describe the indescribable as best you can."

He said some of those who he has viewed eclipses with have brought pillows to lie on the ground to relax while enjoying the event.

While only a 100-mile swath of the U.S. from Texas to Maine will see the total solar eclipse, the entire contiguous U.S. can view a partial eclipse with proper glasses, assuming cloud cover doesn't block the view.

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