Astraphobia The Fear Of Thunderstorms Can Cause Profound Anxiety In Children And Adults
For most Americans, summer means vacation, baseball and trips to the beach. But for Barhynn Johnson, a D.C. area resident, the warm months are defined by her intense and sometimes debilitating fear of thunder and lightning.
When a storm is about to hit, and she whiffs the fresh smell of ozone and feels the barometric pressure drop, she gets a surge of adrenaline. Her heart races. Her mouth goes dry. Her breathing grows shallow, and tunnel vision sets in.
It feels not exactly like a panic attack, but like youre on the precipice of a panic attack. Youre in this heightened state of fear and impending doom, she said. Now your body is responding to that physiological response, and then it feels out of control. And that ends up cementing the fear in your mind.
Johnson suffers from astraphobia, a term which comes from the Greek word astrapí, meaning lightning. Also known as brontophobia, keraunophobia and tonitrophobia , astraphobia produces extreme fear, disproportionate to the actual risks of thunderstorms, that interferes with daily life. Research suggests that storm phobias, which also include fears of tornadoes, hurricanes and other weather phenomena, afflict 2 to 3 percent of people.
What Is A Phobia
Having a phobia means you are extremely afraid of a specific object, situation, or activity. Having a phobia about something is very different from everyday worry or stress. For example, most people feel worry and stress at some time, such as when speaking in front of a large group of people. People with phobias have so much fear that it’s hard to do normal activities, such as going to work.
Having a phobia includes feeling stressed about being near the object, being in the situation, or doing the activity. It also includes being afraid of the object, situation, or activity itself. People with phobias avoid what they are afraid of so they won’t feel worried and stressed.
There are different types of phobias:
- Natural environment phobias, such as being afraid of storms or lightning
- Animal phobias, such as being afraid of spiders or dogs
- Blood-injection-injury phobias, such as being afraid of blood or getting a shot
- Situational phobias, such as being afraid of flying, elevators , or bridges
- Other phobias, such as being afraid of choking or throwing up. Other phobias in children include being afraid of loud noises or characters in costumes, such as clowns.
Many people who have phobias also have another problem such as an anxiety disorder, depression, or substance use disorder.
Az List Of Some Of The More Common Phobias
While not comprehensive, this phobia list offers a glimpse of the many phobias that can have a serious impact on a person’s life. As you may notice while you browse through this list, most specific phobias fall into one of four major categories:
- Fears of the natural environment
- Fears related to animals
- Fear related to medical treatments or issues
- Fears related to specific situations
One important thing to remember is that virtually any object can become a fear object. The names of specific phobias are often formed as nonce words, or words coined for a single occasion only.
These names themselves are often formed by taking a Greek prefix that represents the fear object and adding the -phobia suffix. Because of this, any attempt at a completely exhaustive list of phobias would simply be an exercise in futility. Any list of phobias could grow with the addition of newly coined terms for previously unnamed specific phobias.
While listing all of the phobias that may exist is not possible, it can be helpful to look through a list of some of the more commonly described phobias. As you can see by looking at this list, almost any object or situation can become the source of fear.
Also Check: What Is The Fear Of Feet Phobia Called
Know How To Stay Safe
No matter how much you know about the science of storms, you still need to be inside when one is happening. Even the birds, squirrels, bunnies, and other outdoor creatures pick a safe spot to wait out a storm. Did you ever see birds zipping away to their nests when a storm’s coming? They don’t want to get all wet and neither do you.
Even more important, you don’t want to get struck by lightning. Lightning strikes where someone gets hurt by lightning are rare, but it’s the reason a lot of kids worry about storms. The good news is that you can learn rules to follow that keep you safe when lightning is flashing:
- Get out of the pool, lake, ocean, or any body of water. Water conducts electricity, meaning that electricity can travel through water.
- If you’re outside, seek shelter in a house or building. If there’s no house or building, wait out the storm in a car.
- If you’re outside and can’t get inside, don’t stand under or near large objects, like tall trees. Lightning is more likely to hit something tall.
- Plan ahead. Talk with your parents about what to do if you get caught in a storm. Also be aware of the weather forecast when you’ll be outdoors, such as on a camping trip. Then you’ll be ready with a plan for getting to shelter if a storm blows up.
Find A Top Private Astraphobia Treatment Program
The fear of thunder and lightning is common in childhood but when the fear persists into adulthood and causes serious psychological and physical symptoms like panic attacks, the issue becomes a disorder: astraphobia.
Is the fear of thunder and lightning driving you to distraction? Is it causing a problem in your life? If youre ready to take control of the symptoms that strike when storms hit, contact us at the phone number listed above today for more information on how we can help.
*When Does a Fear of Thunder and Lightning Turn Into an Astraphobia Diagnosis?
Most children will be scared of storms, thunder, lightning, loud noises a number of things. Its a natural and healthy part of development that allows them to create boundaries that keep them safe. However, when the fear is specific to thunder and lightning, characterized by panic attacks and severe symptoms, and lasts for more than six months, it can be termed astraphobia.
Don’t Miss: What Is The Meaning Of Phobia
How Are Phobias Diagnosed
To find out if you have a phobia, your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms, including how long you have had them. Your doctor will also do a physical examination and ask questions about your medical history. And he or she will ask questions about medicines you are taking. This information will help your doctor find out whether or not you have some other condition.
To be diagnosed with a phobia, you will probably have most of the following symptoms:
- You are more afraid than most people of a specific object, situation, or activity.
- You feel stressed or have a panic attack when you are near the object or situation.
- If you are a teenager or adult, you understand that the amount of fear you have about the object or situation is not reasonable.
- You avoid the object, situation, or activity that you are afraid of.
- The fear and stress that you feel make it hard for you to do normal activities such as going to work every day or doing grocery shopping.
- If you are under age 18, you have had symptoms for at least 6 months.
- Your symptoms don’t fit another problem, such as panic disorder.
Chionophobia Fear Of Snow
Individuals who suffer from chionophobia aren’t likely to be fond of winter or the season’s activities due to their fear of snow.
Oftentimes, their apprehension is a result of the dangerous situations snow can cause, more so than of snow itself. Hazardous driving conditions, being confined indoors, and being trapped by snow are some of the most common snow-related fears.
Other phobias involving wintry weather include pagophobia, the fear of ice or frost, and cryophobia, fear of cold.
Don’t Miss: What Is Phobia Mean
What You Can Do
Dont constantly look at weather apps. Checking the weather compulsively can make a person with astraphobia think they are keeping themselves safe, but it really fuels the anxiety, Dr. Hirsch says. Try limiting yourself to checking the weather in the morning so that you can dress accordingly, but resist hitting the weather app multiple times per day.
Get a referral to a mental health counselor who is trained in CBT. You may even want to have the therapist make a house visit during a storm so that you can practice your deep breathing and receive counseling during the actual storm.
Mental health apps and meditation apps;are also an easy and accessible option for dealing with astraphobia. There are apps that provide therapy sessions , apps that provide guided relaxation techniques, and apps that allow you to journal your fears.
Share with your loved ones that you have an irrational fear of thunder and lightning, and ask for their support. Talking out loud about your fears may help you begin to face them and informing your loved ones that your phobia is limiting you may help decrease additional anxiety you have about missing your loved ones events and gatherings.
It might feel like youll never get over this fear, especially if its something youve been dealing with since you were young, but opening up about your phobia and seeking treatment will help you get over your fear of thunder and lightning.
Natural Fear Vs Phobia
In children it can be difficult to discern between a phobic response and a natural fear, as children often are not familiar with aspects of the world around them and may be disturbed by things most adults rationally know to be harmless and therefore do not fear.
Children experience many fears as they are growing up and learning what is dangerous and what is not. Childrens fears can usually be eased temporarily by distractions during stormy weather, or by making the storm into a game .
However, if a childs intense fear of storms involves all of the symptoms described in the previous section , and lasts longer than six months, it may be considered a phobia and should be treated as such. If treated early on, astraphobia has less of a chance of developing into more severe disorders, such as agoraphobia, as time passes.
What about adults? Similar rules apply. Generally, when working out whether you have a phobia or whether this is normal fear, it can be helpful to consider the following questions: does my fear seem excessive, compared to most other people that I know?; and is my fear interfering with my ability to live a normal life?. If you answer yes to both of these questions and you meet the symptoms listed above, its likely that your fear is severe enough to be classified as a phobia.;
Read Also: Can Depression Make You Lose Your Appetite
Astraphobia: The Fear Of Thunder And Lightning
As a kid I remember burying my head underneath my pillow at night as a late-night Texas sized thunderstorm rumbled through my neighborhood. Now, as a meteorologist I’ve come to find the sound of thunder soothing and the flash of lightning never fails to fascinate me. But, for some who suffer from a type of phobia called astraphobia, the experience of a thunderstorm is anything but fascinating.
The fear of lightning and thunder IS a real phobia.
Astraphobia is the abnormal fear of lightning and thunder.
People with astraphobia will have extreme anxiety during a thunderstorm exhibiting symptoms like crying, trembling, sweating, nausea, and rapid heartbeat. Astraphobia sufferers may even hide under a bed or in a closet and will try things to drown out the sound of thunder like covering their ears. In extreme cases, some will not even leave their home if there is a chance of thunderstorms in the forecast.
Causes Of The Fear Of Vomiting Phobia
Psychologists believe that the fear of losing control triggers Emetophobia. Vomiting is often completely out of ones control. Here are common factors that can cause this phobia:
- Typically, during the flu season, children get upset seeing their friends or closed ones vomit uncontrollably. Also, they might have felt embarrassed about throwing up in school, or might have spent a long night being sick and nauseated. A negative experience of this sort is usually a trigger for Emetophobia.
- It usually begins in childhood, when one is low in life experiences or intelligence, as the brain or the subconscious mind attaches negative feelings to vomiting.
- In adults, over indulgence in food or alcohol or mixing two or more types of alcohol can lead to severe vomiting; the brain then learns to trigger the same response over and over, especially in case of nervous or over anxious people. It is a mechanism used by the mind to steer the individual away from such dangerous situations.
- High strung people who are already suffering from other anxiety disorders or social phobias are likelier to develop fear of vomiting phobia.
You May Like: How Does Schizophrenia Affect Families
Weather Aware: Helping Kids Overcome Fear
<p>It’s smart to have a healthy fear of the weather, but what do you do when your child breaks down every time there’s a storm coming?</p>
It’s smart to have a healthy fear of the weather, but what do you do when your child breaks down every time there’s a storm coming?
As we’ve just seen with the recent tornadoes, severe weather can be terrifying to adults, sometimes more so for children. That kind of fear can be debilitating. Its a feeling I know all too well.
Lilapsophobia is an abnormal fear of tornadoes or hurricanes. Lilapsophobia is a more severe type of astraphobia, which is a fear of thunder and lightning. Last year, I met a young lady who was paralyzed with fear at the mere thought of severe weather. For ten-year-old Hope Spohn, just the sound of thunder brought a whirlwind of emotion.
Hope’s parents tried everything to calm her down, but even a cloudy sky would cause a mass disturbance in her mind.
According to her dad, Tom, She was checking the weather all the time. It got to the point where it was almost disabling to her.
Weather Aware: Hope Spohn overcomes fear
With Hopes fears, her dad says they didn’t try to minimize her feelings. We stood with her during her fear and we walked through it together, says Tom. They also came up with a creative way to try to help Hope. Amy began to pray about it, says Tom, and she had this idea that came to her during that prayer that she should call Ben Jones.
Email us at
Storm Phobias In Dogs
In spring and summer in Texas we have a lot of thunderstorms and many dogs are very sensitive to these storms. Whether its the rain, wind, or thunder, some dogs can display extreme anxiety and are miserable during these storms. Some dogs tremble and cry while others may actually be destructive of property or even injure themselves during a storm. Although it may not be possible to totally remove all fear from these dogs during storms, it is possible to decrease the amount of fear and the dogs response. In the past, it has been common to tranquilize these dogs with a drug called acepromazine. This drug works well as a sedative, but animal behaviorists indicate that although the dogs are calmer, they still are anxious and upset as this drug does nothing to help their mental state.
Fear of thunderstorms is common in dogs, and tends to get worse as they age. It is partly genetic. While some aspects of this problem remain a mystery, we know a lot that can make life easier for thunderstorm-phobic dogs and their families. Best of all, you may be able to help your dog avoid developing this fear in the first place.
Prevention and Precautions
Why do dogs fear thunderstorms? Too many dogs are left outdoors during storms, sometimes with no shelter at all. Anyone would be scared with good reason. Keep your dog inside during storms.
Causes and Triggers
For the More Severe Cases
For Dogs Afraid of Thunderstorms
Recommended Reading: The Suffix Phobia Means
Are You Suffering From Anxiety
Take our 2-minute anxiety quiz to see if you may benefit from further diagnosis and treatment.
When people have had a traumatic experience linked to thunderstorms and lightning, they may be more prone to develop astraphobia. And if a person has witnessed someone getting hurt by thunder and lightning, this can contribute to the development of astraphobia. Those who are generally inclined toward anxiety and fear also may be more prone to develop this phobia.
Additionally, children with autism and those with sensory processing issues tend to develop astraphobia more frequently than other people because they are more sensitive to sound, Dr. Hirsch says.
How To Stop Storm Stress
Experiencing excessive stress due to storms can be embarrassing and awkward. However, there are ways that astraphobia can be controlled through exercises that you can do at home. To alleviate your fear of storms, you can:
If you practice positive thinking and relaxation techniques during storms frequently enough, your brain has more opportunities to learn that there is nothing to be afraid of, and you may find that your fear of storms has passed for good.
You can also try what’s known as “systematic desensitization,” which is a bit difficult with something like storms, but still an activity you can do yourself. It involves getting used to various components of storms until they don’t cause you fear. For example:
- First you think about storms on purpose until you don’t fear the thought.
- Then you look at photos of storms until you don’t fear the photos.
- Then you watch videos of storms until you don’t fear the videos.
- Then you play sounds from storms loudly for hours on end until you don’t fear the sounds.
Was this article helpful?
Read Also: What Are The Three Stages Of Schizophrenia