Astraphobia is the irrational fear of thunder and lightening. This is a specific phobia that tops the list of the most common phobias that people have. You may also hear it referred to as Astrapophobia, Brontophobia, Keraunophobia, and Tonitrophobia.
It’s estimated that about ten percent of the American population suffers from this specific weather phobia. Animals, like dogs and cats, typically experience this phobia also.
A person suffering from Astraphobia will experience a high level of anxiety when it is storming outside. Some may even experience a full blown panic attacks. These symptoms include:
- Rapid Heart Rate
- Difficulty Breathing
- Impeding Sense of Doom or Death
For most sufferers this condition is worse when they are left alone. Typically in the presence of other people sufferers are able to find reassurance in the stormy situation. But when left alone sufferers tend to panic.
Staying inside of your house or under a roof is not enough cover form most people with this condition. They tend to seek extra security hiding under a bed, in a closet, the basement, or any other space where they feel safer. As an extra measure many sufferers will turn up the radio, put on headphones, or blare the television to drown out the noise created by thunder and lightening.
Sufferers tend to pay very close attention to the weather forecast. They constantly look at the weather channel and updates. Some severe sufferers will actually avoid going outside until they check the forecast to ensure there is no possibility of a storm coming so they don’t get stuck outside in it.
There are a couple of different reasons you may have developed this fear of stormy weather. Let’s take a closer look at each.
Many people that suffer from this fear of thunder and lightening have experienced a traumatic event in the past that involved the rain, lightening, or thunder. Each person’s experience varies greatly. It could be that lightening struck something that was important to the person. A car accident in the storm that killed a family member. Or anything alike.
For some sufferers their fear of stormy weather may be due to what they have been told, and not anything specific they experienced with the weather. Reading informative books about traumatic events that happened due to thunder and lightening, watching films that depict this type of weather as scary or bad, and even parental cues of parents having Astraphobia and passing on the fear to their children. All of these informational stimuli can cause a person to develop this fear of thunder and lightening, even though the fear has not personally affected them.
There are a few common means to dealing with phobias. Let’s take a look at your different options.
In Vivo Therapy
This is one of the most effective forms of treatment performed by a therapist. In dealing with Astraphobia your licensed therapist will expose you to images and videos of thunder and lightening. This method uses repeat exposure to desensitize your anxiety towards your fear. They typically do exposure in steps.
For example, your therapist may show you images of lightening. Next they may play the noise of thunder and lightening. Last, they may bring in a video or expose you to a storm going on outside. With every different level of exposure you become more familiar with your fear as your therapists shows you that there is nothing to fear. This helps to reprogram the way your brain reacts to this fear.
Systematic Desensitization Therapy
In this type of desensitization your therapist will teach you relaxation techniques to deal with your phobia. This session typically starts out with your therapists having you imagine the situation of lightening and thunder. They will ask you questions and take notes as what where your phobia developed from.
When your anxiety level starts to get high, they will coach you through relaxing and deep breathing. This is repeated through many different sessions until you are able to be imaginatively exposed to your fear without getting anxious. By using your own relaxation and breathing techniques you can better control your body’s reaction to thunder and lightening.
There are numerous self-help programs out there for phobia sufferers. As most phobia are similar in the way the develop and how to overcome them, one program may be helpful a treating a variety of different phobias.
If you are not comfortable speaking about your Astraphobia, this may be the best course of treatment for you. By following a step-by-step guide on the steps you need to take to overcome your phobia you can successfully cure yourself.