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Astraphobia

Fear of Thunder and Lightning

By

Updated April 30, 2011

Storms are natural phenomena that tend to inspire strong emotions in both humans and animals. Some love to watch them, sitting in the doorway or by the window as the thunder and lightning crash all around. Some even choose to go outside, taking what many would consider an unhealthy risk in order to play in the rain. At the opposite extreme, both humans and animals may develop astraphobia, or a fear of thunder and lightning.

Symptoms of Astraphobia

Astraphobia can cause some symptoms that are similar to those of other phobias, as well as some that are unique. Sweating, shaking and crying may occur during a thunderstorm or even just before one begins. You may seek constant reassurance during the storm. Symptoms are often heightened when you are alone.

Additionally, many people with astraphobia seek shelter beyond normal protection from the storm. For example, you may hide under the covers or even under the bed. You may go to the basement, an inside room (such as a bathroom) or even a closet. You may close the curtains and attempt to block out the sounds of the storm.

Another fairly common symptom is obsession with weather forecasts. You may find yourself glued to the Weather Channel during the rainy season or tracking storms online. You may develop an inability to go about activities outside your home without first checking the weather reports. In extreme cases, astraphobia can eventually lead to agoraphobia, or fear of leaving your home.

Astraphobia in Children

Astraphobia is extremely common in children and should not be immediately recognized as a phobia. Since fears are a normal part of development, phobias are not diagnosed in children unless they persist for six months or more.

Try to soothe your child’s fears by remaining calm yourself. If you are scared of storms, your child will pick up on your nervousness. Use a combination of reassurance and distraction to help your child cope. Some parents find that a planned rainy day routine, such as popcorn and movies or board games, can help by giving the child something to look forward to.

Of course, if the fear is severe and inconsolable, or if it lasts longer than six months, it is important to seek treatment. Over time, a child’s fear of storms could become a full-blown, difficult-to-treat phobia in adulthood.

Treatment of Astraphobia

Cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques are often used in astraphobia treatment. You may be taught soothing messages to repeat during storms, replacing your negative self-talk. You may be taught visualization exercises that you can use to calm your fears.

Astraphobia is treatable, so it is important to consult with a mental health professional as soon as possible. For information on what to expect from therapy, see Talk Therapy: An Overview.

Source:

American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th Ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

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