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Astraphobia (Fear of Thunder and Lightning) : Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

Last Updated: Dec 21, 2020

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What is Astraphobia

Astraphobia is a fear of thunderstorms and lightning. It is also referred to as astrapophobia, brontophobia, keraunophobia, or tonitrophobiaIn many cases, this is treatable; children with astraphobia, get over it as the time passes. Not to mention, adults who didn’t have this as children, can also manifest it over time. Astraphobia can also be seen in the animals.

Normally this is triggered under bad weather conditions especially with thunderstorms or lightning. In many cases, people start feeling anxious or panicked, even if they realise that the danger is minimal. People suffering from astraphobia tend to check the weather report on a daily basis just to avoid any encounter with bad weather.

Astraphobia in Childrens

It is extremely common in children and should not be recognized as a phobia. Try to soothe your child’s fear by staying calm yourself. If you get scared of storms, your child will pick up your nervousness. Use a combination of reassurance and distraction to help your child to cope up. Plan a rainy day routine with your children, this can help the child.

If the fear is inconsolable and severe or if it lasts longer than 6 months, seek treatment. Over time, a child’s fears of storms could become difficult to treat phobia in adulthood.

Symptoms of Astraphobia

A person with astraphobia may experience the feeling of panic before and after the storm. The panic can escalate depending on the intensity of the weather.

Apart from that, this phobia can cause these symptoms as well:

  • Panic Attack
  • Nausea
  • Chest Pain
  • Numbness
  • Trouble Breathing
  • Holding objects during the storm
  • Sweaty palms
  • Faster heartbeat
  • Non-stop crying (seen in children)
  • Obsession with monitoring of the storm

Individuals with this condition may also tend to hide under the sheets, under the bed or in the closet, to prevent their encounter from lightning and thunder.

Risk Factors Causing Astraphobia

Some people may be at high risk of this phobia. Being a child can be a risk factor as storms can especially be scary for kids, but grow out of these feelings as they age.

Anxiety is also common among the kids with autism. This may make them feel discomfort, both before or during a storm. Some children with autism and sensory processing disorders, such as auditory processing disorder, may have a harder time controlling their emotions due to storms because they are sensitive to sound.

Anxiety disorder often runs in families and may have genetic links. Person with a family history of anxiety, or depression may be at a greater risk for astraphobia. Experiencing weather related trauma can also be a risk factor.


Causes of Astraphobia

Psychiatrists believe that this condition can also be attributed to the evolution of humans and their response to the natural environment. The following could be possible causes to the astraphobia:

  • People who underwent a traumatic experience with thunderstorms and lightning, tend to develop astraphobia.
  • If a person witnessed someone getting hurt by thunder or lightning in the past then that incident can eventually contribute to the development of astraphobia.
  • People who are usually more sensitive and inclined towards the fears and anxiety are more likely to be astraphobic.
  • Apart from that, children with autism, with their issues of sensory processing, they’re more sensitive to sound and hence they develop astraphobia easier than a normal person.
  • Anxiety disorders can also be genetic. It runs in the families and sometimes there can be a genetic link to it. People with a family history of chronic depression or phobia, are more likely to become astraphobic than a normal person.

Diagnosis of Astraphobia

There is no particular diagnosis for this condition. An individual should seek the doctor’s help if the phobia goes over 6 months. The doctor or therapist can help them by making the diagnosis according to their explanation of the situations.

Based on their explanation on how they felt or reacted during the storm, the doctor concludes whether or not the person has a condition of astraphobia.

Also, the specialists are bound to play out a couple of assessments to preclude any clinical reason for the symptoms. Your doctor might also compare your symptoms to a list of criteria to decide whether you have this phobia.

Treatment for Astraphobia

Phobias do not always require treatment. But as mentioned earlier if Astraphobia lasts longer than 6 months or interferes with your life. Then you’re supposed to get expert advice from a therapist. Your doctor might use these techniques to treat you:

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)

CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is more likely to work with this condition as it makes you get rid of your negative thoughts subconsciously by refraining it using the conscious perspective first. CBT is a form of psychotherapy. The purpose of this therapy is to target the specific issue on the individual level. During CBT, rational thoughts are put forward to dominate the fear or phobia.

Dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT)

This approach is nothing but the well-thought combination of CBT with medication and a few other techniques to get rid of the stress. In DBT an individual is treated to not only reduce anxiety but to regulate the emotions towards the phobia.

Exposure therapy:Exposure therapy is also a form of CBT. In this type of therapy, the person is exposed to the things that frighten them in a controlled environment. The goal of the therapy is to reduce the fear gradually by putting them through it from time to time.

For example: Let’s say you have got a fear of heights, you’re more likely to be put through the heights under supervision or in a controlled setting.

Anti-Anxiety Medicines:Your doctor may prescribe you some anti-anxiety medicines. These medicines will help you during and after the storm. Medication is not a cure to this phobia, these are just to help with the conditions.

How to Overcome the Fear of Thunder and Lightning?

The techniques that are used to manage the stress, can also be used in this situation to help you with the phobia-related anxiety. For example, one can do daily meditation to help themself with the phobia by eliminating/reducing the stress. Apart from that one can try these:

  • Stress Exercises
  • Try to face the fear of the smaller scale
  • Talk to people
  • Seek help from a therapist

Additional Information on Astraphobia

Here are a few things that can also be useful for you:

  1. Astraphobia is derived from the Greek word astrape that means lightning and phobos means fear.
  2. Astraphobia can affect your life negatively if it’s there for a long period, but it is curable in both animals and humans.
  3. In the same way as other different phobias out there, Astaphobia is likewise not authoritatively perceived by the American Psychiatric Association as a particular psychiatric condition.

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Written ByDrx Hina FirdousPhD (Pharmacology) Pursuing, M.Pharma (Pharmacology), B.Pharma - Certificate in Nutrition and Child CarePharmacology
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Reviewed ByDr. Bhupindera Jaswant SinghMD - Consultant PhysicianGeneral Physician
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