Ombrophobia or Pluviophobia is the fear of rain- a fairly common anxiety disorder seen in kids and adults alike. The term Ombrophobia originates from Greek ‘Ombros’ meaning “storm of rain” and phobos meaning “fear or aversion”. The term Ombrophobia has even been used to describe certain species of plants called Ombrophobes and ombrophiles which have their root systems developed in a way that enables them to take up water directly from the atmospheric precipitation.
Typically, younger children are known to suffer more from Ombrophobia than adults. Some might fear very heavy rain that accompanies storm-like conditions (heavy winds, thunder and lightning), still others might be afraid of even a little light rain or drizzle.
Thus; the fear of rain might be accompanied by several different phobias like the fear of lightning and thunder (Astraphobia), fear of fog (Homichlophobia) or the fear of flooding (Antlophobia) and fear of drowning (Aquaphobia).
Causes of Ombrophobia
Rain is essential for growth of crops, replenishing our fresh water sources and in general, sustaining life on earth. In moderate quantities, rain is good and sometimes even evokes feelings of romance. Many love songs have been inspired by this natural element.
However, with the arrival of rain, storm-like conditions also occur. It typically gets dark as thundering clouds gather overhead, blocking the sunlight. Rain is often accompanied by lightning, thunder and flooding. Heavy rains are known to cause harm to life and property through landslides, building collapses, major power failures etc. All these negative experiences can cause one to fear rain, particularly after having directly experienced them firsthand. In the Amazon region, it rains nearly 80 inches on an average. This leads to thick forest growth that is home to reptiles and other dangerous predators. Many people living in such areas could be afraid of rain owing to these factors.
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The expression, “it is raining cats and dogs” has often been used to describe very heavy rains. In reality, many cases of actual frogs and toads, (even fish) raining down on people have occurred in some areas. Early nineteenth century has seen “Frog and toad” storms in areas like Sheffield, England and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Such “amphibian rains” occur when weather conditions and heavy winds literally lift the frogs up to dump them in other areas. Movies, TV shows showing this scientific phenomenon can aggravate the fear in anxious minded people.
Rains often lead to viral diseases or the spread of bacteria. Nosophobic individuals (people who fear diseases or germs) could be afraid of rains because of this reason.
Extreme cases of acid rain have led to severe burns, causing the victims to have intense and lifelong fear of rain.
Thus, there are different causes of Ombrophobia and they vary from individual to individual.
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Symptoms of Ombrophobia / Pluviophobia
Like in any other phobia, Ombrophobia also produces a variety of symptoms that may vary from person to person. Children suffering from this phobia typically show following symptoms:
- Screaming, crying continually
- Shaking uncontrollably and begging to be taken home
- Asking questions like “will we get flooded out”?
- Looking at the sky constantly to monitor rains
- Refusing to go outdoors when it rains
Adults with this phobia might
- Have an elevated heartbeat
- Display heightened anxiety or have a full blown panic attack
- Continually monitor the weather forecasts to see if rain is predicted
- Tremble, shake, or feel like running away or hiding etc. Some other symptoms of fear of rain phobia include thoughts about death, being incoherent, or being unable to express oneself, feeling numb etc.
Naturally, these symptoms can affect the day-to-day lives of the sufferers especially in places where it rains frequently. The phobics also tend to become socially withdrawn or depressed.
Fortunately, there are ways of overcoming this phobia.
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Treating and overcoming the fear of rain
Children with this phobia generally tend to outgrow it once they are more mature. However, parents should encourage them to talk about their fears as this can help one get over the anxiety. Talking to the school nurse or teacher can also help parents cope with this problem, especially when the child is showing extreme anxiety or having a crying fit each time it rains or floods.
Pluviophobes or adults with rain phobia could undergo exposure therapy that involves exposing oneself to mild rain in order to relearn ways of overcoming their anxiety response. Gradually, through controlled deep breathing, one can overcome the Ombrophobia once and for all. Other therapies like counseling, Hypnotherapy and CBT/cognitive behavior therapies can also help one overcome the fear of rain.