Some people actually enjoy adverse weather conditions consisting of rain, lightning or thunder. Some even take great risks to study hurricanes and storm patterns while others simply love to experience rain firsthand, every now and then.
In other cases though, animals and humans alike can develop an extreme fear of thunder, lightning or rainstorms. Such irrational fear of thunder or lightning is known by several names such as Astraphobia, Brontophobia, Tonitrophobia etc.
Causes of Astraphobia
Extremely common in children, most cases of excessive fear of thunder or lightning gradually diminish over the years. However, many adults are known to suffer excessively from Astraphobia mainly due to a prior traumatic event associated with such adverse weather.
- In many cases of Astraphobia, the sufferer is known to have experienced an electric shock when there is lightning and thunder outside. This leads to a fear of storms which persists through adulthood.
- Many a phobic is also known to fear flooding which usually results from heavy rain. Such a person might have been negatively impacted by floods, lost a dear one or has had property damaged by it.
- People who are generally categorized as ‘high strung’ or ‘nervous’ and as having ‘general tendency towards fear and anxiety’ are more likely to develop an excessive fear of thunderstorms, lightning etc.
Symptoms of fear of thunder and lightning
An individual suffering from this phobia will constantly watch the weather channel to ensure all is fine with the weather. S/he might also install lightning rods on buildings for protection. In event of an adverse weather forecast, the Astraphobic might panic and experience severe anxiety. A variety of psychological and physical symptoms might be present including:
- Fainting/passing out for hours
- Sweating, trembling and shaking
- Rapid heart rate, shallow breathing
- Gasping, feeling like being choked
- Hiding in basement, bathroom, closet
- Constantly watching out for signs of storm, gluing oneself to the TV set particularly to the weather channel
- Crying or seeking constant assurance during a storm
- Closing windows, doors and curtains and trying to block out sounds of the storm.
- Nausea, vomiting and gastrointestinal distress
- Freezing, refusing to move from the place due to the fear of thunder/lightning striking him.
- Having thoughts of death
Astraphobia can sometimes lead to Agoraphobia where the individual refuses to leave his home on account of his fear of lightning and thunder.
Diagnosis and treatment for fear of thunder/lightning phobia
Diagnosing Astraphobia requires psychiatric evaluation along with written tests. These tests generally require the sufferer to write down answers to a series of questions related to his/her fears which help the expert reach a conclusion about the phobia.
A combination of medications and psychotherapy can help treat Astraphobia. However, many a phobic has seen good results with self help techniques. These include deep breathing, positive visualizations, meditation and gradual exposure to thunder/lightning etc.
Having a pet or a friend along at the time of thunderstorms is also known to help individuals cope with anxiety experienced during the thunderstorms. Most Astraphobics also feel safer in larger buildings such as schools, libraries etc rather than in their own homes.
In case of Astraphobia in young children, it is important that parents soothe their child’s fear by remaining calm themselves. Reassurance and distraction in the form of stories, jokes or music etc can also help calm a child and ease its fear of lightning or thunder. That being said, if the fear has not eased after several months, parents must seek immediate treatment to prevent it from developing into a full blown phobia of thunderstorms.
Psychotherapy in the form of desensitization, cognitive behavior therapy and virtual reality simulations etc are a few effective techniques that are proven beneficial in treating Astraphobia.
It makes me feel a lot better to know I am not alone in this! Ever since I was a little kid and got locked out of the house during a thunderstorm, I have had a severe fear of storms – both the thunder and the lightning. The thunder because it is usually followed by lightning. I have been known to leave work early (using my vacation time) to avoid going home during a predicted storm. When I am home during a storm, I turn the TV off. I feel bad for my poor cat. She hides under the bed during storms. I hope I didn’t cause this.
Louise Cave says
Hello. I am almost 40 years of age and from England. I have been phobic of loud sudden noises since I was a baby. Even some baby toys that make a squeak apparently I’d scream till I was blue. My parents just probably thought it was a phase but ended up making me feel bad like I’d ruined some special occasions (anything that had fireworks involved or balloons or if there was thunder) and totally controlling my pattern of life. They kept taking me to things in the hopes that I’d grow out of it. Screaming each time and running away EVERY single time. Then I’d get the “oh you’ve ruined this for us all” so double negative as I felt awful for me having to be taken home meaning someone missed out on whatever the occasion. Only upon reflection as in the moment I just feel like I’m going to die, nothing else matters I just bolt to safety. I unfortunately didn’t get the help that may have saved me. I have tried CBT, Exposure Therapy AND Hypnotherapy to no avail. I control my behaviour all year round to avoid things. I have legitimately took solace and hid in cupboards underneath stairs with headphones on when it’s storming or when idiots decide that fireworks are not just for the main celebration or occasions. It ruins EVERY New Year’s Eve, I get really agoraphobic by the time October is here (England) because that’s when the fireworks start and literally don’t quiet down until well after the New year has set in. Then I contend with spring/summer with thunderstorms. I have massive panic attacks, I’ve passed out a few times before from shaking so badly I feel like I have a gun on my head and chest each time a firework explodes or a clap of thunder happens. It’s so embarrassing because even though my nearest and dearest know, they don’t and won’t ever know how to handle the episodes. Some I’ve caught laughing behind my back which hurts but I feel like I am going to die. It stops me from even just a short walk to the shops in winter and even won’t go out for a cigarette. If someone stood outside my front door with a cheque for £10000000000000000 with my name written on it, I don’t think I could even muster the power to take one step outside. I am having palpitations just thinking about it. I get really annoyed by people saying trite things such as “fireworks/ thunder won’t hurt you” or “I’m not a fan of the sound of fireworks/thunder either” etc. I don’t just have a slight aversion. It’s not a quick jump out of my skin moment and then I’m okay. I literally melt down and I’ve dropped food and passed out because I’m so scared. I try and be in the most central part of a house. In one place I lived there was a shared bathroom as it has no windows (ideal because if I see a lighting strike or a firework exploding I anticipate the bang afterwards). I literally only came out to let my house mates shower and bathe, I set up camp in there. I tried to expose myself to fireworks once in my teenager years and went trick or treating with mates. Some older school kids were walking around and targeting younger kids by throwing ignited fireworks at them. This reinforced my phobia even more. I would have a world record for how fast I ran home. I dropped all of my treats and ran like a bomb had gone off. I was ridiculed. I have many other instances where I’ve been exposed to exploding sounds and each time it’s just set my phobias even deeper. I also on an empathic level despise seeing how traumatised domestic pets are affected and wild animals (horses that have tried to bolt when in a wired fence area), dogs that are usually happy go lucky, wonderful, playful spirits go to shaking, quaking, won’t eat, won’t drink, don’t want to be outside or out from under chairs or enclosed areas. Barking out of distress, hair loss messes. In addition anyone who may suffer from PTSD in a veteran sense the sheer anxiety and stress that this can cause someone who suffers. The human race is a disgrace to allow this totally unnecessary damage to be reinforced and repeated on a yearly basis (just fireworks related). Sorry for the rant there lol. I wish you all peaceful times. It’s interesting reading of other’s experiences and seeing what part of the globe you are all from. It’s nice to know that there are people that truly understand what you feel. Be strong and kind to yourself. Do what makes you feel comfortable don’t care what anyone thinks or says to you. It’s not hurting them or any other thing around them. This is your phobia and you need support not negative behaviors or mocking. I understand you. Peace.
I’ve always been afraid of thunderstorms, yet I find myself fascinated by them. I enjoy watching severe storms on the tube and I’ve spent many hours watching Weather Network. However, when faced with a storm in real life, I panic.
As a child, lightning didn’t phase me at all, I would stand by the window watching it. As an adult, I had too many close calls. Lightning struck my work van. Lightning struck a river half a kilometer of where we were swimming. Lightning struck my backyard only meters from the house where I was sleeping with the window open. The last, only recently, lightning struck a metallic outside staircase while we were on it. Luckily the stairs themselves were properly isolated. So yeah, now I check all the boxes for astraphobia.
I have astraphobia for two reasons. I once had a panic attack in public because there was a Storm happening. The thing is I was with some schoolmates of mine and they saw me have this. My second reason is when i was coming home during a Storm, lightning striked right by us. I was crying and everything. I’m kinda getting over it, but if I’m getting scared I play music and that helps a lot.
I am 22, not scared of anything, but thunder or lightning I’m scared of. I need to get rid of this phobia.
I’m 13 and i do shake a lot and i cant breath and i do have anxiety. As well i got scared ever since there was this HUGE hail storm, when i was about 8 and we were in the car, we were going home but we stopped in a gas station cause it almost broke our window but luckily no and it was so hard.
I even shut my eyes, i was shaking, covering my ears while my dad telling me to stop doing that and he told me its okay (you know trying to calm me but i couldn’t and i started to cry and i wanted to vomit so bad, my stomach felt sick).
Then it stopped and i was still shaking and scared and you know what they said: “Do you wanna go eat?” and I’m like REALLY, and at the end i just said i wanted to go home, straight. Cause i was scared it would happen again.
Finally someone my age with the same fear. I get storms at my house all the time and it just hurts because my family doesn’t understand that I can’t calm down. Never in my life have I met someone who has this too. I’ve always just been the crazy paranoid person.
I’m okay with thunder as long as I am at home, but ever since I almost died in a hurricane I have been extremely scared whenever I am outside if the sky is gray and strong wind is blowing. It doesn’t even have to be that strong, just a bit stronger than normal and I am already close to a panic attack… It can be extremely hard to deal with, especially considering storms and hurricanes aren’t that uncommon in my country…
I don’t have anything wrong dealing with thunder and lightning, I’m fine with it. I was a school student at the time I typed this comment.
Gosh.. I thought I’m the only in the world who freaks out whenever there’s lightning or thunder. Thanks for making me feel that i’m not alone guys :D lol
Thank you for this Jacob (Y)
When I was a teenager there was a really bad storm happening, I didn’t take a shower all day so I decided to do it when it was bad out. About 10 minutes in I probably heard the LOUDEST noise I have ever heard in my life, sheer crackling lightning bolt bent inward into my porch and shattered my moms glass ashtray into pieces. My ears were really hurting and I couldn’t believe how loud it was it definitely had me shaking for quite a few minutes.
I quickly dry up and get out the bathroom to find glass everywhere, luckily nobody was on the porch when it happened. The bathroom was only a few feet away from the porch so pretty much there was a definite chance I could of been struck by lightning being soaked with water and probably died. Ever since then ive been terrified of thunder and lightning and from that point on I hide in a closet when a severe storm approaches. No type of therapy is going to cure me of this phobia when I had such a traumatic event happen to me
I have a terror of military jets. I am unable to move, my hands go into fists and I have been known to cry. I want to disappear or hide in a hole. Cant find any info on this but symptoms are similar to those on this site. Is there anyone else with these problems and how can I help myself to enjoy a planned holiday soon.
When I hear thunder I start getting nervous and get scared and start looking out the window.
I used to have an extremely intense phobia of anything related to thunderstorms. I would watch the weather reports keenly to find out if thunderstorms were heading where I live.
I would read books on the weather as a child, learning about the different types of clouds. I was always fascinated but weary of reading about cumulonimbus clouds which are the ones which usually produce thunderstorms. I would watch for those clouds with the trademark anvil top and dark looking base.
I live in the UK where the thunderstorms are relatively tame compared to the supercell storms in the USA which produce tornadoes.
Aside from the unpredictable nature of lightening flashes, and the ominous bass heavy rumbles of thunder, tornadoes (even though they rarely occur in the UK) represented the worst manifestation of a thunderstorm.
I grew out of my phobia in my early teens, and went to the other extreme of loving thunderstorms.
Now as a middle aged man, I want to go stormchasing as something to tick off my bucket list!
There is hope that you may naturally grow out of your fear!
Rayla T. says
I’m 18 years old and my phobia is kinda bad lol. I used to wake up out of my sleep in an instant and move my bed away from the window if I heard thunder. When it’s loud I just get so shaken up. I live in Oklahoma so it’s common to get thunderstorms here. My heart will have these waves of fear going on and my breathing will get very slow. I love reading about storms which is so irony lol
michael malone says
Hello I am 13 years old and have a little astraphobia. Is it ok if I quote you in my article/interview that I am writing?
While everyone that is afraid of thunder or lightning turn music on or turn fans on. I barely can’t handle if there’s any item that’s even remotely related to electricity. I would chuck my phone away instinctively and I would find a spot that doesn’t have any switch, lights or anything electrical devices. So I would always end up in the darkest spot, curled up and trying so hard to drown the noise by humming loudly.
I hope I grow out of this fear because it’s getting ridiculous, crying because of thunderstorm .
I know what it’s like buddy, I totally lose it, crying shaking, want to hide etc. I have had to tell my colleagues what helps me, in case of a storm while I am working.
Same with me
I can relate and im 13, i mostly sing or put music on or something.
Your website was really helpful.
This site is a huge help! I’ve learned all kinds of helpful info just for this one fear.
I was wondering it was okay for me to use some information for a story I am writing. I’m wanting a character of mine to have a fear of thunder and lightening, and the definition, sighs, causes, etc. I would get from here.
I would tell everyone in my author’s note that I got it from here, and link leave the web address for anyone that wants to come look.
I just wanted to know if that was okay. I have tons of readers, and it would be like my way of sharing. Again, this site has been very helpful so far; so many fears I didn’t even know about! Thank you. :)
Monte Cox says
Just talk to my wife. Every spring I want a divorce lol, almost impossible to live with. Fears storms and tornadoes. Hides in the bathroom. wont be left home alone, watches her cell phone for weather reports, then goes and peaks out the windows, then goes back and hides. Sometimes she cries. Wont take the kid to school. Won’t eat. Basically cant function and needs meds but won’t take them because medication won’t stop a tornado from hitting the house.
That’s my 12 year old she has the weather channel on her phone Constantly checking in don’t know what to do for her
Hi Linda, I sound just like your daughter lol. I have severe astraphobia and all I do is check the weather. In my opinion, no matter how annoying we get, just try to remain calm because if someone else is stressed it’ll make us worse. Another thing is we need help realizing we’ve been in bad storms before and we’ll be fine in this one. Monitoring the storm is just a way for us to make sure we are safe and know what’s going on. Sorry this reply is late, I hope your daughter is okay!
Amy schembri says
I have a serious problem. Im afraid of bad weather especially thunder and lightening. I pull down blinds and draw the curtains. I have the fan on even though its cold to try and eliminate the thunder. I feel sick, sometimes i vomit. When its such weather i feel afraid of the ceiling falling. I constantly watch the weather stations and i feel so afraid if its mentioned bad weather. Im more afraid if im alone in the house. Its making my life miserable and by the way i am 60 yrs old. Always been afraid but getting worse year after year.
I have severe astraphobia. I am seeing a psychologist and it is helping. A great tip is to stop checking the weather report. It has helped me so much. I’m a teenager by the way.
john davis says
Me too. I’m male and I’m 62 years old. Wish I could get rid of this phobia.
art freneire says
I’m Art, 15 years old… I get really nervous and I can’t seem to calm down whenever there is thunder also I just wanna hide somewhere quiet so I don’t hear it.. My friends are making fun of me having this phobia,, what should i do??
I have the exact same problem, I’m 14 and I feel like I’m going to have this phobia forever. I get shaky, turn on music, hiding etc. My Best friends know of my phobia but have never really seen it in action, just tell your friends that you can’t control it and just don’t worry about what they think. They shouldn’t make fun of you and should help you and calm you.
I don’t have a fear of lightning. Just thunder. Had it since I was about 4 and now I am 27 with 2 kids who are way braver than me when it comes to thunder. I’m hiding under blankets or anywhere that I feel safe, my heart races , I get nausea and I’m shaking. Its the worst. What should I do
Tristen Crow says
I had a traumatic experience about 1 year ago that gave me a deathly fear of storms of all kind (I actually wrote this post in my basement as a matter of fact) but other than hide in the basement I have no clue what to do
I would like to use your “Fear of Lightning & Thunder” article as a reference. When was it published?
Please check your email.
I’m 23 years old and I have a phobia of thunder and lightning whenever I hear about a thunderstorm I leave my TV on the Weather Channel just to see if everything is safe around me and then when it does hit I turn on my lights and I crank up my music to the highest volume, I don’t care if I go, I need to know, I need to be reassured that I will be safe.
I have this phobia but I’m not afraid of lightning, only thunder. What should I do?
Jenna Mitchell says
You and me both! Thunder sends me into full blown panic attacks. I have noise cancelling head phones and try and focus on breathing but I still haven’t found a way to cope through worse thunder storms. I’m sorry you have it too :( It’s terrible
Hi im in the uk, i had a bad experience about 15 yrs ago, since then ive gotten worse. I get very hot and sweaty constantly checking my phone, i have a thunder and lightening tracker on my phone, i black out my windows and shut all doors, i used to shut myself away in my bathroom, i have earphones in with music up full blast so i cant hear or see it. Luckily my children are fine with thunder and lightening, i have pets who arent bothered by it but having them and others who are calm dont help at all. I wont leave my house if its forecast either. I know after realising i may have a phobia of this i need to see if i can get help. Id much rather enjoy the spectacular seen in the skys rather than hide and be terrified.
Hi, Tina. I can completely relate to your post. I also very frequently check “Spark”, the lightning tracker from Weather Bug. My husband asks me why I check it so much and it doesn’t do any good to worry about it, but I tell him I feel better if I am prepared. I also go to a room with no windows ( the bathroom) and turn the music up. As far as driving during a storm…forget it. I am embarrassed that I still have this phobia at my age, which makes things worse, but it’s a relief that I am not the only adult in the world with a fear that people supposedly “grow out of”.
Lynne Kalil says
My Son is 34 years old and has a terrible phobia about thunder and lightening weather.
He was born in Johannesburg and they have regular storms in summer.
He is really desperate and I would like to find him the best help.
A couple of years ago he did go for Hypnotherapy but because there was nothing to test the results on it did not work.
I have a phobia of thunderstorms and wind.
Me too. I still have a fear of thunderstorms in general. Ever since I was, like, I don’t even know. I was like 4 or 5 when I developed that phobia.
I feel what your feeling
I have had Astrophobia since i was 10 and it has caused me to vomit, panic attacks, i even blacked out for 28 hours once when there was a tornado sighting but since the wind was blowing so hard it went way north east and i’ve been afraid ever since.