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What Is Astraphobia?

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on April 22, 2021

Astraphobia, also known as brontophobia, is a kind of phobia characterized by an intense fear of extremely loud but natural noises in the environment. Namely, lightning and thunder. You have already seen astraphobia in action if you’ve seen a dog go running at the sound of thunder or a child quickly cover their ears in a sudden storm. Well, the condition can persist well into adulthood. 

People with astraphobia are terrified of the weather. They may watch anxiously for signs of bad weather, hide in areas of the home where they feel safe during a storm, or  experience severe stress in their heart rate and breathing until the storm passes. 

The Symptoms of Astraphobia

The signs of astraphobia are very similar to that of other anxiety disorders. These will often include things like: 

Conditions like astraphobia can be very debilitating and, since others often misunderstand them, can produce a sense of social isolation in the people who live with them. 

Diagnosing Astraphobia

Seeing a medical professional is one of the first things to do when you suspect you might have astraphobia. Although the causes of phobias aren’t well understood, the doctor may perform a full physical evaluation to make sure there’s not some underlying health problem behind the condition. 

People with phobias or anxiety disorders are often referred to psychiatrists for help, and psychotherapy is considered the primary means of treating conditions of this nature. Talking to a psychotherapist about the feelings you experience during a severe thunderstorm, and especially the source of those feelings in your own life experiences, can help both of you better understand the condition and find ways to treat it. 

The Mysterious Causes of Phobias

In general, the causes of phobias, and astraphobia in particular, are still unanswered questions in medicine. It’s not understood why, but phobias are widespread throughout the population, though they vary in the extent to which they hinder someone’s daily functioning. In the United States alone, 19 million people live with mild to severe phobias that greatly impact their quality of life. 

What many don’t recognize about phobias like astraphobia is that the people who have them know the fear isn’t rational. They are not afraid that the rain and thunder will jump into their home and “hurt” them. The root cause is a complicated mixture of physical and psychological factors that can’t be, or at least hasn’t yet been, neatly explained. 

Life experience plays a big role, especially childhood traumatic events related somehow to the weather. But, phobias like this tend to run in families, which shows that there is a genetic component also present. What’s more, many don’t seek out treatment for their anxiety disorders or phobias until they actively begin hurting their personal or professional lives. 

How Do You Treat Astraphobia?

The good news is that astraphobia doesn’t have to be permanent. The condition is reversible and can be treated with anxiety medication or relaxation techniques. Psychotherapy has been found to be the most effective means of tackling astraphobia and other types of anxiety. 

Psychotherapy may include mental health therapies like: 

  • Exposure Therapy: Exposure therapy involves allowing the person with the phobia to, in a controlled setting, experience the source of their fear in increments. Slowly, they can adapt to and overcome the cause of their anxiety. The important thing is for the exposure to be done little by little, so the person has time to acclimate to it without being overwhelmed. 
  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Often called simply CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of talk therapy that emphasizes the structure of thought. It analyzes how you think about a given stimulus, like thunder, and the way you may automatically move from one (typically negative) thought to another in response to that stimulus. The idea behind CBT is essentially to interrupt and ultimately break that cycle. 

Preventing Astraphobia

There’s no real way to prevent astraphobia since it is unknown who will get it or under what circumstances it might develop. Nevertheless, you can prevent it from getting worse and impacting your life if you do have it.

It’s important with a condition like this to continue your social activities, participating in things that entertain or fulfill you. Don’t let astraphobia get the best of you. 

Don’t take astraphobia lightly, and don’t let others in your life take it lightly. Phobias are wide-ranging, serious conditions that shouldn’t be downplayed. They have a way of getting worse with time if left untreated. 

Show Sources

SOURCES: 

Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research: “A Case of Astraphobia Induce Severe Anxiety in Human.”

Mayo Clinic: “Anxiety Disorders Diagnosis & Treatment.”

Mayo Clinic: “Anxiety Disorders Symptoms & Causes.”

Penn Psychiatry: “What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?”

University of Rochester Medical Center: “Phobias.”

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