Astraphobia, known by different names, is the fear of severe thunder and lightning. Although the phobia is more common in children, it can last into adulthood. Although rare, it may be seen later in adults. Astraphobia also affects animals. People with this phobia feel extreme anxiety or debilitating fear as they prepare for a storm. They may obsessively watch weather reports or have panic attacks (bursts of anxiety that cause intense physical symptoms) during a storm.
Signs and Symptoms
Like other phobias, the main symptom of astraphobia is extreme fear. Many people realize that the fear they feel is out of proportion to the actual threat of a storm. But managing symptoms can be difficult.
The anxiety you may experience with astrophobia can cause physical symptoms such as:
Dizziness or fainting (syncope)
Heartbeat or heart palpitations
Nausea or vomiting
Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
Tremors (uncontrollable shaking)
Disease-Related Genes, Causative Factors and Risk Factors
Studies conducted in America show that more than 10 million adults struggle with astrophobia, but it is not known exactly what causes astrophobia. Like other types of phobia, various factors are thought to play a major role, including genetic factors, family history and experiences.
Various contributing factors can increase the risk of developing astraphobia, including:
Previous traumatic experiences with thunder and lightning, such as being scared during a storm or witnessing a lightning strike
Family or individual history of anxiety disorder
High levels of stress or anxiety
Being hypersensitive to stimuli or sensory overload
Certain personality traits, such as introversion or neuroticism, characterized by a tendency towards negative emotions such as anxiety, depression, and anxiety.
Astraphobia is a type of specific phobia usually diagnosed by experts in accordance with DSM-5. The symptoms specified for diagnosis in the fifth edition of the book are as follows:
Persistent, excessive, or irrational fear when thunderstorms occur or are expected
Constant immediate anxiety response when exposed to storms
Knowing that the fear is excessive or disproportionate to the threat
Avoiding storms or experiencing intense anxiety or distress when storms occur
Avoidance behaviors, anticipation of anxiety, or distress due to the storm significantly impact daily life
The fear is persistent, that is, it has been triggered for at least six months
The fear cannot be explained by another mental disorder.
While diagnosing, if the individual is afraid of elements such as thunder and severe lightning only at certain times and this is determined; This condition may not be classified as astraphobia.
Treatments or Management Methods
Psychotherapy is a common first-line treatment for certain phobias, including astraphobia. The therapies mentioned below are known as the most used therapy methods.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, often simply called CBT, is a form of talk therapy that emphasizes mindset. It analyzes how you think about a particular stimulus, such as thunder, and how you may automatically switch from one (typically negative) thought to another in response to that stimulus. The idea behind CBT is to essentially interrupt and ultimately break this cycle.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy: This technique combines talk therapy with stress reduction tools such as meditation. It allows the patient to accept negative emotions while trying to make positive changes and can help the individual reduce anxiety so that they can better process their emotions.
Exposure Therapy: Exposure therapy is a more effective and targeted approach to dealing with phobias. It requires the therapist to gradually expose the patient to the feared object or situation in a controlled environment over a period of time. By repeatedly and slowly exposing their fears, patients become desensitized to triggers and are better able to manage their own thoughts and emotions. For astraphobia, the patient may be asked to listen to audio recordings of thunder under the supervision of the therapist. As the process progresses and the patient becomes increasingly desensitized, the therapist may increase the intensity and volume of the audio recordings to further desensitize them.
Virtual Reality and Exposure Therapy: With the help of SGT, the individual can stay in a safe virtual environment to expose himself to thunderstorms and extreme weather conditions. The individual can be desensitized by repeatedly exposing the individual to the feared situation using virtual reality, creating a more immersive and realistic experience with a head-mounted display (HMD). This is likely to lead to more effective results. Additionally, this technique allows the individual to develop various self-help strategies to cope with astraphobia.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or CBT for short, is a psychological intervention that encourages people to accept their own thoughts and feelings rather than avoiding or rejecting them or feeling guilty. It can help build psychological resilience through acceptance, commitment, and behavior change, along with specific mindfulness strategies. It is a clinically effective treatment method that helps patients accept their situation and themselves.
Medication: Psychiatric medications can help reduce anxiety symptoms associated with astrophobia. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are typically prescribed. For short-term relief, the provider may prescribe benzodiazepines, but these can be habit-forming. It should only be taken in low, controlled doses for a short period of time.
Duration Predictions (Prognosis)
With appropriate treatment, most people with astraphobia can manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. However, prognosis may vary depending on the severity of the phobia, the person’s response to treatment, and the level of commitment to treatment. Some people may need long-term therapy or maintenance treatment to prevent relapse.
Incidence and Distribution (Epidemiology)
Astraphobia, which is more common in children, also occurs more in women than men. However, it is possible to state that there is no clear measurement on this issue.
The term “astraphobia” derives from the Greek words “astrape” meaning lightning and “phobos” meaning fear.