Astraphobia, also known with other names such as brontophobia, tonitrophobia, etc, is the irrational and persistent fear or dread and deep aversion of lightening and thunder.
Many individuals love the change and irregularities in the weather and would take risks during hurricanes, storms to study their patterns. Some others just love to enjoy the rain firsthand, from time to time.
Studies have also shown that even humans and animals alike can develop the fear of thunder and lightening or rainstorms, these can have adverse effects on the quality of life during the rainy seasons.
CAUSES OF ATROPHOBIA:
The fear of lightening, thunder and rainstorms are most common with children and affects them up until adulthood and usually diminishes with age.
However, most cases of astraphobia can be traced back to past traumatic events that scarred them mainly due to such adverse weather conditions.
Other causes of astraphobia include:
* In most cases of Astraphobia, the victim 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 properties or even a dear one to 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 THE FEAR OF LIGHTENING, THUNDER AND RAINSTORMS:
Astraphobia can be closely linked to agoraphobia, as astraphobes refuse to go out on the onset or proposed change in weather conditions leading to rainstorms, thunder or lightening. These symptoms may be physical or physiological. The victim will constantly check weather forecasts for adverse weather conditions, he or she will also install lightening rods on their buildings and have panic attacks and anxiety attacks. The symptoms include:
* 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 (Thanatophobia).
TREATMENT AND DISGNOSIS OF ASTROPHOBIA:
The diagnoses involves written tests and psychiatric evaluation by an expert medical psychiatrist. They invoke series of written questions which are answered by the patient to aid the doctor get to a conclusion about the phobia.
A combination of drug therapy and counselling can be directed to help treat the fear of thunder and lightening.
Good results have also been recorded with self help techniques, controlled breathing, Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), positive visualisation and meditation, gradual exposure and desensitization to thunder, lightening, etc.
Also having a loved one or pet beside the phobic can aid in calming down the astraphobic during episodes.
Parents can help young children suffering from astraphobia by calling them down and giving positive talks and encouragement to them, they can also read stories, distract them with games, sing to them, or tell jokes. If after a few months, the phobia is not diminished, the help of an experienced and expert psychiatrist can be employed to prevent it from developing into a full blown astraphobia in adulthood.
Most astraphobics feel safer in tall and large buildings than in the comfort of their home, this can lead to fall outs with family and love relationships.
Other treatment methods include:
Psychotherapy in the form of desensitization, cognitive behavior therapy and virtual reality simulations etc are a few effective techniques that have proven to be beneficial in the treatment of Astraphobia.