Weather Phobias: Why So Scared?

What are YOU afraid of? There are many known phobias, such as arachnophobia (fear of spiders), claustrophobia (fear of confined spaces), and for the Charlie Brown fans out there, pantophobia (the fear of everything). One could spend hours going through the list of phobias, but I wish to focus on weather-related phobias. Recently, AccuWeather, the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang, and other weather-sites have posted articles on the topic just in time for Halloween.

First of all, Dictionary.com defines a phobia as a persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire of avoidance. As for weather-related phobias, the definition is a fear of a meteorological occurrence, such as rain, snow, thunderstorms, and hurricanes. The Weather Channel Meteorologist Kelly Cass is featured in a video that discusses weather-related phobias that was released this October. Additionally, humans are not the only sufferers of weather-related phobias. Many animals also fear specific meteorological conditions. For example, the company ThunderWorks sells products  that claims to soothe cats and dogs that suffer from Astraphobia (also called brontophobia), which is a fear of thunderstorms.

The Weather Channel put together a group of images with the definitions of 19 wild weather phobias. Additionally, The Weather Channel also posted an article on weather phobias.  Below is a copy of The Weather Channel’s table from that article:

Phobia

Fear of…

Lilapsophobia

Tornadoes or hurricanes

Brontophobia/Astraphobia

Lightning and thunder

Antlophobia

Floods

Chionophobia

Snow

Ombrophobia

Rain

Ancraophobia

Wind

Heliophobia

Sun

Thermophobia

Heat

Cryophobia

Cold

Homichlophobia

Fog

Nephophobia

Clouds

Pagophobia

Ice or frost

Cymophobia

Waves

Although weather phobias are treatable with psychiatric treatment or may resolve with time, those who suffer weather phobias require support during times of anxiety. For those with young children who suffer weather-related phobias, there are a few tricks to help soothe your child during such an event. Angela Hathaway has an article on Examiner.com that includes ten ideas to help children that fear the weather. Often times, distracting the child with a calm game, craft, or activity during the event will help. Some of these tips can also be applied to help those who are older cope with their weather phobias. If you are with someone who suffers from a weather phobia and the meteorological event occurs, the most helpful mechanism is to be supportive and remain calm. The goal is to make the sufferer feel safe and comfortable until the event has passed.

Weather phobias can be extremely debilitating, but for some, it results in fascination of the meteorological occurrence that initially caused the phobia. Many meteorologists, storm chasers, and weather enthusiasts are actual sufferers of weather phobias. AccuWeather’s meteorologist Heather Waldman cites a fear of storms as the reason she became a broadcast meteorologist in an AccuWeather article posted by Jillian MacMath. Stu Ostro, a senior meteorologist at The Weather Channel, also cited a fear of thunderstorms for initiating his passion for meteorology. CBS Minnesota also explored weather phobias and explained that some of the best coping mechanisms are researching the meteorological phenomena that initiate the fear. This research has led many sufferers into careers within the field of atmospheric science and meteorology.

Personally, I am a sufferer of astraphobia. I have had the debilitating fear of thunderstorms for as long as I could remember. As a child, I spent countless hours watching The Weather Channel and researching thunderstorms and tornadoes. I often tracked storms and read radar images to plan when I should play in our basement to avoid being outdoors or in my attic bedroom as the storm approached. During my middle and high school years, I began research into universities that offered meteorology degrees. Currently, I have an avid interest in weather photography, mainly severe cloud formations and lightning, which has brought me out of my fear. Eventually, I wish to move to Oklahoma for my career in meteorology, which I would have never thought I would do just a few years ago. My fear has transformed into a genuine passion for severe weather; I love the beauty, the power, and the exhilaration that a thunderstorm brings – if I am in a safe location.

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