Astraphobia is one of the types of anxiety disorders. This syndrome causes many problems in life and can increase other psychological problems. For this reason, astraphobia needs to be treated early to avoid long-term effects.
What is the fear of thunder?
Natural phenomena such as hurricanes, tsunamis or lightning can cause feelings of fear and insecurity for some people. This is a common reaction because these phenomena are always potentially dangerous. However, some people may have an overwhelming obsession and fear of thunder or some other natural phenomenon.
Astraphobia is a psychological syndrome characterized by an intense, extreme fear of hearing or seeing thunder. Excessive feelings of fear can lead to physical symptoms and avoidance behaviors (choosing a place where there is little rain, locking yourself indoors for fear of being exposed to lightning, not doing outdoor tasks, etc.) …).
Thunderphobia is more common in children but can also occur in adults. To date, this syndrome has not been recognized as a mental health condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). However, the mechanism and manifestations of astraphobia have been identified as similar to those of phobic anxiety disorders.
The syndrome of fear of thunder is not simply an ordinary feeling of fear before potentially dangerous natural phenomena such as tsunamis, tornadoes, etc. If not treated, this syndrome will significantly affect health and well-being. health and quality of life. Therefore, when there is an excessive fear of thunder, it is advisable to seek medical attention for timely treatment.
Recognizing the fear of thunder (Astraphobia)
Like other phobic anxiety disorders, Astraphobia is characterized by intense, intense fear and persistent obsessions. Many people are aware of the absurdity of being overly afraid but can’t control it.
Symptoms of Astraphobia:
- Constant feeling of fear, anxiety about hearing sounds or seeing lightning
- Take avoidance behaviors to minimize seeing lightning such as not choosing outdoor activities, canceling plans when the weather forecast predicts that there will be thunderstorms, always seeking shelter when it is cloudy. rain,…).
- Some people are so scared that they hide in the bathroom or closet because they don’t feel safe in the living room or bedroom.
- Try to keep windows closed, draw curtains and some users cover their ears to not hear the sound of thunder.
- People with a fear of thunder always watch the weather reports to avoid seeing or hearing the sound of thunder.
- During the rainy season, some people lock themselves indoors for fear of being hit by lightning when they go out.
Upon hearing sounds or seeing lightning, fear increases causing physical symptoms. When faced with fear, a person with Astraphobia will have the following manifestations:
- Dizziness, dizziness
- Chest pain
- Heart beat fast
- Nausea or vomiting
- Shallow breathing, difficulty breathing
- Trembling uncontrollably
- Feeling hot
- Overwhelmed and feeling detached from reality
- Babies have a violent crying reaction
- Some people may panic and have thoughts such as fear of death, fear of being controlled, etc.
- There is always a feeling that disaster is about to happen and the desire to get out of the current situation immediately
Some people may even develop these symptoms even after hearing the weather forecast predicts storms, thunderstorms, and lightning. In more severe cases, there may be intense fear just from hearing a conversation mentioning thunder and lightning.
Causes of fear of thunder
There are no official figures for the number of people who have a fear of thunder. However, experts believe that this is not a small number. Although it is a fairly common and well-studied syndrome, the cause of the fear of thunder is still unknown.
Currently, experts have identified a number of factors that are associated with agoraphobia including:
1. Negative experiences from childhood
Most phobic anxiety disorders develop from negative experiences. Negative experiences “accidentally” create a defense mechanism inside the brain. Lightning-related events, such as being in a lightning accident or being struck by a loved one by lightning, can cause an undue fear of thunder.
Feelings of fear are the result of evolution. Fear helps people recognize the dangers around them to better adapt and survive. Therefore, people with negative experiences related to lightning may develop astraphobia.
2. Living with someone with Astraphobia
Living with someone who has a fear of thunder (even if they are not related by blood) also increases the risk of Astraphobia. The reason is that we can unconsciously learn from the patient’s response. In the long run, this response is imprinted in the brain, leading to an irrational, excessive fear of thunder and driving avoidance behaviors.
3. Drama tension
Stress is also considered a risk factor for thunderclap. Experts have found that chronic stress lowers the brain’s stress threshold and makes the body more sensitive. Therefore, thunder that is too loud can cause a terrifying and uncontrollable fear.
4. Genetic factors
Phobias in general and agoraphobia in particular are all hereditary. The gene that causes an excessive fear of lightning can be passed on from parents to children. In some cases, there are no family members with Astraphobia, but the child still has it. This is because the gene is only activated when something is present, such as witnessing a thunder-related accident or being overly startled by loud thunder during stormy weather.
In addition, the biology and internal disorders of the brain can also be passed on from parents to children. So the risk of Astraphobia increases if there is a family history of the condition.
5. Imbalance of transmitters in the brain
Serotonin and dopamine imbalances have been identified in association with phobic anxiety disorder. Experts still cannot explain why this imbalance exists. However, this conclusion suggests that dysfunction in the brain is also linked to agoraphobia.
6. Other factors
Lightning phobia is also associated with other factors such as:
Autism: Children with autism are often overly sensitive to sounds. As a result, some children may become panicked, scared, fussy, and scream violently when they hear thunder and lightning. Over time, children may develop avoidant behavior.
There are other psychological problems: The risk of thunderclap may be increased when there are pre-existing psychological problems such as anxiety disorders, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, etc.
Is Astraphobia Dangerous?
All phobias and anxiety disorders, including agoraphobia, have a significant impact on health and quality of life. The first effect of this disease is the nuisance caused by the behavior of avoiding lightning.
People with Astraphobia often have to cancel trips because the weather is likely to rain (even if it is a light rain and does not have much effect). In addition, this disease also limits career options. Most people who are afraid of thunder do not choose outdoor jobs. Some people even decide to move to places with warm weather and little rain.
When faced with fear, the patient may become panicked and frightened. Excessive fear makes the person uncontrollable, dizzy and fainting in crowded places. This has a lot of psychological effects and can increase the risk of depression, anxiety disorders, etc.
Children with a fear of thunder are often isolated and have few friends. Adults tend to use alcohol and drugs because of feelings of powerlessness in controlling their fears. To prevent these effects, the only way is to examine and treat promptly.
Diagnosis of thunderclap syndrome
Lightning phobia is diagnosed based on clinical manifestations. Currently, Astraphobia has not been recognized as an official psychological or mental illness. However, with serious effects, this syndrome will receive a diagnosis and treatment. Diagnostic criteria for phobic anxiety disorder will be used to diagnose Astraphobia and other phobias.
Lightning phobia is usually diagnosed when the following symptoms are present:
- Excessive fear or anxiety about thunder for at least 6 months
- Has lightning avoidance behaviors, including making little mention of lightning and not watching movies with the sight/sound of thunder
- Becomes panicky, extremely scared when seeing lightning or hearing thunder
- Feelings of distress, fear, and insecurity when the weather forecast predicts an impending thunderstorm with lightning
- Excessive fear of lightning must cause significant effects on the ability to work, study, social interaction, etc.
This diagnostic criterion is used to diagnose many different phobias such as fear of love, fear of cockroaches, fear of the sea, etc.
Methods to treat the fear of thunder
The fear of thunder has more effects than most people imagine. Many people mistake this syndrome to cause fear only when lightning occurs. While in reality, children and adults with this condition will have many troubles in life, at the same time can develop psychological problems and increase the rate of substance and alcohol addiction.
The cause of claustrophobia is unknown. However, current treatments can control this syndrome and prevent its associated complications.
Treatments for Astraphobia:
Psychotherapy is a highly effective method of treating anxiety disorders in general and phobias of thunder in particular. There are quite a few methods applied, in which the following methods are highly effective:
Exposure therapy is widely used to treat phobias. When performing, experts will help people with Astraphobia approach thunder through images and sounds, then gradually increase the level until direct contact is possible. Exposure therapy helps patients gradually reduce irrational fear of lightning, while learning how to control fear and relieve stress and anxiety caused by fear of lightning.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT):
CBT is the first choice when treating agoraphobia and other phobias. In this method, experts will help patients change their negative thoughts about thunder and other natural phenomena. When correctly recognizing the danger of thunder, feelings of fear, anxiety and avoidance behavior will be significantly improved.
Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT):
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) focuses on helping patients overcome situations where they are faced with fear. The therapist will teach the patient meditation techniques, deep breathing and some other stress reduction techniques to remove the negative emotions caused by astraphobia.
Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT):
ACT is one of the psychotherapeutic methods applied in the treatment of thunderclap syndrome. This therapy was developed based on the concept that fear and discomfort do not originate from thunder and lightning, but are influenced by the emotions of past events.
The ACT focuses on helping patients deal with negative thoughts, feelings, and circumstances that cause fear. Besides, this therapy also helps to increase healthy activities.
Psychotherapy is highly effective in treating Astraphobia. For each case, the specialist will choose the appropriate method. However, most patients will be combined with many different psychological methods to achieve the best results.
2. Drug use
Using medication is not an official method in the treatment of thunderclap syndrome. However, medication can be used to reduce anxiety, stress, and sadness caused by this syndrome. Certain medications can also be given to reduce the physical symptoms that flare up when thunder strikes.
Drugs considered for the treatment of agoraphobia include:
- Sedatives, anxiolytics
- Beta blockers
3. Stress Relief Techniques
Treatment can reduce feelings of fear and limit the annoyances caused by agoraphobia. However, the current methods have some limitations. Therefore, experts encourage patients to apply stress reduction measures to well control the negative emotions associated with astraphobia.
Stress relievers for people with a fear of thunder:
- Deep breathing: Deep breathing is an effective and easy way to relax. Inhale deeply through the nose, then hold the breath at the diaphragm for 2-3 seconds and breathe slowly through the mouth. This technique helps reduce anxiety, avoid panic, increase heart rate and increase ventilation when thunder strikes.
- Meditation: The behavior of avoiding thunder causes the patient to be often stressed, anxious, and insecure. Therefore, it is recommended to meditate for 15-30 minutes a day to release negative emotions. In addition, meditation has also been shown to help control fear and reduce sleep problems associated with astraphobia.
- Muscle relaxation exercises: Lightning phobia can cause prolonged stress and anxiety leading to muscle tension. Therefore, patients should perform muscle relaxation exercises regularly to reduce pain, relieve stress and improve sleep.
- Other stress-reducing techniques: In addition to the above measures, people with a fear of thunder can also reduce stress by drinking herbal tea, using essential oils for massage, taking warm baths, etc. For young children, there are You can help children reduce stress by watching cartoons and snacking when it rains so they don’t notice the thunder.
Measures to relieve stress help control some irrational fear of thunder. It also helps prevent psychological problems such as anxiety disorders, depression, etc.
4. Self-improvement measures
Unreasonable fear of lightning often stems from a misconception about this natural phenomenon. As a result, the patient and his/her family can take some self-improvement measures.
- If your child has a fear of thunder, explain to them that thunder is a natural phenomenon and is not always harmful. Besides the negative effects, rain and thunder bring life to the plants, soften the soil and help the harvest.
- Have earplugs ready to avoid panicking when it rains. This will help the person avoid extreme fear and panic when in crowded places.
- Find a way to distract yourself when the rain and lightning are coming. For example, put on headphones, find a quiet place, and close your eyes and think about other scenes. When you experience this situation favorably, your fear of thunder will subside over time.
Astraphobia needs to be treated to prevent long-term effects. With treatment intervention, patients can reduce irrational fears, limit avoidant behaviors and know how to control negative emotions. Currently, there is no method to prevent this syndrome, so the family needs to pay attention so that the patient can be examined and treated promptly.