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What is Astraphobia?
The word 'astraphobia' comes from the Greek "astrape," meaning thunder and "phobos" or fear. It is especially common in small children, but is also found in teenagers and adults. "In the USA, it is estimated around 10 per cent of people suffer from astraphobia to some degree."— Don White; Weatherwatch; The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, Australia).
The phobia is also common among dogs with about 15-30 percent showing symptoms of astraphobia.
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Symptoms of Astraphobia
Some of the symptoms of astraphobia include:
- Severe anxiety/panic by the sight of lightning or sound of thunder.
- Rapid heartbeat and breathing.
- Excessive trembling and/or sweating.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Feeling of dread.
- Covering ears to drown out the sound.
- Extreme avoidance measures taken at the sign or thought of an oncoming storm. Often taking cover in basement, bathroom, under a bed, or anywhere the phobic feels the most comfortable. The phobia can also cause nauseas feelings which in some cases lead to vomiting.
- Crying - especially in small children. This is quite common along with tantrums due to their inability to cope or communicate their fear of the storm.
- An extreme obsession with weather forecasts (frequently watching weather channels, especially during rainy seasons where a person may watch for hours on end or track weather forecasts online).
- Agoraphobia - A fear of leaving one's home.
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Causes of Astraphobia
A pre-existing anxiety issue can cause someone to be more prone to astraphobia. Chemical imbalances in the brain are the main biological causes of phobias. Phobia itself is defined as an irrational, intense, and persistent fear of certain situations, people, animals and activities.
Some known causes of astraphobia include:
- Previous incident or close call with a lightning strike. Perhaps a near miss - lightning tends to strike trees, metal objects and even the ground. The person may have been close when one of these happened.
- A person may have been lost or stranded in heavy rains/thunderstorms previously and the sight and/or sound of a storm might remind them of that day and trigger symptoms of the phobia.
- A death in the family or of a friend caused by lightning or heavy rain can trigger the memory and bring out the symptoms of astraphobia.
- The person may have an irrational fear that they may be struck by lightning. According the National Weather Service the chances that a person will be struck by lightning in their life-time is 1/6250 and of those actually struck only 10 percent are killed.
The causes and symptoms of astraphobia along with its severity will vary from person to person based on age, occurrences, and state/country of residence (people in places where thunderstorms/lightning occur more often are usually less likely to be affected or have less severe reactions due to prolonged exposure).
NB: The content of this article is for information purposes and is not intended to replace sound medical advice and opinion.
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1) The Encyclopedia of Phobias Fears And Anxieties, http://www.scribd.com/doc/36201352/0816064539
2) Penn State Live, http://live.psu.edu/story/41769#nw69
3) WebMD, http://dictionary.webmd.com/terms/phonophobia