According to one study, almost three percent of the human population may be affected by astraphobia, the fear of lightning. Summer can be a particularly difficult time for astraphobia sufferers. The name comes from “astrapa” – the Greek word for lightning.
Although few people seek help for astraphobia, therapy can be very effective.
Thunderstorms can cause symptoms similar to a panic attack, including chest pain, nausea, dizziness and shortness of breath.
Astraphobics also tend to have an exaggerated sense of the risk of being struck by lightning. They can, for example, avoid windows or appliances connected to the electrical grid during storms.
People, by the way, have two innate fears, of falling and loud noises, and this is perhaps the reason why astraphobia is so common in children.
A realistic understanding of the dangers can help. In Great Britain, lightning usually kills two people a year, while 20 people drown – in their bathtubs. But knowing this statistical fact may not be enough for those who have a phobia.
Although few people seek help for astraphobia, therapy can be very effective. It can take the form of cognitive behavioral therapy, stress management techniques, or exposure therapy, whereby the patient gradually becomes accustomed to storms by listening to recordings or watching videos under expert supervision. With a little help, thunder and lightning don’t have to be so scary.
In children, it can be difficult to distinguish between a phobic response and a natural fear, as children are often unfamiliar with aspects of the world around them and may be disturbed by things that most adults rationally know to be harmless and therefore not afraid.
Children experience many fears as they grow up and learn what is dangerous and what is not. Their fears can usually be temporarily alleviated by distraction during stormy weather or by turning the storm into a game (such as counting between lightning strikes to track the storm’s movement away from your location).
Development into more severe disorders such as agoraphobia
However, if a child’s intense fear of storms includes all the symptoms described in the previous section, and lasts longer than six months, it can be considered a phobia, and should be treated as such. If treated early, astraphobia is less likely to develop into more serious disorders, such as agoraphobia.
Similar rules apply to adults. In general, when determining whether you have a phobia or a normal fear, it can be helpful to consider the following questions: “Does my fear seem excessive compared to most other people I know?”; and “Does my fear interfere with my ability to live a normal life?”.
If you answer yes to both of these questions and experience the above symptoms, it is likely that your fear is strong enough to be classified as a phobia.
Many therapists who work with clients with agoraphobia recommend coming up with a calming phrase to repeat to yourself during a storm to bring you back from panic to reality.
Here are some examples: “I’m safe”, “I’m at peace” and “I’ll be perfectly fine”.
Practicing controlled breathing will also help you maintain control over your body as much as possible when facing storms.
Try to understand what you usually think to yourself during storms. Writing during a storm or writing about how you feel about storms are good ways to do this. Once you know you’ve identified the negative/problematic thought patterns that may be causing your fear (for example, “I’m going to die” or “I can’t weather the storms”), try to replace those negative thought cycles with positive thoughts that can help you overcome your fear instead of reinforcing it.
Examples of more helpful mindsets include “I’ve been through many storms and I’ve always survived” and “I can handle many things in life, including storms.”
If you practice positive thinking and relaxation techniques often enough during storms, your brain has more opportunities to learn that you have nothing to fear.
Source: Sito&Rešeto by www.sitoireseto.com.
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