How to Tell If You Have a Weather Phobia

Sad girl standing behind rain covered window
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Do you jump at every flash of lightning and rumble of thunder? Or monitor the TV whenever there's a severe weather threat near your home or workplace? If you do, it's very possible you have a weather phobia—a marked fear of or anxiety about a specific weather type or event. 

Weather phobias are included in the "natural environment" family of phobias—fears triggered by objects or situations found in nature.

 

Why Am I Afraid? 

Phobias are sometimes described as "irrational" fears, but they don't always develop out of nowhere.

If you've ever experienced a natural disaster such as a hurricane, tornado, or wildfire—even if you didn't suffer any physical injury or trauma—it's possible that the unexpected, sudden, or overwhelming nature of the event could have taken an emotional toll on you.  

You Might Have a Weather Phobia If...

If you feel any of the following in certain weather situations, you may suffer, to some degree, from a weather phobia: 

  • Anxiety and panic (heart palpitations, shortness of breath, sweating, and nausea)
  • A desire to be around others when unfavorable weather is forecast or occurring
  • An inability to sleep or eat during sever weather
  • Helplessness when certain weather is occurring
  • You change your schedule so that you can plan around ill weather
  • You obsessively monitor the TV, weather forecasts, or your weather radio

    One in 10 Americans Are Afraid of Weather 

    While you might feel ashamed to be afraid of something like weather, which most other people consider to be routine, please know that you're not alone. According to the American Psychiatric Association, approximately 9-12% of Americans have natural environment phobias, of which 3% of that number are afraid of storms.

    What's more, some meteorologists can trace their interest in learning about weather back to a fear of weather. Let this encourage you that your weather phobias can be overcome!

    Coping with Weather Fears

    When your weather fear strikes, you may feel helpless. But there are a number of things you can do, both before and during attacks, to help manage anxiety and stress.

    • Learn how weather works. If you're afraid of something, the last thing you may want to do is willingly subject yourself to it. But sometimes, fear of something is rooted in a lack of knowledge of it. If you understand the reality of how weather works, you can better differentiate between threats that are real and those that are perceived in your mind. Read weather books, visit science museum exhibits, and learn about weather basics from your favorite weather company and links. (Your presence here on About Weather means you're already off to a good start!)
    • Practice weather safety. Having an emergency plan in place may help put your mind at ease should bad weather actually strike. It can also make you feel like you have more control of the situation, and are not just a passive victim.
    • Relax. While it's easier said than done, relaxing is one of your best defenses. To help keep calm, try engaging in activities that keep your mind occupied and off of the weather happening outside your door. Practice a favorite hobby or start up a conversation with friends or family. Meditation, prayer, music, and aromatherapy are other good options. (Lavender, chamomile, bergamot, and almond are scents frequently used to ease anxiety.)

      To find out more, including what the most common weather phobias experienced among Americans are, read Afraid of the Atmosphere.

       

      Sources:

      Jill S. M. Coleman, Kaylee D. Newby, Karen D. Multon, and Cynthia L. Taylor. Weathering the Storm: Revisiting Severe-Weather Phobia. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (2014).