Thunder, Lightning and Astraphobia

If you ever get scared during a thunderstorm, please do remember you are not the only one. Every year, there are about 16 million lightning thunderstorms around the world. Lightning can be defined as an electrostatic discharge into the atmosphere, and it is usually accompanied by thunder. The two natural phenomena obviously occur during the thunderstorms, and in some cases, during dust storms or volcanic eruptions. The interesting part about lightning is that it can travel at speeds as high as 220,000 km/h (140,000 mph), and can approach temperatures as high as 30,000°C (54,000°F). At this temperature, silica can be fused into glass channels called fulgurites. Lightning makes possible the ionization of the air it passes through, which leads to the formation of nitric acid and nitric oxide, which are very good for the plants. Apparently, lightning can also appear inside the ash clouds formed during the volcanic eruptions. It can also be caused by aggressive fires started up within forests areas.
Another interesting fact is that one cannot tell for sure how the lightning is formed in the first place. According to scientific theories, lightning can be related to the accumulation of charged solar particles, to atmospheric disturbances such as atmospheric pressure, friction, wind, humidity, or to the impact of solar wind. They say a key element in the development of lightning is ice inside a cloud, which can result in the separation of positive and negative charges inside that particular cloud.
There is even a phobia based on thunder and lightning, and it is called astraphobia. Storms undoubtedly are impressive natural phenomena that can cause both humans and animals to experience very intense emotions. Whereas some adore watching thunderstorms, others don’t know where to hide. Some people like going out during such storms, thus taking dangerous risks, whereas others develop this phobia.
Some symptoms of astraphobia are quite similar to those belonging to other phobias, but other symptoms are typical of astraphobia only. The symptoms may include crying, sweating, shaking either during the thunderstorm, or just before it begins. People suffering from this phobia continuously seek for reassurance from other people, and the symptoms may get aggravated when the person is all alone in some place. In addition to that, people are likely to manifest their astraphobia by searching shelter beyond the normal limits. For instance, such a person may hide under the bed or under the covers. Also, some other strange manifestations would be looking for shelter in a closet, in the basement, in the bathroom. Closing the curtains in order to block any storm sounds may also be indicators of such phobia.
Another symptom which is quite common is that of being virtually obsessed with weather forecasts. So a person suffering from astraphobia is indeed likely to keep the TV on stations such as the Weather Channel especially during rainy seasons, or searching for any storm forecast online. In more severe cases, people may start and develop incapacity to go out without first checking the weather forecast, in order for them to track down any possible eventuality of thunder and lightning weather. In some rather extreme circumstances, astraphobia can ultimately lead to agoraphobia or the fear of leaving one’s home.
Astraphobia occurs extremely often in children, and because mostly all the kids are afraid of thunderstorms, it should not be immediately taken too seriously. Fears are an essential part of a child’s development, and therefore are not diagnosed as phobias unless they become persistent for more than six months. The best thing you can do is to try to calm down and soothe the children especially by remembering to keep calm and collected yourselves. Children are likely to pick up on adults’ manifestations and behavior, whether positive and negative. In this respect, an idea is to be prepared beforehand with some fun activities in case of rainy, stormy weather. But if the fear persists in a severe manner and if it exceeds the period of six months, one should consider looking for treatment for one’s child.
In the treatment of astraphobia, therapists most often use cognitive-behavioral techniques. Such treatments include soothing messages that should be repeated during thunderstorms in order to replace one’s negative thoughts. Visualization exercises are also employed for getting rid of such irrational fears.