If we strive to make a complete and exhaustive list of all phobic fears and fears experienced by human beings, it would be an almost impossible task, as any object or situation is likely to become a phobic stimulus.
However, some of these fears are easy to recognize, it is already very likely that we have experienced them at some point in our lives, including in childhood. Brontophobia is one of those fears so common in the little onesBut this, if not treated properly, can eventually take hold in adulthood.
What is brontophobia?
Brontophobia is part of the huge list of specific anxiety disorders and it is linked to the phobic fear of storms, including thunder and lightning.
People who suffer from brontophobia tend to experience an exaggerated, irrational, and uncontrollable fear of thunder and lightning, developing an intense anxiety reaction whenever exposed to these agents of nature. What causes terror is usually the possibility of receiving lightning, but there are people who fear other aspects of the storm, such as the danger of too much water falling and collapsing. nearby or existing structures.
As a result, this anxious response tends to give rise to a whole repertoire of behaviors, acts and behaviors which are carried out with the intention of avoiding the feared situation or of escaping from it as soon as possible.
this phobia it usually has a much higher incidence in boys and girls of early ages. During childhood, feeling some degree of fear of storms is a natural thing, but if that fear intensifies and strengthens over time, it can end up becoming a real and intense phobia in adulthood.
Brontophobia can interfere with a person’s life significantly, especially in situations or places where the weather conditions favor the origin of thunder and lightning. However, research in psychology has developed a number of very effective treatments, thanks to which the person can overcome brontophobia and restore normalcy in his life.
Characteristics of this anxiety disorder
Since brontophobia falls under the category of specific anxiety disorders, it shares symptoms, causes, and treatments with them. The most direct consequence of brontophobia is that the person suffering from it constantly avoids or avoids all those situations or places where the generation of a thunderstorm, lightning or thunder is possible.
Like other specific phobias, brontophobia is characterized by a phobic fear with a specific aversive stimulus, in this case storms, and has the following characteristics:
- The person experiences excessive and disproportionate fear given the real threat posed by the phobic stimulus.
- Fear has no logic. In other words, it is irrational or based on misconceptions.
- Anyone who suffers from phobic fear is unable to control it and the responses it elicits.
- The appearance of the phobic stimulus or the prediction that it may appear automatically triggers a series of avoidance and flight behaviors.
- If the person is not treated, the fear can become permanent and constant over time.
What are the symptoms?
The most distinctive symptom of brontophobia and other specific phobias is the manifestation of high levels of anxiety in the sufferer. However, this symptom should not occur in the same way and with the same intensity in all people.
However, for fear to be classified as phobic, the person must exhibit some of the symptoms inherent in the three categories associated with phobias: physical symptoms, cognitive symptoms, and behavioral symptoms.
1. Physical symptoms
As with other anxiety-related responses, feeling heightened fear often involves a series of changes and alterations in the body. These changes are caused by the hyperactivity experienced by the autonomic nervous system when the aversive stimulus appears.
This symptomatology includes:
- Heart rate increased.
- Acceleration of breathing.
- Sensation of suffocation and shortness of breath.
- Muscle tension.
- Increased levels of sweating.
- Gastric disorders and problems.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Fainting and loss of consciousness.
2. Cognitive symptoms
In addition to the physical symptoms, brontophobia is accompanied by a number of irrational ideas and distorted beliefs about the phobic stimulus, in this case storms, lightning, and thunder. This cognitive symptomatology can manifest itself in the following ways:
- Intrusive and uncontrollable ideas on the danger posed by storms.
- Obsessive speculations linked to the phobic stimulus.
- Catastrophic imagination linked to this meteorological phenomenon.
- Fear of losing control and not knowing how to handle the situation properly.
- Feel unreal.
3. Behavioral symptoms
Finally, all specific phobias share a number of symptoms or behavioral patterns that appear in response to the management of the phobic stimulus. These behavioral symptoms appear in order to avoid the dreaded situation, or to run away when the aversive stimulus has already arisen. These conduits are called bypass or evacuation conduits.
Behaviors that aim to avoid encountering a storm, or avoidance behaviors, refer to all those behaviors or acts that the person performs to avoid the possibility of encountering them. In this way it is momentarily avoids experiencing feelings of anguish and anxiety that generate these environmental conditions in the person.
On the other hand, escape behaviors appear when the person with brontophobia is already plunged into the feared situation. During this period, the person will perform all kinds of acts or behaviors that will allow them to escape the situation as quickly as possible.
What causes this phobia?
So far, no technique or evaluation method has been developed to fully understand the origin of a phobia. In many cases, the person is not aware of the reason for this fear and cannot associate it with any experience.
However, due to the common components that exist among phobias, it is believed that the causes of these may be common. Therefore, a possible genetic predisposition to the harmful effects of stressAccompanied by the experience of a highly traumatic situation or with a lot of emotional content and related to storms, they can lay the groundwork for the development of this phobia and any other phobia.
However, there are other factors to consider such as personality, cognitive styles or learning by imitation, which can promote the appearance and development of irrational fear in any type of object or situation. .
Are there any treatments?
As discussed above, brontophobia can be very disabling, especially in climates that favor the onset of storms, so that the person can see their daily life conditioned by the appearance of these phenomena, as well as wear and tear. which involves constantly enduring the high levels of stress it causes.
Fortunately, there is the possibility of approach the disorder from psychotherapy. Throughout the research, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been proven to give fantastic results in treating phobias.
These cases involve a series of techniques aimed at reducing and eliminating the three groups of symptoms. Cognitive restructuring aims to modify irrational beliefs that the person has regarding storms.
With respect to physical and behavioral stimuli, practices such as systematic desensitization or live exposure, accompanied by training in relaxation techniques they have proven to be very useful.
Such techniques applied to patients throughout weekly sessions help the person with storm phobia overcome their fear by gradually associating these dreaded stimuli with the experience they are not having. It starts with the most manageable situations and ends with the more challenging ones, following a smooth but steadily increasing difficulty curve.
Therefore, the combination of all these techniques will help the person to overcome his phobic fear and to rebuild his life in a normal way.
- American Psychiatric Association (2013), Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.), Arlington: American Psychiatric Publishing.
- Craske, M .; Martin MA; Barlow, DH (2006). Control your fears and phobias. United States: Oxford University Press.
- Whalen, PJ; Phelps, EA (2009). The human amygdala. New York: The Guilford Press.
- Hamm, AO (2009). Specific phobias. Psychiatric clinics in North America. 32 (3): pages 577 to 591.