Brontophobia and Astraphobia. The fear of thunder and lightning, respectively.
These two phobias usually go together, often combined with Lilapsophobia, the fear of tornadoes and hurricanes. (It’s not often someone is afraid of thunder but totally cool with tornadoes.) We’ll call them all Astraphobia.
Storms are by nature violent. They can kill us. (If you’re not Astraphobic, check out this NBC compilation of a dozen of the world’s worst storms.) But run-of-the-mill thunderstorms aren’t as deadly as the guy screaming and crying in the basement seems to believe. (My astrophobic brother Ken used to hide in the basement during thunderstorms, and this was – and continues to be – a source of mirth for the rest of the family. Thanks, Astraphobe, for providing such a fun rainy-day distraction.)
There were 53 lightning-related deaths and 277 injuries in Canada from 1986-2005, which is only a couple of deaths per year. Still, you don’t want to be one of them. Learn some basic lightning safety tips, the gist of which is “when thunder roars, go indoors.”
If you hide under the bed when thunder booms, or if you call in sick because clouds are gathering, or you live your life glued to the Weather Channel, you need to conquer this fear.
(I used to work with a woman who was terrified of storms. She wouldn’t show up to work if it were storming, and she wouldn’t call in sick either because she was scared to use the phone. Our boss would smile and shake his head and say, “Nope, she doesn’t show if it’s storming.” That was just the way it was back in the good old days – bosses made allowances for nuttiness. It was actually kind of hip and interesting to be weirdly phobic because you livened up the workplace and people appreciated that. But these days you’d just get fired. So face your fear before it comes to that.)
Reading about storms is probably not necessary or even desirable. But, just FYI, lightning strikes the earth about 100 times a second. Around the globe, there might be 40,000 thunderstorms on any given day. This is not reassuring information for astraphobics. (You can read more fun stats here.)
The fear of storms is very common in children, and parents should try to keep this primal fear from developing into a debilitating phobia. Set a calm vibe for the kids – don’t go screaming and herding them into cellar at the first black cloud. (Unless you live in tornado alley, in which case you ought to scream and flee to the cellar.) For ordinary thunderstorm blues, distract the fraidycats with fun rainy day activities like movies and video games. Crush up potato chips and mush them with dip and call it “after the storm.” Your kids’ll love it.
When I’m at my family cabin, which is a tiny little wooden shack surrounded by massively tall trees, storms are terrifying. Once, during a fierce one, my son asked, “If a tree fell on the cabin, would we die?” to which my husband answered, “Oh yeah, for sure, we’d all be dead.” That is not conducive to the calm vibe you want to create as a parent, okay? Just reassure the kid and keep playing Monopoly like it’ll all be okay. Because it probably will.
If you’re a grown-up astrophobe, you need to chillax. That’s the Rx for phobias: tell yourself calming messages, breathe deeply, ride the tidal wave of fear.
And keep in mind that present-day earth storms are no biggie compared to storms elsewhere on the space/time continuum. On Mars, a dust storm can develop on a whim and envelope the entire planet within a few days. We’re going to have to wear balaclavas when we colonize that planet. (You can read more cool Mars stuff here.)
Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is a high-pressure storm that’s bigger than all of Earth and it has been raging for 400 years. Fortunately no one on Jupiter is afraid of storms. (You can read more cool solar system stuff here.)
Even on Earth, today’s storms are weeny compared to our awesome prehistoric megastorms (which the History Channel has simulated for a show whose episodes have been uploaded illegally onto Youtube, should you want to check it out.)
All to say, it could be worse.
If you are afraid of storms or anything else, leave a comment on this blog and you could win a copy of my forthcoming middle-grade novel, 28 Tricks for a Fearless Grade 6.
(Thanks to FreeDigitalPhotos.net for the lightning photo by Jennifer Ellison.)