“An anguish that paralyzes”: astraphobia, ombrophobia… Where does this panic fear of storms come from?

Many people suffer from an uncontrollable fear of thunderstorms. For them, September can be a difficult month to live with, especially in the south, due to the Mediterranean episodes. Some have told us about their anguish and Magali Palacín, a hypnotherapist, deciphers how this anguish works, which can ruin the lives of those who suffer from it.

Maëva is 17 years old and this high school student knows the name of what she suffers from: astraphobia. “As soon as I see the lightning through the window I put myself in complete darkness so as not to see it.” If it is impossible to take shelter, it is the guaranteed panic attack.

Behind what is commonly called storm phobia, several fears coexist, which have a specific name: astraphobiathe lightning one, ombrophobiarelated to storms keraunophobiafear of lightning or even brontophobiaexcessive fear of thunder.

Storm phobia, really?

From there to really talking about a phobia of storms, Magali Palacin, a hypnotherapist and psychotherapist in Montpellier who has just done her thesis on anxiety disorders, is crazy. “The phobia focuses on a specific object or something. Therefore storm phobia cannot exist.” “In the face of a phobia we are forced to flee, we cannot face it, even if it is on TV for example,” explains the psychotherapist.

As for the storms, rather, he calls this fear an anxiety disorder. “Anxiety is usually absurd thinking, which consists of imagining the worst, because the probability of a storm falling directly on us is quite low,” he says.

traumatic event

If this anxiety is not necessarily linked to a traumatic event, Valérie Gardoise knows very well where her fear comes from. “I have experienced most of the dramatic events that the weather gives us, most often in September. Like most Gardois, I remember 2002 very well.fear and anguish mixed with the sadness of discovering the material and human damage”.

Also read:
2002 floods in the Gard, 20 years later: “Such a cataclysm marks you for life”

In addition to these traumatic events, he experienced his worst night on September 13, 2015. That is where his “phobia” appeared: “Lightning struck our house, a fire broke out and since then I have developed a phobia of storms, lightning , I find it hard to live with the fact of being alert and I have to take refuge in a room located in the back of the house”.

Brain in “danger mode”

being alert, Vanessa, who lives near Montpellier, also describes it very well. Her fear of thunderstorms drives her into frenzied behavior. “Instinctively I have to unplug all electrical outlets, not shower and stay indoors when there is a storm.” The 17-year-old explains that his brain goes into “danger mode.”

A “normal” behavior in an anxious situation. Magali Palacín explains that the body prepares for the emergency. Dilated pupils, rapid pulse, your body prepares to deal with it. “There’s a part of our brain that goes into alert mode and puts our body on high alert. It can go into overdrive in the face of real danger. That’s anxiety.”

“Unconscious Loyalty”

For her part, Sabine believes this uncontrollable fear is a legacy. For as long as she can remember, she fears thunderstorms, to the point of hurting her ears, so hard that she compresses them to hear nothing. “I think it is a phobia that is in our genes, because we are afraid from generation to generation.” Weird ? Not really.

It’s called unconscious loyalty.. It is transgenerational. In fact, it is like a legacy, they have passed it on to us. It is something very well known and it is precisely so anchored in the unconscious that sometimes fears are passed on even without knowing the ancestors who suffer from them“, explains Magali Palacín.

For ombrophobes, astraphobes and other keraunophobes, the period is difficult, particularly in the south of France, where we know the violence that the Mediterranean and the Cévennes episodes can take on.

More Mediterranean episodes with climate change?

Valérie, in the Gard summarizes: “September has become a difficult month to spendand I have the impression that global warming is not going to help”. The same observation for Fanny, in the Var, who must learn to live “with this constant anxiety that paralyzes me”, since these events “will multiply in the future .” And they are probably right.

Under the effect of climate change, heavy rains tend to be more frequent and stronger in France. Météo France confirms the correlation in an article : “As the temperature rises, the atmosphere can hold more water vapor, which can turn into more rain, which leads to an intensification of rainfall.

The same for the Mediterranean episodes. by Aurelien Ribes meteorologist and climatologist from Météo France and the CNRS who states that “we should expect more frequent episodes in number but also more intense”. The reason: “Today the air is warmer, the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean are also warmer, when the conditions are right for these masses of accumulated water to precipitate, we have more important water reservoirs.”

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