anxiety | 01 Jun 2022

Why am I so scared of storms?

Why am I so scared of storms? Blog by Tania Taylor

Who can be affected by a phobia of storms?

Phobias and anxiety related to storms can be caused by many factors. For some people it can be learned behaviour from an influential person in their life, most commonly a parent. Learned attachment theories and Pavlovian theories suggest that when exposed to a stimulus such as a storm, and the ‘parent’ demonstrates a fear response, the child mimics this fear response. It is a survival mechanism. Overtime, it stops becoming a mimicked response and becomes a persons natural response to the stimulus or threat.

What happens when you have a phobia of storms?

For others, it can be due to a traumatic event that occurred during a storm. For example, a car accident, or a flood, that resulted in serious shock. PTSD can happen as a result of any kind of shock.

At first you may find it feels like you are watching a video inside your head that almost feels like it is on repeat. And each time it feels like you are there, re-living each moment, second by second. As time passes, this video loop can increase in consistency and intensity.

Dark clouds Tania Taylor Hypnotherapy

The part of the brain that controls fight or flight (limbic system) isn’t able to distinguish very well between imagined images and reality, and so it evokes a physical fear response that can increase heart rate, cause excessive sweating, we may need to run to the toilet, and feel a real sense of panic.

In one part of our mind, we know we’re just sat in our living room, but the other part that controls our fight/flight/freeze response, it thinks we are there and living through the trauma. So it responds as though we are there.

As time passes it can get worse, and you should definitely seek help from your GP if you feel this may be you.   

bikes in wet stormy weather, Tania Taylor Hypnotherapy

How can a phobia of storms start?

For many more, there is no initial trigger or understanding as to why their fear has gotten to the stage it is. An event may have triggered it, but there is no recollection of the event as it wasn’t something that felt important at the time. For example, it could be something as simple as you happened to have a stomach bug during a storm, which led you to panic over locating the nearest toilet. The next time there’s a storm, you don’t remember what happened last time, but your limbic system does.

Your limbic systems soul purpose is to keep you alive. It can’t be innovative as it isn’t connected to our prefrontal cortex, and so it relies on previous behaviour patterns. The last time you were in a storm, you needed the loo, so it believes this was something that prolonged your life, and encourages you to use the same behaviour pattern again. As time progresses, it can become more and more of an issue and you have no idea why every time you experience stormy weather you feel this sudden anxiety, butterflies in your tummy and need the loo. That’s just one example, there are so many variations and it can start at any time in your life.  

How do you know if your fear of storms is a phobia?

If your fear is preventing you from living your normal day to day life, then it is important to speak to a health professional about what you are experiencing.

Upset woman at rainy window Tania Taylor Hypnotherapy

What does a phobia of storms feel like?

A fear response can feel different for different people. From that feeling of butterflies in your stomach, to shear panic attacks that feel like you might die at any moment. People often assume a panic attack is not being able to breathe, and whilst this is very common, sometimes your breathing isn’t affected and instead it is a few moments in time that feels like if you don’t help yourself or get help from someone else you fear for your life. Later on you are able to reflect back on the situation and know that you were perfectly safe and the risk to life was zero.

How can you get help when you have a phobia of storms?

Find a trusted friend or family member and explain how you have been feeling. You’ll often find that people respond with empathy and concern. Everyone usually knows someone who has experienced some level of severe anxiety at some point in their lives themselves included, so having that shared understanding and experience can be a helpful pillar of support.

How can I deal with my phobia of storms?

  • Some storms will have been easier to cope with than others, consider what you did differently and how that helped. 
  • If you find yourself really panicking try a breathing exercise, there’s a few examples from me here.   Rectangular breathing is a great method for calming you down during a period of anxiety. Use the rectangular image I’ve created below. Step one: Find a rectangular shaped object, a window, door, road sign, book, your phone. Step two: Breathe in following the short line, moving from top left, to top right. Hold for a count of one at each corner. Breathe out following the line from top right, to bottom right, holding at the corner, and so on. Next introduce counting of your breath. Try exhale for one count more than you inhale. As you progress, try and slow your breathing down a little at a time by adding an extra count into your inhale, and exhale. So if you start inhaling to a count of 2, you will exhale to a count of 3. By the end, you may be inhaling to a count of 5, and exhaling to a count of 6. Only ever hold to a count of 1 at each corner of the rectangular shape.
Rectangular breathing by Tania Taylor Hypnotherapy
  • Please talk to someone about your fear, it’s more common than you think and talking therapies can help you live through storms without unbearable anxiety. Book in for a free initial consultation by phone with me here. I offer one to one support for anxiety related to storms both face to face and over video link worldwide.

Lady sat at a window with a mug Tania Taylor Hypnotherapy

Ways to Manage Stress When Life is So Unpredicitable

Stress is something we all must live with. Life is often unpredictable, and our brain really doesn’t value uncertainty or change, and this can put a large amount of undue pressure on our psychological and physical wellbeing.  From our bodies giving us too much stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, to our minds being so preoccupied with what is stressing us out, we can’t seem to focus on anything else.

The way one person reacts to stress can be very different to another. So, what is it that makes one person deal with the unpredictability of life so well, whilst the next person is struggling with similar situations?

Learning how to manage your stress can make all the difference. And it’s not just about your responses to it, but also your ability to have flexibility and to let things go.

ONE: FLEXIBILITY

It’s time to give yourself permission to allow for more flexibility in your life. If we plan everything to perfection right down to dotting the last i and crossing the last T, we are setting ourselves up for failure every single time! Life is not perfect, for anyone – you included. Start to recognise that it is okay NOT to be perfect. Better yet, begin to slowly put a spanner in the works when it comes to planning tasks. If you intentionally muddle up your morning routine and do it differently every morning, how can you ever get stressed again with your morning routine not going to plan…if there is no plan!

Read more…