Severe Weather Phobia - Part 1

Thunderstorms. As we head into the warmer months here in Michiana, we'll be seeing a lot more of them. For some, storms can be a little scary, especially the stronger ones. But imagine having such a fear of the weather that it takes over your life.

That's what it's like for Lori. It has been 11 years since the storm that triggered her fear.

"We had a storm come through, and when I looked out my computer room window, we looked out here and this sky was bright red. I mean it was red. It was hailing, the wind where the trees were touching the ground. And it was bad. The power went out, and it was bad. The sirens were going off, and it was super bad. And I never forgot. And I think I've been scared ever since."

Doctor Robert Gorman tells us that most people with severe storm phobia have had a bad experience with the weather in the past.

If you have never heard of severe storm phobia, you're not alone. In fact, the term itself was not even coined until 1996, just 13 years ago.

For people like Lori, severe weather takes over their lives.

“I have a weather radio, weather alerts on my cell phone, I run from storms because I don't feel safe in my own house. If I think a thunderstorm is coming I'll go spend the night somewhere else. And I go wherever there's a basement. And I wait and wait and wait and wait for storms.”

Lori watches every weathercast she can find, and spends hours, if not days on the computer trying to track storms as they approach, sometimes even from hundreds of miles away.

Doctor Gorman explains that people who have storm phobia constantly monitor the weather on every possible medium; television, internet, weather radios, etc. They will even start doing this days in advance of approaching severe weather.

Lori has trouble eating and sleeping on the day of a storm due to her anxiety.

That’s not uncommon, according to Dr. Gorman. He also says they will often complain of things like stomachaches, headaches, or just feel a bit “off” in addition to the usual panic symptoms like dizziness, lightheadedness, trouble breathing, and increased heart rate.

Lori used to work, but now her fear of the weather keeps her from holding a job.

“I can't, because I'm too busy running from storms. I won't drive in fog, I won't drive in a thunderstorm. And it's gotten so worse now, that it's like it's almost crippling you know, it's like paralyzing me.”

Lori has had limited success with therapy.

“I deep breathe and take Xanax, but I'm afraid of the medicine so that's rare that I take that. You know, and they say to find things to do, well, I do, I go right to the computer.”

Dr. Gorman says group therapy is probably one of best ways for people with severe weather phobia to deal with their anxiety, along with relaxation techniques to help when the anxiety increases. There are also websites that provide more information, and helpful tips.

To read part two of this series, click here.

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