Astraphobia is an intense fear of thunder and lightning. It can affect children and adults, as well as animals. Types of therapies, such as talk therapy or exposure therapy, may help a person overcome their fear.

Astraphobia can cause a person significant distress and anxiety. Phobias involve an intense fear that may interfere with a person’s day-to-day life.

A person with astraphobia may experience fear at the thought of thunderstorms or stop going outside in an attempt to avoid storms.

This article outlines the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment of astraphobia, including advice on when to speak with a doctor about phobias.

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According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), a specific phobia is an intense and irrational fear of a stimulus that poses little to no danger. Astraphobia is a phobia of thunder and lightning.

People with astraphobia may recognize that their fear of thunderstorms is exaggerated or irrational. Nonetheless, they may experience severe anxiety or panic attacks during thunderstorms or even at the thought of thunderstorms.

According to a 2020 case study, people with astraphobia may:

  • continually watch for changes in the weather
  • avoid going outside, especially if a storm is imminent
  • plan how to hide from storms

During thunderstorms, people with astraphobia may experience the following symptoms:

  • anxiety
  • panic attacks
  • feelings of impending doom or fear of death
  • sweating
  • rapid heart rate
  • shallow breathing
  • fainting and loss of consciousness

Without treatment, astraphobia may develop into agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is a fear of being in a public or crowded place from which it is difficult to escape or receive help.

According to a 2020 case study, astraphobia is common among children and tends to diminish with age.

The case study authors suggest adults with astraphobia typically develop the condition following a traumatic event, such as witnessing a lightning strike, being caught in heavy rain or flooding during a thunderstorm.

A healthcare professional may use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) to formally diagnose astraphobia and other types of anxiety disorder.

Based on the DSM-5 criteria, a person would need to meet the following criteria to receive a formal diagnosis of astraphobia:

  • The person experiences marked fear or anxiety in response to thunderstorms.
  • The person experiences immediate fear or anxiety almost every time a thunderstorm occurs.
  • The fear or anxiety the person experiences in response to thunderstorms is disproportionate to the actual danger thunderstorms pose.
  • The person actively avoids thunderstorms or endures them with intense anxiety.
  • The person’s fear, anxiety, or avoidance of thunderstorms causes them significant distress or impairs their social or occupational functioning or other forms of functioning.
  • The person’s fear or avoidance of thunderstorms is persistent and has lasted for at least 6 months.
  • No other mental disorder better accounts for the person’s phobia symptoms.

According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), most phobias are treatable, though no single treatment is guaranteed to be effective against all phobias.

Behavioral therapy that desensitizes a person to their fear trigger can be effective in treating specific phobias, such as astraphobia.

A 2018 review states that the standard treatment for specific phobias is exposure therapy (ET). This involves gradually and repeatedly exposing a person to their feared stimulus so that they can develop the necessary tools to manage their anxiety.

Exposure therapy for astraphobia may consist of the following:

  • exposure to photographs of storms or sounds clips of thunder
  • virtual reality (VR) exposure to storms via a VR headset
  • listening to or watching a storm in real-time

According to the 2018 review, evidence suggests that ET may be an effective short-term treatment for specific phobias, but more evidence regarding its long-term effectiveness is necessary.

This is because most studies follow participants over a short timeframe, even though treated phobias are susceptible to relapse.

Other therapies

The NHS suggests talk therapies may also help to treat specific phobias. Talk therapies can include:


Doctors do not usually prescribe medication to treat phobias, since talking therapies tend to be effective with no risk of side effects.

However, the following medications may help to treat secondary symptoms, such as anxiety and depression:

  • antidepressants to treat anxiety or panic disorder
  • tranquilizers to treat severe anxiety
  • beta-blockers to treat heart palpitations and other physical anxiety symptoms

Self-help techniques

Doctors may also suggest employing self-help techniques to manage the symptoms of astraphobia, including:

Experiencing a mild fear or worry during thunderstorms does not necessarily mean a person has astraphobia.

According to the UK charity Mind, a person should speak with a doctor about astraphobia if the following applies:

  • Their avoidance of thunderstorms or potential thunderstorms affects their everyday life or causes them significant distress.
  • Astraphobia prevents the person from partaking in activities they would otherwise enjoy.
  • They experience intense or overwhelming fear, anxiety, or panic due to thunder and lightning.
  • Their fear of thunderstorms is out of proportion to the danger that thunderstorms pose.
  • They have had astraphobia for at least 6 months.
  • Their astraphobia develops into agoraphobia, which prevents them from seeking support for other health problems.

Astraphobia is a fear of thunderstorms. People with this phobia may experience symptoms during or before a thunderstorm or even when thinking about thunderstorms. Symptoms may include feelings of impending doom, panic attacks, and fainting.

Astraphobia is more common among children and typically diminishes with age. However, this phobia can also develop in adulthood, typically following a traumatic event relating to thunderstorms.

Treatment may involve exposure therapy, talk therapies, or medication to alleviate secondary symptoms. A person can talk with their doctor about the best treatment options for them.