Weather Phobias – Personal Stories of Storm Anxiety

Now more than ever, many people find themselves wrestling with anxiety. Having anxiety issues is more than just feeling a little nervous or anxious. Anxiety and panic attacks can make a person feel like the world will crush them, or like they might implode. For many, simply calming down is not an option. Learning to cope with stress and keep anxiety at bay can be difficult. However, there are a few ways to make the struggle manageable.

In the spectrum of fear lies a plethora of weather-related phobias.  The following is a partial list:

  • Achluophobia – fear of darkness
  • Ancraophobia  – fear of wind
  • Antlophobia – fear of floods
  • Astraphobia  – fear of lightning and thunder
  • Chionophobia  – fear of snow
  • Cryophobia – fear of cold 
  • Heliophobia  – fear of the sun
  • Homichlophobia – fear of fog
  • Lilapsophobia  – fear of tornadoes or hurricanes
  • Nephophobia  – fear of clouds
  • Ombrophobia  – fear of rain
  • Pagophobia – fear of ice or frost
  • Selenophobia – fear of the moon
  • Thermophobia  – fear of heat

In this piece, I provide some general information about phobias and anxiety, followed by the real-life experiences of two iWeatherNet followers with Lilapsophobia, the fear of tornadoes and/or hurricanes.  We hope that this information will help others who struggle with weather-related phobias to understand that they are not alone. In fact, four iWeatherNet followers who call themselves “The Twister Sisters” founded a Facebook group called DFW Storm Support, where a growing number of members discuss their experiences and talk through their anxieties with each passing weather event. 

Learn Your Triggers

Dealing with something you cannot identify is nearly impossible, so the first step to harnessing your anxiety is figuring out what causes it. By keeping a journal of instances when you feel anxious, you can begin to understand what brings on the episodes and how to avoid those types of pressures. Of course, some situations are unavoidable, but pinpointing the triggers can help you be better aware so you are not caught off guard.

Make note of who was there, what was said, what actions were happening around you, and what you were thinking. It is also important to note sounds, lighting, and even room temperature if possible. All of these things can contribute to your anxiety and are important for understanding how to counter your triggers in the future. Once you know your triggers, you can begin to deal with them before the situation gets out of control.

Develop a Plan

When an attack hits, how will you fight back? After you have a good list of triggers, you should develop a plan for dealing with them, because you may not be able to think rationally when you are in the middle of a tense, sickening feeling. When all you can think of is the world crumbling around you, it is hard to think logically. If you have a plan in place, you can simply refer to the scenario you have developed and find a place to cope.

Maybe you are triggered by being surrounded by too many people, or maybe driving in heavy traffic or at night causes you stress. No matter what it is, have a plan for where you will go when you cannot deal anymore. Perhaps you find a quiet corner or an unoccupied room. You might decide to pull off the highway for a few minutes to breathe. What matters is not so much what you do, but just that you have a plan in place. You have to move yourself from what is causing you stress to a place where you can cope.

Create a Dialogue in Your Mind

When your anxiety hits and you have found your quiet space, the next step is to talk to yourself. This may seem silly, but by talking through the issue, you can lessen the feeling of doom. You can begin by telling yourself what the trigger was: “OK, this is what is bothering me.” Then, you can work through the issue: “I will stay on this side of the room until this person is gone, ” or “I can let them know traffic is bad and I will be a little late instead of trying to drive too fast.” No matter the situation, having a talk with the logical side of your mind helps.

This is also the time when you can tell yourself the situation is likely not as bad as you believe. Being honest with yourself about anxiety amplifying issues into gargantuan monsters can make them seem smaller, largely because they are smaller. You just have to let the anxious part of you know it is looking at a problem through a magnifying glass. By recognizing you may be blowing something out of proportion, you can deal with it much more easily.

Do Not Fall into Escapism

Running from your problems may seem like the most logical way to end an anxiety attack, but it may not be the most healthy or helpful way. While occasionally it is fine to leave if the pressure is too much to deal with, learning to cope with your triggers is much more effective in the end. You cannot always avoid morning meetings, stressful commutes, or even that one uncle you cannot stand. In fact, trying to do so can cause even more anxiety.

Learning to talk yourself through an attack can seem difficult, mechanical, and maybe even useless at first. It will take some time for the process to come naturally, but this is an integral part of overcoming anxiety. Sure, if the evening news or loud music make you edgy, you can avoid them. You should always try to eliminate as many stressors as possible, but there will always be someone who grates your nerves. Your job may always be stressful. Family gatherings, holiday parties, or office functions may always be uncomfortable, so coping is better than running.

Do Not Be Too Hard on Yourself

Millions of people suffer from anxiety disorders. Entire websites, support groups, and books are dedicated to helping people deal with anxiety, and with the growing amount of pressure in the world, those numbers will likely grow larger. Try to remember you are not isolated. Not everyone will admit the role anxiety plays in their lives, but it is a common problem.

Beating yourself up over your attacks can give you anxiety about your anxiety. Instead, acceptance of your anxiety should be part of your internal dialogue. Make sure you tell yourself it is OK to feel anxious. Reinforcing self-acceptance can help you navigate the terrible feeling accompanied by anxiety, as you may feel completely alone during this time. Give yourself a virtual hug. Tell yourself you will be OK. Strangely, accepting your own anxiety issues can help you be honest with others about them.

Let People Know What You Are Going Through

There are a different people to address in this category. First, you should talk to those closest to you. Explain to them that if they do not experience anxiety, this may not make much sense, but you have trouble dealing with stress and issues around you. Let them know what your triggers are, and more importantly, tell them your coping plan. This way, if they see you walk away from a situation, they can be supportive rather than judgmental. Also, make sure they know the boundaries you would like them to maintain. Tell them if you prefer they show support, or if you would rather they just give you space. Your conversation with your closest friends, relatives, and coworkers is a great time to let them know telling someone with anxiety to “just calm down,” or that they are “blowing things out of proportion” is not helpful. There is no better time to help them understand anxiety disorders are not fake or acts to garner sympathy, but rather they cause pain and suffering unimaginable to people who can cope with daily stress in a healthier way.

Next, address the people who trigger your anxiety. This may be the toughest group of all because those you confront may feel attacked. However, if possible, it is good to let those with whom you must interact know what actions or situations they are part of that are hurting you. You will have to be diplomatic, so try to avoid being accusatory. Rather than saying, “You make me,” try something more like “Sometimes when you do that, I feel like this.” By changing the tone, they may be able to empathize with your situation more instead of becoming defensive.  Take this opportunity to discuss how you can both work together to avoid these uncomfortable situations. You may also need to consider talking to someone besides the actual stressor.

This can be especially true in the workplace. Sometimes conversations with coworkers and superiors can be near impossible. They may not want to hear what you have to say, or worse, there could be repercussions from that person. In those cases, you should find someone within your organization who will listen. You might even be able to find a mediator who can help you both through the problem. No matter what, you have the right to a peaceful work environment, so make sure you speak up if someone is causing you pain at work.

Reach Out

Sometimes, you simply cannot deal with anxiety on your own. Do not let panic and anxiety attacks rule your life. If you feel like you are spiraling out of control, contact a professional. Counselors, therapists, and doctors can work on behavior therapies, relaxation techniques, and prescribe medications when needed. In no way does seeking professional help make you weird, sick, or weak. There is no need to suffer through life when there is a better way. By all means, if you ever feel like you might harm yourself or others, seek immediate attention.  No one will laugh. Mental health affects everyone.

Anxiety does not have to take over your life. You can get back into control. Having honest conversations with yourself and others, learning what your triggers are and how to combat them, and talking to professionals can help you escape the grip of anxiety disorders. Panic and anxiety attacks are no laughing matter. They may also be something you cannot overcome on your own. Taking action is the first step to feeling less anxious. Whether you follow these steps or seek professional help, know you are not alone.

Lilapsophobia – The Fear of Tornadoes or Hurricanes

My personal experience – By Tiffany Beatty-Patel

As far as weather, I never gave it much thought, other than noticing the wind or a pretty cloud. Besides being shoved into the closet a few random times when I was little, and being told to come inside, or get out of the water if there was lightening or thunder, other than that, the danger really never crossed my mind.

My First Encounter

I was driving my son to his soccer practice, speeding because I was late, weaving through the traffic, and suddenly I noticed the cars were all pulling over, some even stopping in the middle of the highway. I accelerated, thinking, “what the heck are you idiots doing”? It wasn’t five seconds later I realized they were stopping to duck for cover, from the swirling black cloud of death coming right up the middle of 175… I was driving right into it!  With my son and his cousin and baby sister in the back seat. I busted a u turn in the middle of the highway and raced to the nearest spot that looked safe. There were other people under the overpass so I decided that was where I would go to. (turns out that’s the worst place to take cover.)

… I’m vacuuming the floor… I turn the vacuum off and hear sirens… I turn the TV to the news and rush outside to see what’s up. Dan Henry pops on and tells us that there’s a tornado on the ground coming up 35 from red oak. And everyone in our area (Lancaster) is to take cover. We waited ten terrifying minutes in the shower (all 6 kids and 3 adults) and then a friend of mine goes outside to check it out, he races back into the bathroom yelling “debris! There’s debris”! We all immediately began to pray and the kids began crying and screaming…  The power shut off abruptly and we hear what sounds like a train. A strong force and wind, sort of eerie and very loud, (one that I will never forget). The sound of houses literally breaking and even the sirens in the distance… what seemed like forever was only about three minutes. Then everything went dead silent, and it was over.

After we all hugged and gathered ourselves enough to go outside to see what happened, to my horror the entire street next to mine was destroyed. Houses leveled, people walking about confused, stunned from what they’ve just experienced. There was a car inside a living room window and wood. Broken wood. So much wood. Everywhere. My house was not damaged. It missed our street but the street next to mine was not so lucky, and the neighborhood behind mine wasn’t either. The further I walked the more damage there was. Over turned cars, and just miscellaneous stuff all over. The remnants of these people’s lives just scattered and strewn throughout the street and probably miles away… (it was a very numbing and pivotal moment in what would later be my mental visual that triggered my attacks. The first thing I think of when I hear the T word.)

I ran back to my house and gathered whatever I could find. Snacks, blankets, water. We caught people walking around and we handed them out to those that were looking for whatever was left of their homes. I remember their faces.  The complete and total loss of their sanity. for just that very moment they were so vulnerable and in need of someone to help them get their thoughts in order… I hugged many of them. And offered my help. They just wanted the water, a hug for comfort and a porch to sit on for a moment while they tried to figure out what to do next. Our neighborhood was shut down and the cops began to block the streets. We couldn’t go out and no one could get in. We had to beg a cop to let us go get a generator so we could have power. It was a very traumatic experience for me. Even though I wasn’t hit, the sheer miss of it still haunts me. And the scene afterwards. Those people’s faces still pop up in my head… we have since moved from that house. But the memory of that day still remains in my mind.

The storm came, lives were washed away, ancient pains resurfaced, now it is time for a sea of change. –Travis Smiley

As far as weather, I never gave it much thought, other than noticing the wind or a pretty cloud. Besides being shoved into the closet a few random times when I was little, and being told to come inside, or get out of the water if there was lightening or thunder, other than that, the danger really never crossed my mind.

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Figure 1my house circled in pink

Tiffany’s house flying away

In 2015 I witnessed the day after Christmas tornado in Rowlett and Garland. From my front yard, I watched that monster terrorize the people and towns. For 13 minutes I stood outside praying for every house, every person, every pet. Time stood still again that day, as I watched in complete horror while the tornado lit up green and blues, and the lightning strikes around it illuminated it. The thing was huge by the time it disappeared into the night beyond our view.

My phobia is limited to tornadoes/straight line winds

It had gotten worse over the years. What triggers my anxiety is the mention of the threat of tornados, especially during spring. If I read a forecast about a storm coming (even four days out) I begin to prepare for the worst automatically. My brain goes into panic mode. Spring is a perpetual anxiety attack. My heart races, my thoughts become cluttered, and I begin to obsess. searching for other forecasts that sound better, less dangerous, frantically looking for anything to ease my mind. I spend hours and hours reloading pages for updates and checking the radar. I can’t sleep, I lose my appetite, (I’m hungry but I can’t eat.) For four days, and up until the storm passes, I’m a mess. I get snappy with my family, annoyed with my children, and distance myself from friends and family. My husband starts to gripe at me about it. I sometimes end up having to take my meds. (This is a very last resort for me, after everything else fails.) 

I found Chris (founder of iWeatherNet) while searching for weather forecasts on google and I found his page on Facebook. This is what helps me understand what’s happening from a scientific level. The technical stuff… I like him a lot because I can’t stand the hype. For people like me it’s too intense. There’s no reason, in my opinion, to tell people about a storm having tornadoes four days out. I think they should wait until two days or until they’re more confident in that scenario. They could re-word the forecast. As some of them ruin my entire week. Because I spend each day worrying and obsessing all day long. For me, once my panic starts and gains control, the only thing that helps me is to meditate. Turn everything off. And sit in the silence. Focus on breathing and regain control of my heart rate. And my thoughts. Just enough to force myself to get the things done I need to do as an adult, as a wife, as a mom. Learning as much as you can about what’s happening is sometimes a catalyst for the anxiety. Sometimes it’s best to just stop. And be still. Remind myself that there is no imminent danger at this very moment and IF it happens I NEED TO BE CALM AND THINK COLLECTIVELY AND CRITICALLY. And you can’t do that if you’re freaking out. 

I have recently started to overcome my fear by just stepping out of my zone and reaching out for help to others that experience the same thing. I met Cassie on iWeatherNet’s page… and then we branched out and met two other girls on Fox weather… we became storm buddies… providing support within our private message group. Then we decided that we were strong enough to reach out to more people… so we started a support group on Facebook (DFW Storm Support.) And it grew larger with people of the like. This has helped me tremendously. It’s like making myself remain calm so I can help these other people who need me! And vice versa for everyone in the group. It’s a process but I really do feel like I can control the fear and not let it control me. I’ve come a long way, but there’s always room for improvement. I still have my moments.  So here I am… living with it. Working through it.

Preparing for the storm

Things I do

Some of the small things I do before the storm are; preparing my safe place. Gathering Helmets, water, everyone a pair of shoes and change of clothes. Flashlights, etc., and make sure the safe is locked. I charge all devices and extra charging boxes. I line the closet with pillows and blankets, it’s there if I need it. I make sure my radar loads and that my severe weather alerts are on. After all that is done I try to take my mind off the weather by cleaning up my house. If everything is in order and clean I feel like I can control the chaos in my head. Then I try to rest. I sometimes enjoy looking at the clouds and taking pics of the storm coming in. (This is recent, I used to stay inside all day in fear of the clouds.) I like to compare what I see to the image on the radar. 

I find comfort in the science behind iWeatherNet’s forecasts. It helps me a lot to read them and he is very good at answering questions or dumbing it down if you need him too. Also, the live broadcasts from Evan Andrews and David Finfrock. They are very good at easing my fears. They hype on TV, but their live streams are way more low key and they answer questions as they come up on the screen, even if it’s the same one a hundred times.  Danny Brounoff is also very good at keeping me calm. He does the weather at KRLD and is also an experienced storm chaser.

Things I don’t do!

Go reading forecasts from arm chair meteorologists, I highly advise against reading a forecast posted by a storm chaser.  Just save yourself the heart attack and don’t do it. I check iWeatherNet and NWS. Only! And avoid Facebook posts that are click bait and fear mongering like The Weather Channel. Their torcon is my worst enemy. Although Dr. Forbes is a brilliant man with extensive experience in weather events, his torcon scares the crap outta me, and quite honestly, I think he hypes a bit for ratings.

I’m living with this fear and I am determined to conquer. I am also passionate about helping other people that are living with this debilitating fear overcome, and live a normal life, without constantly worrying about the weather.

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