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Brontophobia: The Fear of Thunder

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Westin Vance

on 6 November 2013

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Transcript of Brontophobia: The Fear of Thunder

Astraphobia: The Fear of Thunderstorms

Classical Conditioning
US (trauma) -> UR (fear)
CS (storm) -> CR (re experience fear)
Pavlovs Dog

Vicarious Acquisition
Learning to fear something based on another person's response

Informational Acquisition
Typical fear response (shaking, crying)

Attempts to block sound (pillow over head, covering ears)

Obsession with checking the weather (most common indicator)

Will often seek comfort from others
Beta blockers

Cognitive-behavior therapy
exposure and desensitization

Between 15%-30% of dogs are Astraphobic
Astraphobia = Irrational fear of storms
Phobia = Anxiety disorder involving an irrational fear of an object or situation
Common Types
Glossophobia 74 %
Necrophobia 68 %
Arachnophobia 30.5 %
Achluophobia 11 %
Acrophobia 10 %
Sociophobia 7.9 %
Aerophobia 6.5 %
Claustrophobia 2.5 %
Agoraphobia 2.2 %
Brontophobia 2 %

Traumatic Experience
M. Munson (2010)
Catastrophic Appraisal
Muris et al (2002)
Who it affects
2% of the human population is estimated to be Astraphobic

More prevalent in the United States

Reported Response
Shortness of breath
Heart pounding

Feel helpless
Monitor TV


Unable to sleep
Change schedule

Unable to eat
Beta blockers- Used to block the inevitable adrenaline spike prior to the onset of anxiety

Antidepressants- Useful when fear is severe

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cortisol increase
By measuring the levels of cortisol in a dogs saliva, stress levels can be measured
Cottam & Dodman (2009)
Astraphobia affects millions of people (estimated to affect 2% of Americans) and is one of the most common phobias in the world.

Astraphobia is easily identified by excessive anxiety during thunderstorms, but is also characterized by an obsession with checking the weather report

Astrophobics know they have very little to fear, but cannot stop the reaction from taking place.

Over 80% of astraphobics attribute their fear to a traumatic incident involving storms

Astraphobia affects dogs heavily (between 15%-30%)

Many symptoms are similar to human (pacing, hiding, crying)

Treatments include medication, shock resistant blankets, and therapy

Depla, M. A., Ten ^Have, M. L., Van Balkom, A. M., & De Graaf, R. (2008). Specific fears and phobias in the general population: Results from the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study (NEMESIS). Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology, 43(3), 200-208. doi:10.1007/s00127-007-0291-z

Based on Jim Harvey's speech structures
Munson, M., Davis, T., Grills-Taquechel, A., & Zlomke, K. (2010). The Effects of Hurricane Katrina on Females with a Pre-Existing Fear of Storms. Current Psychology, 29(4), 307-319. doi:10.1007/s12144-010-9093-7

Source: National Institute of Mental Health
Increased heart and lung action
Slowing of digestion
Constriction of blood vessels
Liberation of metabolic energy sources
Dilation of blood vessels for muscles
Inhibition of the lacrimal gland and salivation
Dilation of pupil
Relaxation of bladder
Inhibition of erection
Auditory exclusion
Tunnel vision

Exposure to phobia causes anxiety (measurable)
Recognition that fear is unreasonable
Avoidance of phobia disrupts daily life
Astraphobia = An irrational fear of thunderstorms
Surveyed 62 undergraduates who experienced the devastation of Hurricane Katrina

Split sample into those who continued to fear storms and those who did not
Found that group who feared storms lacked coping mechanism necessary to manage stress of their fear response
Compared the fears of children in Belgium and the Antilles

Hypothesized Antillean children would fear hurricanes more than Belgians based on experience and relative threat

Study showed Belgian children feared hurricanes
than their Antillean counterparts
Westefeld, J. S., Less, A., Ansley, T., & Sook Yi, H. (2006). Severe-Weather Phobia. Bulletin Of The American Meteorological Society, 87(6), 747-749. doi:10.1175/BAMS-87-6-747

Westefeld (2006)
80% of astraphobic participants attributed their fear to a traumatic event
Surveyed 81 adults
Westefeld (2006)
Asked participants to rate following symptoms (1-5 scale) during a thunderstorm
Found strong similarities between participants, particularly involving monitoring the TV (over 80%)
According to Westefeld (2006), about 18% of astraphobics use medication to cope with symptoms
Wang, A. (2000). Storm phobia: A North Atlantic phenomenon. Nordic Journal Of Psychiatry, 54(1), 67-68. doi:10.1080/080394800427609fe
Cottam, N., & Dodman, N. H. (2009). Comparison of the effectiveness of a purported anti-static cape (the Storm Defender®) vs. a placebo cape in the treatment of canine thunderstorm phobia as assessed by owners’ reports. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 119(1/2), 78-84. doi:10.1016/j.applanim.2009.03.014
In a Penn State study, dogs listened to recordings of storms and were then tested
the data showed a nearly 200% increase in cortisol
Tested "Storm Defender" cape for dogs against a placebo cape

Found both capes comforted dog during storms

Concluded form-fitting cape can be used to comfort anxious canines
Medication remains treatment of choice for owners.
Phobias often trigger fight or flight responses even if the threat is minimal
Psychotherapeutic approach that addresses dysfunctional cognitive processes and contents through a number of goal-oriented, explicit systematic procedures

Very successful

Emphasis on exposure

Treatment of astraphobia ranges from different medications, such as antidepressants, to intensive therapy.

Luckily, astraphobia is treatable in both humans and canines
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