Fear of Thunder

Brontophobia means fear (phobia) of thunder (bronto). When people talk about fear it can mean anything from a relatively mild state of discomfort to a situation bordering on, or including, outright panic. When there is no obvious threat to the person yet the fear response is marked and persistent, the term phobia is used.

Young children are often pointed out as classic examples of people that suffer with brontophobia. In some cases this may be true, but fear is also a natural response to a situation perceived as threatening and for which we have no explanation or idea of the consequences. It is therefore a quite rational response to feel unsettled when confronted by flashes of light and very loud crashes of thunder.

What Causes Brontophobia?

Phobias are a learned response. That is, they nearly always develop as a result of some association that was most often occur during a thunderstorm but may also be seen in anticipation of thunder. formed between the feared object or situation, and often at a young age. Children learn from those around them. If they see, or sense, a fear response they may quickly adopt this. However, fear commonly develops from a more direct association with thunder – for example being caught in a violent storm when camping, or being involved in an accident during stormy weather.


Symptoms of brontophobia are no different from other phobias. Physical symptoms include sweating, increased heart rate, trembling, rapid breathing or shortness of breath. Psychological symptoms include a sense of dread, lack of concentration, panicky thinking (I’m going to die) complete terror and a sense of utter helplessness. People with phobias invariably have a number of safety behaviors they use as security props. If a storm is forecast it is likely the person will refuse to leave the house. They may also switch off all the electricity, close curtains and possibly find a secure place in which to hide.

Treatment Options

Phobias are highly responsive to treatment and there are a variety of treatment options available. These include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Sometimes these are combined. Typically, medication with some form of cognitive therapy. The most common technique for the treatment of a simple phobia is relaxation combined with a graded exposure to the feared object or situation. Where the feared object is commonplace, such as a bird, a spider, needles, dirt, and so on, it is very easy for the therapist to construct a kind of hierarchy of fear with their patient which eases them towards exposure of the feared object. Some other fears are highly specific (fear of flying for example) and special arrangements often have to be made. Brontophobia is somewhat similar in the sense that the therapist will never have a thunderstorm to hand. They can however develop the basic coping and more adaptive skills with their patient to prepare them for a storm. Novel items such as a DVD of a storm, or headphones with storm noises, can help as part of therapy.