Help me overcome my lightning phobia!
April 2, 2008 10:52 AM   Subscribe

Anyone have any tips on overcoming a lightning phobia?

Over the past few years I have slowly developed a lightning phobia. I was never afraid of lightning when I was younger and I've never had a bad experience with it or known anyone who has. I have a theory that it developed after 9/11. It might sound strange, but in the year following I developed a little minor anxiety about situations that were out of my control -- being stuck somewhere, getting hurt and not being able to get help, flying, getting lost...and lightning. All the other anxieties passed but the fear of lightning stuck around and slowly grew in intensity.

I can barely stand to be outside (or even near a window) if there's a chance of an electrical storm rolling in. If I am outside and spot lightning, even if it's way off in the distance, my instinct is to throw myself to the ground. I manage to keep my composure but I still end up flinching and hunching over and it has on occasion kept me from doing things I want to do. And it also sucks because I love storms and this is keeping me from relaxing and enjoying them like I used to.

Are there any tricks or tips that help in getting over something like this or should I suck it up and go to a therapist?
posted by LeeJay to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I think CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) can help you with your phobia.

You don't have to see a therapist to learn some of these techniques (though that is an option if you decide you DO want help). There are some great CBT books out there ... the one I think that would be most beneficial to you is the Anxiety & Phobia Workbook.

The exercises in the book seem almost silly, but really do them, take them seriously -- CBT works.
posted by tastybrains at 11:13 AM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think I speak for many that no one really gets over a fear of lightening. While I think many people have probably thought about what it would be like to be struck by lightening and surviving, like miraculously gaining the ability to power electric machines by simple touch, I think there are more people who are just thinking about whether they would shit their pants. The small and large of it is that your chances of being struck by lightening are pretty remote and it's a healthy fear: you shouldn't be running around in a lightening storm anyway.
posted by parmanparman at 11:43 AM on April 2, 2008

Response by poster: The small and large of it is that your chances of being struck by lightening are pretty remote and it's a healthy fear: you shouldn't be running around in a lightening storm anyway.

Well, I get that. But I think this has gone a little bit beyond that. There have been times when I have actually skipped doing things with friends because there's a storm and I don't want to walk from my front door to my car. This doesn't happen every time, usually only when I'm stressed out about something else, but it feels a little bit extreme and I'm hoping there are some coping strategies I could use to move past the irrational and limiting part of the phobia.
posted by LeeJay at 11:58 AM on April 2, 2008

I would recommend seeing a therapist. I was in a similar situation a number of years ago (severe anxiety interfering with my life and I found therapy pretty helpful). Tastybrains is also right on the CBT suggestion - it's been shown to be very helpful with anxiety. SSRIs can also help.
posted by pombe at 12:16 PM on April 2, 2008

Best answer: my instinct is to throw myself to the ground

Not what's recommended if you feel a charge building on you. I find that I'm less scared in many situations if I know the proper safety precautions to take. Link

I've had lightning hit fairly close to me; it is loud, scary, and sets off everyone's car alarms. I've met someone who was hit by lightning and survived (w/o superpowers, it doesn't work that way), and have walked many times down a street where someone was killed by lightning. I've also known someone who loved to go walk around in lightning storms, and last I heard they haven't been hit. It's a powerful force of nature, and it's natural and reasonable to be scared, but it's far more likely that you will be in a car accident or have a stroke or heart attack.

Once you can enjoy storms again, you might like to visit the Lightning Field.
posted by yohko at 1:30 PM on April 2, 2008

My ex-girlfriend had her car struck by lightning twice in the first month after she moved here, with her in it both times. No big surprise: she developed a phobia. Having witnessed her panic in the presence of a storm (NOT a good time to be in the passenger seat of a moving vehicle), my vote is for therapy. Or, you could do what she did and become intimately acquainted with the interior view of your favorite closet. CBT and hypnotherapy are both likely good options.
posted by notashroom at 1:38 PM on April 2, 2008

I think I speak for many that no one really gets over a fear of lightening.

I'm much better about it than I was as a kid. I used to freak out when storms rolled through and was convinced the lightning would come in through the window or something and kill us. Sometime in my 20s I just calmed down about it and now it's not a big deal, although I get a bit tense if it's a particularly rough storm.

So yea, I got over it, but it might not have been a true phobia either, just one of those stupid kid things.
posted by cabingirl at 2:11 PM on April 2, 2008

Response by poster: tastybrains, thank you for the book recommendation. I've seen it recommended before for anxiety and meant to note it and promptly forgotten about it. I just ordered it.

yohko, thank you for the link to the safety recommendations. Although it does get my heart rate up a bit, knowing exactly what to do and what NOT to do will be a help, I think.

To everyone else, thank you for the responses! It's good to know I'm not totally alone.
posted by LeeJay at 3:01 PM on April 2, 2008

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