The fear of lightning is known as Astrophobia. For centuries, people have feared the awesome power of this atmospheric phenomenon. Flashing through the sky in a split second of powerful illumination, lightning seems to come from nowhere. The fierce energy of this natural force has caused death and injury in human beings.
Why Do People Fear Lightning?
Lightning is a potent reminder of Nature’s supremacy. Traveling at 3700 miles per second, lightning strikes without warning. It also does great damage to homes and other buildings. Throughout history, lightning has caused tremendous loss of life and terror in villages and cities.
In 1769, a lightning strike caused epic tragedy in Brascia, Italy. A deadly bolt hit the Church of St. Nazaire, where 300 vats of gunpowder were stored. When the electrical discharge ignited the substance, it caused a massive explosion. 3000 people were killed that day, and part of the city was leveled.
In modern times, lightning is still a source of danger. Lightning can hit planes while they are in the air, forcing them down. Since 1963, two flights have been downed by lightning strikes (Pan Am 214, 1963; Lansa 508, Peru) that killed 172 passengers and crew members.
Today’s buildings, such as Toronto’s landmark CN Tower, are constantly being hit by lightning. They are designed to withstand these assaults through careful grounding. Houses also benefit from the addition of lightning rods, which carry the energy from a lightning strike to the ground, a safe distance away from the residence.
Lightning In Television Programs
Hollywood understands the fear and unease that lightning brings forth in human nature, and they often use it to add drama and action to TV programs and theatrical releases.
One of the most memorable episodes of the TV program, The X-Files, featured a character who could control lightning. In this episode, D.P.O, an Oklahoma teen played by Giovanni Ribisi discovers he can channel the awesome power of lightning for his own purposes. He gains this ability after surviving a lightning strike. However, his emotions and immaturity influence the ways he uses his strange power, with disastrous results.
American States With High Incidences of Lightning
Certain areas in the United States may have higher instances of astrophobia, simply because they suffer from more storms that produce lightning strikes. For example, Florida is known as “lightning capital of the World”.
As well, Michigan and Pennsylvania rank as number two and three for high incidence sof lightning. Some other states that report heavy lightning are Tennesee, Georgia, and North Carolina (among others).
People with astrophobia may develop the problem in childhood. They may feel traumatized by memories of lightning storms they witnessed when they were young.
Knowing someone who was hit by lightning can also trigger this phobia. Living in one of the areas where lightning storms are common can increase the odds of developing astrophobia.
Symptoms Of Fear Of Lightning
The symptoms of astrophobia are similar to those experienced during a panic attack. Nervousness, sweating, heart palpitations, and nausea are some common afflictions that plague a phobic person. The desire to avoid lightning entirely may affect the person’s ability to function in society.
Since storms are quite common, the loud crack of thunder can provide some warning to people with astrophobia. But being “safe” inside may not be enough to calm the person who suffers from fear of lightning, since lightning can hit the building or vehicle they are in.
Overcome The Fear of Ligthning
Hypnotherapy and traditional psychotherapy are popular forms of treatment for astrophobia. Getting at the root of the fear of lightning through sessions with a qualified therapist may give some relief to the afflicted person.
Education will also be helpful in some cases. For example, pointing out the odds of being hit by lightning will provide necessary perspective to a phobic person.