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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How can I lessen my anxiety during a thunderstorm, heavy rain, hail?

    I have suffered from panic attacks since 2003. I was once caught in a hail storm whilst driving. from then on i get rather anxious and panicky during thunderstorms which involve heavy rain and hail. what can I do to lessen my anxiety on this
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  • 3

    Thanks

    Joe Gubbay

    Clinical Psychologist, Counsellor, Psychologist, Psychotherapist

    I have worked in public hospitals as well as private practice over the past 25 years. As a clinical psychologist I treat depression, social anxiety, … View Profile

    Fear of thunderstorms is actually quite common, so you're not alone.  I'm not sure how long you've had the fear of storms, but if the driving incident was 9 years ago then I'd suggest seeing a psychologist for some cognitive-behavioural therapy.  This style of psychological treatment is very effective for phobias.  

    I'd try to clarify what it is exactly about storms that frightens you - is it drowning in rain, getting injured by hail, struck by lightning, strong wind, or all of the above - try to work out what it is exactly.  I'd also clarify the impact of the fear on your life; if it really is quite minor, it might not be worth treating, but if it's getting in the way or causing you considerable grief then it's worth treating.  

    Learning about weather and storms can sometimes get rid of misconceptions or unwarranted beliefs.  Cognitive therapy means looking at your thoughts and seeing if you can be more accurate with your thinking.  The behavioural aspect is seeing whether you're using avoidance as a way of coping - avoidance is typically the main reason that people can't get rid of their anxiety.  

    I'd probably contact a few psychologists and see if you can find one who happens to have an interest in meteorology, but if you can't it shouldn't matter.  You'd need to see your GP who can write up a Mental Health Treatment Plan which will then mean you can claim some or all of the cost on Medicare.  Your GP might be able to recommend a psychologist, otherwise you can search for psychologists here:

    http://www.psychology.org.au/findapsychologist/

    All the best with it! 

  • 1

    Thanks

    Michele Glassenbury

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    Michele is a fully registered clinical psychologist.Michele hopes to assist clients in gaining meaning from the past, an ability to live in the present and … View Profile

    Specific phobia (anxiety about one thing) is best treated by a psychologist.
    Treatment involves a combination of CBT, relaxation strategies and graded exposure.
    Sometimes specific phobias, such as fear of thunderstorms can develop after a specific indecent, but more often they are instinctive or innate in nature. That is, as humans we have a natural fear of things or situations that could potentially harm us, such as spiders, snakes or heights etc. Other causes include modelling from the environment or usually by someone else in the family who also shares the fear.

  • 2

    Thanks

    Jennifer Grant

    Psychologist

    New practice opened Feb 2018. Seewebsite www.coffspsychneuro.com.au I'm passionate about working with people from all walks of life to help them create a more vital, … View Profile

    Joe and Michele have suggested that CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) might help, and I agree. There is another approach which I find effective in my work: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). I’m guessing that you’ve probably tried lots of things to lessen your panic and anxiety in thunderstorms. Maybe distraction, relaxation, positive thinking, self-reassurance, avoiding driving in storms. If they were working for you, you probably wouldn’t have written this post. There’s a paradox in our efforts to control panic: it often makes things worse. Fear is normal. It’s an alarm response that makes us take some type of protective action when our health or safety appears to be threatened. Fear is not intended to be controlled. The problem occurs when our aversion to the normal experience of fear causes us to struggle with that feeling. The struggle is the problem, not the original fear.
    If your panic or anxiety (or avoidance of situations that cause panic or anxiety) is getting in the way of doing the things that matter to you, then seek professional help. Consult your GP about whether you’d qualify for a medicare subsidised referral to a psychologist.
    ACT would involve developing your skills to mindfully notice your bodily sensations of anxiety, to disentangle yourself from your fear-related thoughts/worries, to see yourself as the context within which thought/sensations/emotions arise (perspective taking), to identify your core heartfelt values and commit to actions that serve those values.
    If you’re interested in this approach, you can find an ACT psychologist in the therapist listings at actmindfully.com.au
    Best wishes.

  • Jennifer Grant

    Psychologist

    New practice opened Feb 2018. Seewebsite www.coffspsychneuro.com.au I'm passionate about working with people from all walks of life to help them create a more vital, … View Profile

    Joe and Michele have suggested that CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) might help, and I agree. There is another approach which I find effective in my work: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). I’m guessing that you’ve probably tried lots of things to lessen your panic and anxiety in thunderstorms. Maybe distraction, relaxation, positive thinking, self-reassurance, avoiding driving in storms. If they were working for you, you probably wouldn’t have written this post. There’s a paradox in our efforts to control panic: it often makes things worse. Fear is normal. It’s an alarm response that makes us take some type of protective action when our health or safety appears to be threatened. Fear is not intended to be controlled. The problem occurs when our aversion to the normal experience of fear causes us to struggle with that feeling. The struggle is the problem, not the original fear.
    If your panic or anxiety (or avoidance of situations that cause panic or anxiety) is getting in the way of doing the things that matter to you, then seek professional help. Consult your GP about whether you’d qualify for a medicare subsidised referral to a psychologist.
    ACT would involve developing your skills to mindfully notice your bodily sensations of anxiety, to disentangle yourself from your fear-related thoughts/worries, to see yourself as the context within which thought/sensations/emotions arise (perspective taking), to identify your core heartfelt values and commit to actions that serve those values.
    If you’re interested in this approach, you can find an ACT psychologist in the therapist listings at actmindfully.com.au
    Best wishes.

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