Ombrophobia (Fear Of Rain)

Ombrophobia (fear of rain) is considered a specific phobia in the family of phobia disorders. It may accompany several other specific phobias, such as aquaphobia – the fear of drowning, or the fear of thunder – astraphobia.

Overview:

Ombrophobia, also known as pluviophobia, is the medical definition of the fear of rain. The word derives from the Greek word ombros, meaning rain and phobos, meaning fear. It is considered a specific phobia, meaning the patient’s anxiety is focused on one thing, as opposed to a more generalized anxiety. However, phobias like ombrophobia often coexist with other anxiety issues. Ombrophobia may occur with related conditions such as fear of thunder, flooding, drowning or fog.

Typically, this phobia develops in response to a traumatic or significant experience that occurs to the patient in childhood, such as being caught in a flood or witnessing a drowning. It is more likely to develop in patients who have a family history of anxiety issues or a genetic predisposition for those conditions.

Beyond the symptoms that are generally experienced by patients with anxiety, including physical manifestations such as rapid heartbeat, excessive sweating or feeling faint, the patient may also exhibit symptoms directly linked to the fear of rain. These might include fear of images of rain or storms, an obsession with weather forecasts or watching for storms and an irrational avoidance of rain. They may refuse to leave home if there is a threat of rain or reckless flight from rain or storms.

Some of the most effective treatments for this condition revolve around talk therapies and counseling. Guiding the patient through the discovery of when and why the phobia developed, as well as arming them with tools to deal with their anxiety generally leads to positive results and the ability to live a normal life. Exposure therapy may be used alone or in conjunction with counseling to help the patient slowly conquer the fear of rain and resume a more normal life. Once an initial treatment has proven successful, self-care strategies are important for continued mental health.

Prevention of any specific phobia is difficult given the unpredictability of events that may cause the phobia and the patient’s response to that event. The best prevention is a timely response to traumatic events and intervention before the phobia has time to develop.

Symptoms:

Some symptoms associated with ombrophobia are specific to the phobia. Other symptoms are often present in any generalized anxiety disorder. Some of the specific symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations of drowning or being swept away by flooding
  • Obsessive checking of weather forecasts
  • Fear of being killed by rain
  • Excessive fear of rain, including images of rain
  • Urge to flee or escape the rain
  • Unwillingness to go outside when it is raining or rain is forecast

More generalized symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irregular or accelerated heart rate
  • Dry mouth
  • Muscle tremors
  • Feeling faint
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Nausea and upset stomach
  • Chest pain
  • Numbness or tingling particularly in the extremities

Causes:

Like any phobia, ombrophobia may arise from a combination of a genetic predisposition or brain chemistry and environmental factors or a traumatic incident in the life of a patient. People who have experienced flooding, a severe storm that may have resulted in an accident or some other event tied to heavy rain may develop ombrophobia as a reaction to that event. This is more likely to arise in children who are less able to rationally process the event itself.

For patients who suffer from a combination of phobias surrounding weather, there may not have been a single triggering incident, but rather a heightened level of anxiety that stems from multiple fears of storms, such as thunder, fog, lightning or drowning as well as the rain itself.

Treatment:

Treatment for ombrophobia follows a similar path as any other phobia or mental disorder. There are several different options available, depending on the severity of the phobia and what course of treatment is most effective for the patient.

  • Talking treatments. This form of treatment gives the patient the opportunity to explore the beginnings of their phobia as well as identify those situations or actions that may trigger its onset. In a safe and controlled environment, the patient can discuss their fears with a qualified professional. These treatments include different approaches that include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which focuses on the patient’s current state of thoughts and feelings, exploring what is causing them and tools and strategies to counteract the anxiety. Cognitive Analytic Therapy works in a similar manner but spends time and energy exploring root causes as well.
  • Exposure therapy. This form of therapy provides the patient with strategies and tools for facing their fear and then gradually exposes the patient to the source of the phobia (in this case, rain) in a controlled environment until the patient is able to conquer the fear and reduce anxiety levels.
  • Hypnotherapy uses hypnosis as a tool to combat the anxiety at the root of the phobia.
  • Medication may be used to reduce the levels of anxiety and to help the patient control the physical symptoms that the phobia may induce. Several different kinds of medications may be used. These include antidepressants, tranquilizers and beta-blockers.
  • Self-help techniques may also prove effective, particularly once a patient has accessed a course of treatment such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Tools such as meditation, yoga, deep-breathing protocols or visualization techniques can help the patient control their condition on their own and manage their own anxiety.

Prevention:

Specific phobias like ombrophobia are difficult to prevent given that they are usually caused by particular events or a combination of factors that would be difficult to prevent. Best practice would suggest careful monitoring of patients who may be predisposed to anxiety-based disorders. This would include patients who have an inherited or genetic tendency to these conditions. Another best practice would be to seek counseling for the patient who may have experienced a traumatic experience surrounding rain or flooding in an appropriate and timely manner before that experience creates an irrational fear that transfers to other settings.

For patients who suffer from other related phobias such as aquaphobia (the fear of drowning), antlophobia (the fear of flood), astraphobia (fear of lightning and thunder) or homichlophobia (the fear of fog), consistent and appropriate counseling may prevent the development of additional phobias as well as treating the condition from which the patient suffers.