Fear of Thunderstorms
Thunderstorm or other severe weather phobia is classified as a specific phobia. Severe weather phobia is the persistent and irrational fear of thunderstorms and their phenomena, such as lightning, thunder, wind, hail, and tornadoes. Each year, individuals with this disorder struggle through storms ranging from the small thundershower to the violent super cell. Summer and spring are especially difficult times for those with this phobia because storms are most severe and abundant during this time. Many watch the Weather Channel constantly or miss out on daily activities due to the threat of a storm.
Virtual Reality-enhanced Cognitive Behavioral Therapy provides an environment for clients to be exposed to these situations without common problems of loss of confidentiality or risk to personal safety. In the therapist’s office, the client is given coping and relaxation skills prior to exposure. The virtual environments allow the client to experience varying degrees of anxiety relating to weather, including rain, thunder and lightning.
The environment is under the therapist’s control, offering the choice to re-experience certain aspects of the storm on command, a situation that is impossible with in vivo (real world) exposure. Each situation can be repeated until the client is comfortable with the experience and satisfied with their response. The therapist has the ability to see and hear what the client is experiencing in the virtual world as well as to monitor physiological response. The client can exit the environment at any time, simply by removing the head mounted display. Therefore, the situation never becomes overwhelming and remains always under the client’s control.