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Ombrophobia is the extreme and overwhelming fear of rain. This is a relatively unknown and underdiagnosed phobia that can be extremely debilitating and have a significant impact on an individual’s life, particularly in the UK where rain occurs so frequently.
Today, we are going to look at ombrophobia in more detail, including the common causes, triggers, symptoms and treatments.
What is ombrophobia?
Ombrophobia is the extreme, irrational, overwhelming and persistent fear of rain. Although many people dislike rain because of the inconvenience it poses or because they think of rainy days as being gloomy and miserable and limiting the activities they can do, someone with ombrophobia will experience intense and irrational fear, anxiety and panic at the sight, sound or feel of rain or when thinking about rain or anticipating that it is soon going to rain.
Ombrophobia is a type of specific phobia, meaning it is an enduring, overwhelming and irrational fear of a specific object, situation, place or person; in this case, an extreme fear of rain.
It is also frequently categorised as a weather-related phobia. The negative thoughts and feelings associated with rain are likely to be overwhelming and can have a significant impact on a person’s day-to-day life, mental and emotional health and overall well-being, particularly in the UK where rain is so prevalent (there were 148.7 days of rain in the UK in 2021 which equates to more than 40% of the year).
Someone who has ombrophobia may experience symptoms in relation to all rain, including light drizzles or short bouts of rain, or may only experience symptoms of ombrophobia in response to heavy or more severe rainfalls. If you have ombrophobia, you may also develop a fear of clouds or experience feelings of dread and anxiety if you see clouds, particularly those that are dark or look ominous.
Clouds are a visual clue that it is about to begin raining and the sight of clouds can trigger your phobia.
Although disliking rain is not uncommon, this doesn’t mean that everyone who doesn’t like rain is experiencing ombrophobia.
To be classified as a phobia, your fear of rain could be characterised by:
- Being obsessed with weather forecasts.
- Refusing to go outside or open your curtains if it is raining.
- Deciding where to live based on typical weather patterns.
- Allowing the rain to affect your social and professional life, for example, not attending events if it is raining outside.
- Feelings of intense fear, panic or anxiety that are difficult to manage.
- Fear or anxiety that is out of proportion to the true risk.
- A fear of rain that has lasted for at least six months.
- Engaging in avoidance behaviours to prevent being outside in the rain or looking at or hearing the rain.
- A fear of rain that interferes with your day-to-day life, overall well-being or sense of safety.
- Experiencing anticipatory anxiety or worry when thinking about rain.
If you have ombrophobia, rain can be so anxiety-provoking that you may experience intense anxiety and fear at the thought of it. You may be unable to think about rain reasonably or rationally and may be out of touch with reality regarding how much of a danger rain poses to you.
Someone with a phobia of rain may also have difficulties functioning normally in certain places or situations because of the fear that it may start to rain. For example, they may dislike leaving the house or going to places with little indoor shelter.
They may become consumed with the thought of rain and constantly check the weather forecast or the sky for signs of rain. This fear and anxiety can have a significant impact on their mental and emotional well-being and their behaviour.
Because ombrophobia is an individualised phobia, different people experience different fears connected to rain, for example:
- The fear that exposure to wet weather could result in illness
There are certain illnesses that are significantly more prevalent during the rainy season, such as the flu and pneumonia. Respiratory infections are also more common in damp weather. In some areas, diseases and illnesses such as dengue fever, hand, foot and mouth disease and diarrhoea are also more prevalent in wet weather conditions. Some people develop a fear of rain and other wet weather conditions and may avoid going outside during and after rainfall because they fear they will get ill.
- The fear that rain and miserable weather will affect their mood or mental health
For some people, the weather directly affects their mental health, with warm, sunny weather resulting in a more positive mood, and gloomy, wet weather resulting in a low mood, feelings of depression, lethargy and a lack of interest or enjoyment in their usual activities. Low mood is even more likely if bad weather lasts for several days (as it frequently does in the UK). Someone who experiences a negative change in their mood connected to the weather may begin to dread rain or certain times of the year when rain is more prevalent. They could begin to feel anxiety and panic at the thought or anticipation of rain and begin to engage in avoidance-related behaviours.
- The fear that rain is going to result in severe weather
Although some people may not be afraid of rain itself, they may fear that rain will develop into more severe weather, such as thunderstorms, floods or hurricanes. They may have seen the damage that followed severe weather, for example, landslides, power failures, uprooted trees and damaged property or they may have heard of people being injured or dying in severe weather. Their fear can become so intense that they may begin to fear all rain, even light rain.
- The fear that going outside in the rain could result in injury
This is often connected to a fear of pain, a fear of blood or a fear of doctors/hospitals. Your fear of rain may initially develop because you fear that if you leave your house when it rains, you could slip or fall on the wet ground or have an accident while driving. This can cause you to begin avoiding being outside during or after rainfall, which can progress into a phobia of rain.
- Disliking being wet
Some people dislike the sensation of being wet and the feeling of water on their skin, hair or clothing. This is more likely in people who also experience other sensory difficulties or have a sensory processing disorder. Their dislike of being wet can be so strong that they avoid going out in the rain and may also avoid other water-related activities, such as showering and swimming.
A fear of rain can be so intense and overwhelming that someone with this fear may avoid any place or situation where they could be exposed to rain. For example, they may refuse to leave the house if it is cloudy or there is any rain forecast and may refuse to spend extended periods of time outdoors. They may also refuse to drive or walk outside following rainfall, even if it isn’t raining now.
Although avoidance behaviours are designed to help you avoid rain and prevent your phobia from being triggered, they can actually have a paradoxical effect. Avoidance behaviours can result in more severe fear and anxiety and worse physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms if you are faced with rain in the future.
If you have ombrophobia, you may be aware that your fear of rain is irrational, and that rain doesn’t actually pose a threat to you. However, you may be unable to control your fear and anxiety and manage or prevent any physical, psychological or behavioural responses to rain or the thought or anticipation of rain.
Ombrophobia is connected to and may occur in conjunction with other phobias, such as:
- Aquaphobia: An extreme fear of water.
- Astraphobia: An extreme fear of thunder and lightning.
- Antiophobia: An extreme fear of floods.
- Lilapsophobia: An extreme fear of severe weather.
- Nephophobia: An extreme fear of clouds.
- Ancraophobia: An extreme fear of wind.
- Chionophobia: An extreme fear of snow.
Ombrophobia can also be connected to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that is more intense and apparent during the autumn and winter months when there is less sunlight and the weather conditions are usually poorer.
How common is ombrophobia?
Because ombrophobia is a type of specific phobia, any diagnoses of this condition fall under the specific phobia umbrella. This means there are no individual statistics available to show how many people have a phobia of rain.
As with many other specific phobias, ombrophobia is thought to be an underdiagnosed phobia. Many people with a phobia of rain never seek a diagnosis, or their phobia is misdiagnosed or goes undiagnosed.
There are multiple reasons why this may happen, for example:
- Many people with a fear of rain have never heard of ombrophobia so may not realise they are experiencing a diagnosable medical condition.
- Many people are unaware that there are effective treatment options available for phobias so may never seek a diagnosis or medical intervention.
- Someone with ombrophobia may implement avoidance behaviours that reduce or remove their contact with rain, which makes their phobia more manageable.
- Someone with ombrophobia may not discuss their thoughts and feelings with others so may not realise that their fear of rain is extreme.
- An adult with ombrophobia may be embarrassed by their fear and may not want to tell their GP or other people about the way they are feeling.
Ombrophobia is thought to be more common in people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or sensory difficulties. However, it can also occur in people who do not experience these conditions.
It is also important to keep in mind that not everyone who dislikes rain is experiencing a phobia. Negative thoughts and feelings concerning rain occur on a spectrum, ranging from mild fear and anxiety in certain situations (for example, if there is an extreme weather warning) to severe fear, panic and anxiety that can impact your day-to-day life, affect your decision-making and result in changes in your behaviour. It can sometimes be difficult to differentiate between people who dislike rain and those who are experiencing ombrophobia.
Who is at risk of ombrophobia?
Although anyone can develop ombrophobia, certain risk factors can make it more likely that you will experience a phobia of rain.
These can include:
- Having seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
- Having another weather-related phobia or having a phobia of water.
- Having sensory difficulties whereby you dislike the feeling of your clothes, hair or skin being wet or dislike the sound of rain.
- Having a previous negative, traumatic, scary or painful experience involving rain or extreme weather.
- Having a previous negative, traumatic, scary or painful experience involving water.
- Hearing negative or traumatic stories about rain, for example, about a landslide or people becoming ill or injured, particularly if you hear these stories at a young age.
- Living in an area where extreme weather is common, or the infrastructure is poor.
- Having little day-to-day experience of rain.
- Being exposed to a fear of rain at a young age.
- Having a close family member, for example, a parent or sibling, with ombrophobia.
- Having a close family member, for example, a parent or sibling, with another phobia.
- Having another mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression.
- Being a naturally more anxious or nervous person.
- Experiencing a significant life stressor, having higher than usual stress levels or being in a heightened mental state (particularly if you are exposed to a fear of rain or have a negative experience involving rain during this time).
- Having a substance use disorder, such as an addiction to drugs or alcohol.
It is important to note that even though the above risk factors can increase the likelihood of you developing ombrophobia, they do not guarantee this. Someone with none of the above risk factors can develop the condition unexpectedly, whereas someone with several risk factors may never develop ombrophobia and may be happy spending time in the rain throughout their lives.
How to deal with ombrophobia
Although there are multiple medical treatments available for treating phobias, there are also effective coping and calming strategies that you can implement yourself. These strategies can be combined with lifestyle changes to help alleviate your symptoms and reduce the impact your fear of rain has on your life.
Some coping and calming strategies are most effective when you implement them long term, meaning you engage in them regularly on a long-term basis, not only when you are faced with your triggers. These strategies are most effective when you incorporate them into your daily or weekly routine.
They can help to reduce the frequency and severity of your symptoms over time and enable you to face rain in the future without experiencing negative thoughts and feelings.
Short-term strategies are designed to be implemented when you are faced with your triggers when you begin to experience symptoms or in the lead-up to a triggering situation. They are effective in minimising or preventing any physiological, psychological, or behavioural symptoms and preventing a triggering situation from worsening and your negative thoughts and feelings from taking over.
The most effective long-term and short-term coping and calming strategies to help you deal with your fear of rain are:
- Accept, explore and understand your phobia
Accepting that you have a fear of rain is the first step in overcoming your phobia. It allows you to explore the root cause of your phobia and your thoughts, feelings and behaviours in more detail and work on changing any negative or damaging beliefs or patterns of thought that could be contributing to your fear. Accepting and understanding your fear allows you to change your unconscious and conscious reactions and behaviours towards rain and other triggers. It can also help you to understand and rationalise your thoughts and reduce the frequency and severity of your symptoms.
Desensitisation involves gradually exposing yourself to your triggers in an environment where you feel calm and safe with people you trust. The more exposure you have, the less intense your fear and anxiety responses will be, which makes it less likely that you will experience symptoms of ombrophobia. Ensure you practise desensitisation when you are in a calm and controlled state of mind and stop your exposure if your fear or anxiety begins to take over.
- Visualise yourself overcoming your fear
Visualisation strategies can be extremely effective in helping people to overcome their phobias long term and could help you to reduce any fear or anxiety you usually feel when it is raining. Visualisation involves visualising yourself in triggering situations and successfully confronting and overcoming your fear. For example, you could visualise yourself happily running or dancing in the rain. Visualising positive situations involving rain can help to reassure your brain that rain doesn’t pose a threat to you and can help to reshape your thoughts and beliefs regarding rain so that you are less likely to experience an automatic fear response in the future. You could also visualise how no longer having a phobia of rain would positively impact your life.
- Avoid negative portrayals of rain
There are multiple examples of rain being portrayed negatively in popular culture, for example, if a storyline in a film or TV show involves extreme weather such as a flood destroying a town, or if rain is used to symbolise a character’s unhappiness or depression. There are also frequent news stories that report damage, injuries and deaths that occur because of extreme weather. Negative portrayals can reinforce any negative connotations, beliefs or thoughts connected to rain, can result in you becoming more anxious and fearful of rain and can cause avoidance behaviours, which can exacerbate your phobia and result in more severe phobic symptoms. To prevent your fear from escalating, avoid negative portrayals or negative stories regarding the weather.
- Educate yourself about rain
Learning about rain and how essential it is to the Earth and to humans can help to remove the negative connotations you have attached to rain. Speak to experts (for example, environmentalists or scientists), learn facts about rain and look at the positive impact rain has on plants, animals and humans. Educating yourself about rain can remind you that rain doesn’t pose a threat to you and is instead a positive thing. Knowing more about rain can help you to dispel any negative beliefs and thoughts that are contributing to your phobia.
- Challenge negative thoughts and feelings
If you have a phobia of rain, you may feel extreme fear, anxiety or distress if you see, hear or think about rain. You may find yourself dreading rain, thinking about rain negatively or obsessively planning how to avoid the rain. You may also begin to imagine the worst-case scenario and all the bad things that could happen if it rains. Instead of allowing any negative thoughts to take over, you should try to disrupt your thoughts to prevent your fear from escalating and remind yourself that they are not accurate and that rain doesn’t pose a threat to you. Remind yourself that your thoughts and feelings will soon pass, and your thoughts are disproportionate to the risks.
- Create a fear ladder
A fear ladder can help you to analyse and understand your fear of rain and can also help you to identify which of your triggers creates more severe fear, anxiety and panic than others. When creating your fear ladder, your triggers will be organised from least severe to most severe. Because phobias are highly individualised, everyone’s fear ladder is different. Although your fear ladder may look different, an example is shown below:
– 1 = Being outside in the rain.
– 2 = Being outside when rain is forecast.
– 3 = Going outside shortly after it has rained.
– 4 = Standing in a puddle.
– 5 = Having your windows open while it is raining.
– 6 = Hearing the sound of rain.
Once you have created your fear ladder, you can then confront your fears one at a time, starting at the bottom of the ladder (the trigger that results in the least phobic response). This can help you to build up your tolerance of your triggers gradually and reduce your fear of rain long term.
- Tell your support network about your phobia
Some people try to hide their phobia from others or feel embarrassed at the thought of other people knowing about their fear. However, hiding your phobia from the people close to you can actually be more harmful. Telling the people close to you, such as your family, friends and trusted colleagues, can ensure they understand your fear and are aware of any situations you may find difficult. This allows them to be more conscientious and more aware of what triggers your phobia. They can then offer you the appropriate support and ensure they are more thoughtful of your fears.
- Implement distraction techniques
Distraction techniques are an effective short-term strategy that can be implemented when you are faced with your triggers or are experiencing negative symptoms. They can help to prevent your automatic fear and anxiety responses and prevent the symptoms of your phobia from beginning or escalating. Different distraction techniques work better for some people, compared to others. Some of the most popular distraction techniques are:
– Listening to music.
– Watching a calming TV show or film.
– Talking to someone (whether in-person or on the phone).
– Counting objects or reciting times tables.
– Writing in a journal or colouring.
– Focusing on your breathing.
- Learn deep breathing exercises
Another popular short-term calming strategy is deep breathing, which can effectively help you to manage and prevent the symptoms of your phobia. Organised deep breathing sends a message to your brain to relax, which can help to reduce your anxiety and make it less likely that you will experience a panic attack. Deep breathing exercises can effectively reduce your stress levels, relieve tension in your body, and reduce your anxiety over time. If your phobia is triggered, practise deep breathing for at least 10 minutes, or until your symptoms abate. You could also incorporate deep breathing exercises into your daily routine.
- Practise mindfulness
Mindfulness teaches you how to accept your thoughts and feelings and overcome your fear and anxiety. It is an effective tool for managing the symptoms of your phobia and can help you to reduce the severity of your phobia. Mindfulness teaches you how to focus your breathing and attention, which can reduce your anxiety and the likelihood that you will experience a panic attack. It can also reduce your overall stress and anxiety and teach you how to be more in control of the connection between your mind and body.
- Practise yoga and meditation
Yoga and meditation are popular strategies for reducing stress and anxiety and are utilised by people with a variety of mental health conditions. They can help you achieve a highly relaxed state and decrease your stress levels, which can reduce the likelihood of you experiencing the fight-or-flight response. You will also learn how to achieve a meditative state, control your breathing and manage your body and mind’s negative reactions to rain. Practise yoga and meditation regularly to reduce the impact of your phobia and improve your symptoms.
- Make lifestyle changes
Certain lifestyle factors can worsen the symptoms of your phobia and increase your anxiety. By making changes to your lifestyle, you can reduce your anxiety and the impact your phobia of rain has on your life. Some of the lifestyle changes you could make are:
– Implement a successful sleep routine.
– Reduce your daily stress.
– Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
– Implement an exercise routine.
– Avoid caffeine, sugar and other stimulants.
– Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs.
– Stop smoking.
What triggers ombrophobia?
A trigger, also known as a stressor, is an object, person, place, situation or thought that triggers a negative reaction and negative thoughts and feelings, such as fear, panic, anxiety or distress. A trigger can also lead to physiological, behavioural and other psychological symptoms. Your brain perceives a trigger as a threat to your physical or mental safety or well-being and will react accordingly.
The triggers of ombrophobia are the things that trigger your fear of rain and cause any physical, psychological or behavioural symptoms. Although some people may think that being outside in the rain would be the only trigger for ombrophobia, this is usually not the case. Many different things can trigger your phobia. Some people with ombrophobia only have one or two triggers, whereas other people have many different triggers.
Because ombrophobia is an individualised phobia, it manifests differently in different people. Different objects, places and situations can act as triggers for your phobia, and the triggers can vary from person to person. The types of triggers and the number of triggers experienced by different people can vary depending on what initially caused their phobia of rain to develop, their perception of the potential danger, the severity of their symptoms and their current mental health.
The most common triggers of ombrophobia are:
- Being outside when it is raining.
- Seeing rain while inside.
- Feeling rain falling on your skin or hair.
- Hearing the sound of rain falling.
- Having wet clothes, shoes or hair.
- Seeing that rain is forecast on the weather report.
- Seeing clouds in the sky.
- Seeing puddles on the floor.
- Hearing the sound of thunder or seeing lightning.
- Seeing people holding umbrellas or wearing rain clothing (such as wellies or a raincoat).
- Hearing reports of extreme weather, people becoming injured or property becoming damaged as a result of the weather.
- Entering autumn or winter when rain is more likely to occur.
- Visiting an area where rain is more prevalent.
- Seeing rain on a TV show or film.
What are the symptoms of ombrophobia?
The symptoms of your phobia are the physiological (related to your body), psychological (related to your mind) and behavioural (related to your behaviour) symptoms and negative changes that you experience when it is raining, or when you are faced with another trigger. The symptoms of ombrophobia can vary and often differ from person to person. The symptoms can differ in the types of symptoms you experience, the way they manifest and their severity.
Some people with a phobia of rain only experience a few mild symptoms whereas other people experience more severe symptoms. It is also possible to experience different symptoms in different situations.
Differences in the severity of symptoms, how frequently they occur, and their manifestation can occur for multiple reasons, such as the types of triggers you face, how severe your phobia is, your perception of the situation and the potential danger and your current mental health and mindset. For example, your symptoms are likely to be more severe if you are unexpectedly outside in the rain or if you are already experiencing high levels of stress or heightened emotions.
The symptoms of ombrophobia can occur at any time, even in unexpected situations. The symptoms are often automatic and uncontrollable. It may feel like you are unable to control or manage your thoughts or feelings and that your phobia is taking over your body. To be classified as a phobia, you will need to experience symptoms for at least six months.
The most common symptoms of ombrophobia are:
These are the cognitive and emotional symptoms you experience when you encounter rain or another trigger.
The most common psychological symptoms of ombrophobia are:
- Intense, overwhelming persistent, excessive and unreasonable fear, anxiety, panic or dread at the reality or thought of rain.
- Feelings of fear, anxiety or panic that are out of proportion to the risks.
- Intense feelings of dread or terror if it is raining.
- Being unable to control your fear, anxiety or panic even if you are aware that they are out of proportion to the risk.
- Catastrophising the risks and potential dangers of rain.
- Anticipatory anxiety in the lead-up to triggering situations.
- Mood swings, irritation or anger in triggering situations.
- Feeling like you are frozen or immobilised by your fear of rain.
- Feeling like you have a lack of mental and physical control over your body.
- Feeling vulnerable or defenceless if it is raining.
- Difficulties concentrating or functioning normally if it is raining.
- Depersonalisation or derealisation when it is raining (where you feel like you no longer understand what is happening around you or you have lost touch with reality).
- Feeling like you are losing control or are not in control of the situation.
- Experiencing frequent or distressing nightmares about rain.
- Having a desire to run away or hide if it is raining.
- Feeling like you are in danger or having a sense of impending doom.
- Feeling like you are dying or are going to die.
These are the conscious and unconscious changes to your behaviour that occur if you encounter rain or another trigger. These behaviours are usually negative or damaging in some way, even if you do not realise that at the time. They will also likely be different from your usual behaviour or are abnormal for society as a whole.
The most common behavioural symptoms of ombrophobia are:
- Avoiding rain or spending time in the rain.
- Avoiding spending time outside.
- Avoiding social or professional events that take place outside or require you to travel outside when it is raining.
- Obsessively checking the weather forecast or checking the sky for signs of rain.
- Choosing which country or area to live in based on the typical weather.
- Being unable to open your curtains or look outside when it is raining.
- Being unable to eat or having a lack of appetite during or in the lead-up to rain.
- Difficulties sleeping or insomnia if it is raining.
- Refusing to think about or talk about rain.
- Refusing to watch a TV show or film set in the rain.
- Becoming socially withdrawn.
These are the physical changes, disturbances and symptoms that occur in your body if you encounter rain or another trigger. Physiological symptoms usually occur as a result of the fight-or-flight response. When you encounter rain, your body will automatically view the rain as a threat or danger to you.
Your body will then react to this threat by preparing you to fight it or run away. Your sympathetic nervous system will release hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which can cause physical changes to your body and physiological symptoms.
The most common physiological symptoms of ombrophobia are:
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded.
- Feeling confused or disorientated.
- Unusual or excessive sweating or clamminess.
- Shaking or trembling.
- Chills or hot flushes.
- Pale or flushed skin (particularly on your face or neck).
- A dry or sticky mouth.
- Chest pain or feeling a tightness in your chest.
- Difficulties breathing, hyperventilating, shortness of breath or rapid breathing.
- Feeling like you cannot catch your breath.
- Heart palpitations, increased heart rate or feeling like your heart is pounding.
- Increased blood pressure (hypertension).
- A choking sensation, finding it difficult to swallow or feeling a lump in your throat.
- Unusual headaches or other bodily pains.
- Muscle tension or feeling like your muscles are stiff.
- Pins and needles, particularly in your hands or feet.
- Nausea, vomiting or stomach discomfort.
- Feeling like you’ve got butterflies in your stomach.
- Being unusually sensitive to hot and cold temperatures (e.g. feeling like you are extremely hot even though the room temperature is normal).
- Experiencing a panic attack.
What causes ombrophobia?
There are many possible causes of ombrophobia. Some people with a phobia of rain can identify exactly when their fear started and what initially caused their phobia to develop. For other people, multiple factors contributed to them developing a fear of rain.
Some people find it difficult to identify exactly what caused them to develop a phobia of rain, particularly if their symptoms manifested slowly over time or their fear of rain developed during childhood.
Identifying, exploring and understanding the root cause of your phobia can be extremely beneficial and can be an effective way of managing your symptoms and reducing the impact your phobia has on your life. Being aware of your phobia’s initial trigger enables you to address the root cause and any negative beliefs, thoughts and feelings that are attached to it.
The causes of ombrophobia can be psychological, environmental, societal or evolutionary. Because phobias are specific to each individual, the causes of phobias often vary from person to person.
The most common causes of ombrophobia are:
- A negative, scary, traumatic or painful experience involving rain
This is one of the most common causes of phobias and is also referred to as a direct learning experience or traumatic conditioning. The negative experience may or may not have involved real danger or risk; however, as long as you experienced significant fear, distress, or trauma, this can lead to you developing a phobia. A traumatic experience is more likely to cause a phobia if it occurred during childhood or during a particularly vulnerable time in your life. The experience may be direct, meaning it happened to you, or indirect, meaning you witnessed it happening to someone else. Examples of traumatic experiences are:
– Falling or injuring yourself in the rain.
– Witnessing a landslide, a flood, or other extreme conditions caused by rain.
– Seeing the aftermath of property damaged by rain or a flood.
– Becoming ill after being outside in the rain.
Following the traumatic experience, you may begin to have intrusive and negative thoughts or memories of the trauma and begin to avoid trauma-related triggers, for example, by avoiding going outside in the rain. This can cause the fear or anxiety you felt at the time of the experience to linger or worsen and can lead to you developing a phobia.
- Having seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
If you have SAD and your symptoms are most frequently triggered during times of the year when rain is more prevalent, or you notice rainy days usually correspond with a negative impact on your mood or mental health, you may begin to associate rain with feelings of depression. This can cause you to begin to dread rain or feel fear and anxiety if you know it is going to rain. You may also begin to avoid going outside while it is raining. If you do not address your feelings, the negative connotations you have attached to rain can develop into ombrophobia.
- Having sensory difficulties
Sensory processing disorder (SPD) and other sensory difficulties are relatively common, particularly in children. People with diagnoses such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are also more likely to experience sensory difficulties. Someone with sensory difficulties can have multiple issues surrounding rain, such as disliking the sound of rain and disliking the feeling of rain on their skin, hair or clothes. Having sensory difficulties surrounding rain or water can make it more likely that you will develop negative thoughts and feelings about rain, which can develop into a phobia.
- A negative, scary, traumatic or painful experience involving water
You can develop a phobia of rain, even if the initial traumatic event involved a different type of water. For example, if you nearly drown whilst swimming or catch a serious illness from drinking or swimming in the water, this can create feelings of fear, anxiety or panic when you see or hear rain or when you feel rain on your body. This could be because rain reminds you of the initial stressor. These negative feelings can linger and if they are not addressed, can result in you developing a phobia of rain.
- Fear rumination
Fear rumination usually occurs following a negative encounter with rain or another traumatic situation involving water. Fear rumination involves engaging in repetitive negative thought processes and persistently and repeatedly recapping a traumatic, scary, negative or painful experience involving rain. Over time, these thoughts and memories can become increasingly upsetting and intrusive and can make you remember the event as being more negative or scary than it was in reality. Fear rumination reinforces your natural fear responses, creates additional anxiety and can result in you developing ombrophobia.
- A learned phobia
Also known as an observational learning experience, a learned phobia usually means you observed a fear of rain or another type of weather in someone else and learnt to be scared of it yourself. You are more likely to learn a phobia if you are exposed to it during childhood or adolescence. For example, children who grow up with a close family member, such as a parent or sibling, with ombrophobia, or another weather-related phobia, are more likely to develop the condition themselves. However, a learned phobia can also develop during adulthood.
- Negative depictions or portrayals of rain
Exposure to negative portrayals of rain could result in a phobia, particularly if the exposure occurred during childhood or during a vulnerable or stressful time in your life. This exposure could come from popular culture, such as a TV show or film, from news stories or from stories you hear from family or friends. Exposure to negative portrayals or stories can cause you to view rain as being dangerous and result in you being afraid that something bad could happen to you if you go outside in the rain. This can then result in you developing a phobia.
- Having an allergy to water
An allergy to water, aquagenic urticaria (AU), is most often characterised by a rash or red, itchy hives following skin contact with water. Someone with AU can also experience headaches, dizziness, fainting, wheezing and shortness of breath if they touch or ingest water. Although this condition is rare, it can occur in conjunction with ombrophobia, as you begin to fear that going outside in the rain and having contact with water will result in an allergic reaction. You are more likely to also develop ombrophobia if your allergy is severe or if you were previously embarrassed following an allergic reaction.
- Experiencing significant or higher than usual stress levels
Significant, long-term stress can result in a disproportionate fear response or an inability to manage intense situations. This can make it more likely that you will develop a phobia, such as ombrophobia, particularly if you have a negative experience involving rain or water or are exposed to the fear of rain while experiencing higher levels of stress. A stressful or distressing event, such as a death, can also trigger a phobia, as you may be less able to manage your emotions and thought processes when experiencing grief, which can result in a disproportionate fear response.
How is ombrophobia diagnosed?
If you are experiencing symptoms consistent with ombrophobia, you should make an appointment with your GP or primary healthcare physician, particularly if your fear has lasted for longer than six months or your fear of rain is negatively impacting your day-to-day life or well-being.
During your appointment, your GP will try to determine whether you are experiencing abnormal levels of fear and whether your symptoms are consistent with ombrophobia. They will likely look at your medical history, any other health conditions you have and any medications or supplements you are taking to ensure your symptoms cannot be attributed to another source.
If your GP thinks your symptoms are consistent with ombrophobia they will likely refer you to a psychologist or phobia specialist. To gain more information about your symptoms and any negative thoughts, beliefs, feelings and behaviours connected to rain, the psychologist will conduct a phobia questionnaire.
They will likely request information about:
- The types of symptoms you experience, how frequently they occur and how severe they are.
- The initial onset of your phobia, including when your symptoms first began and what initially triggered your fear of rain (if you know).
- Your medical history, including whether you are currently or have previously had any anxiety disorders, panic disorders, phobias or other mental health conditions.
- Whether you have a family history of phobias.
- How much your fear interferes with your day-to-day life, your well-being and your behaviour.
Because ombrophobia is a type of specific phobia, to receive a diagnosis, your symptoms will need to correspond with the seven key criteria outlined in the diagnostic criteria for specific phobias.
These criteria are listed below:
1. The fear must be persistent, excessive and unreasonable. It can occur either when it is raining or when it is not.
2. Exposure to rain or another trigger leads to an immediate anxiety response in the majority of situations.
3. The fear is excessive and disproportionate to the threat, and this is recognised by the individual.
4. The individual avoids places or situations where they could be exposed to rain. If they are exposed to rain, the individual will experience extreme fear, anxiety or distress.
5. The anticipation of encountering rain and the avoidance behaviours associated with avoiding rain have a significant impact on the individual’s day-to-day life.
6. The fear has lasted for a minimum of six months.
7. The phobia is not associated with another disorder or mental health condition.
If your symptoms correspond with these key criteria, you will receive a diagnosis of a specific phobia (ombrophobia). Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may then be offered treatment.
How is ombrophobia treated?
There are multiple effective treatment options for phobias such as ombrophobia. The majority of people find phobia treatments work successfully. In fact, medical intervention has proven successful in treating phobias in up to 90% of cases. If your fear is triggered frequently, if you change your behaviour to avoid rain, if your symptoms are severe, if your phobia negatively impacts your life in any way, or if you have experienced a fear of rain for an extended period of time, then your doctor will likely recommend you undergo treatment.
However, not everyone with a phobia of rain will require treatment. If your symptoms are mild, your fear of rain doesn’t affect your daily life or well-being, or if you’ve already implemented successful coping strategies, you may not require treatment. Before making any treatment decisions, you should always consult your doctor.
As there are multiple effective treatment options available, your doctor will create a personalised treatment plan that is designed to treat your phobia.
Your treatment plan will be based on several factors, such as:
- The severity of your symptoms.
- The frequency of your symptoms.
- The root cause of your phobia.
- How significantly your phobia impacts your life.
The most common treatment options for ombrophobia are:
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT):
CBT is a type of psychotherapy, commonly known as talk therapy, that aims to help you understand and manage your thoughts and emotions. If you have ombrophobia, you will likely view rain negatively, as being dangerous or scary in some way. This can lead to automatic negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours if you see, hear or think about rain. Through CBT, you will learn to identify and reform your fear of rain and any negative beliefs, patterns of thought, feelings and behaviours that are attached to it.
CBT aims to help you unlearn negative and harmful thoughts and behaviours and replace them with more positive thoughts, feelings and behaviours. During the sessions, you will also explore what caused your fear of rain and why you believe, think and feel the way you do. You will also focus on any harmful beliefs, thoughts and emotions connected to the initial onset of your phobia.
CBT sessions can be conducted individually or as part of a group.
During the sessions, you will likely focus on:
- Understanding your triggers and what initially caused your fear of rain.
- Recognising distorted patterns of thinking.
- Changing any unhealthy beliefs surrounding rain.
- Learning coping strategies and calming strategies, such as deep breathing exercises, distraction techniques and coping statements.
Exposure therapy, sometimes called gradual exposure or systematic desensitisation, involves gradual and repeated exposure to your triggers in a safe and controlled environment. Through increasing exposure, you can learn to manage your fear and negative feelings and behaviours. Exposure will take place slowly over multiple sessions. The number of sessions you require will depend on how severe your phobia is.
The aim is to desensitise you so that being exposed to rain no longer triggers a fear or anxiety response. Exposure will begin gradually, with the trigger that creates the least negative reaction, for example, looking at a picture of rain. Once you are comfortable with this level of exposure, you will move on to the next trigger, such as watching a video of rain and listening to the sound of rain.
With each exposure, you should experience progressively lower anxiety. You will gradually build up to the most anxiety-provoking situations, such as being outside in the rain, without experiencing a negative response.
During your sessions, you will also work on creating realistic thoughts and beliefs about rain, unlearning negative thoughts and decreasing or eliminating any negative feelings and reactions to rain. You will also learn relaxation techniques and coping and calming strategies.
Clinical hypnotherapy involves being placed into a deeply relaxed, trance-like but focused state. In this state, you will work on identifying any negative thought patterns, memories, feelings, or behaviours that contribute to your phobia. The hypnotherapist will also help you to gain a better understanding of your fear and repattern your thoughts.
Hypnotherapy uses a combination of guided relaxation techniques and focused attention to help you overcome any negative thoughts and feelings about rain. During the sessions, you will also learn calming strategies.
Medication will not likely be prescribed as a sole treatment option for your phobia. However, it may be prescribed if you also experience another mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression, alongside your phobia. Medication can also be helpful as a short-term solution to help you manage your symptoms.
Some types of medication that may be prescribed for treating phobias or anxiety are:
Medication will usually only be prescribed alongside another type of treatment, such as CBT.