The fear of clouds is called nephophobia. This term comes from two Greek words — nepho, meaning “cloud,” and phobia, which means “fear.” This condition is somewhat rare, but for people who have it, the fear of clouds is very real.
Like any phobia, nephophobia causes persistent and extreme physical symptoms including anxiety, tremors, and a fight-or-flight response when you are exposed to the thing that you fear.
There are treatment options available for people who have a fear of clouds, but the first step is understanding what is happening — and why.
Symptoms of nephophobia can vary case by case. Not every person will experience every symptom. Common symptoms of this phobia include:
- excessive fear and anxiousness when you see clouds gathering
- overpowering fight-or-flight type desire to flee from clouds when you see them forming
- dry mouth or nausea when you see or think about clouds
- tremors or heart palpitations when you are exposed to clouds
Nephophobia is classified as a “simple phobia,” meaning that the trigger is fairly straightforward. Genetics and your family history might be at play if you’ve had this phobia for as long as you can remember.
Weather-related phobias impact more people than you might think. In one small survey, nearly 5 percent of participants reported having some sort of weather-related phobia. More than 11 percent of people in that same survey reported that they know someone who experiences the symptoms of severe-weather phobias.
Researchers in that study concluded that weather-related phobias are often caused by a traumatic experience with severe weather.
Exposure to extreme bad weather that is related to clouds — such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and tropical storms — can sometimes mark the beginning of nephophobia.
Sometimes people are specifically afraid of clouds that move through the night as they can resemble unidentified flying objects (UFOs). This can be caused by a general fear of alien beings or outer space (astrophobia), a fear of the dark (nyctophobia), or a fear of the unknown.
There is no simple lab test to determine if you have nephophobia. If you experience symptoms, the best thing you can do is speak to your general practitioner who will refer you to a mental health specialist, such as a counselor or psychiatrist.
Through a series of questions during a sit-down diagnostic interview, your mental health professional will be able to determine if what you are experiencing is a phobia or not. Once you have received your official diagnosis, that same mental health professional will work with you to create a treatment plan.
Nephophobia can be treated with a combination of talk therapy, exposure therapy, EDMR therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and prescription medication.
According to the Mayo Clinic, exposure therapy is understood to be the best treatment for simple phobias like fear of clouds.
Exposure therapy operates from the understanding that it’s less important to know why your phobia started as it is to deal with the coping mechanisms that you have developed to avoid being triggered. Gradual, repeated exposure to the thing that you are phobic about is the key to this therapy.
For nephophobia, exposure therapy might start with thinking about clouds, transition to looking at photographs of clouds indoors, and eventually lead to you being able to see clouds outside without exhibiting symptoms.
Sometimes medication can help to treat symptoms while you work toward freedom from your phobia. Beta blockers (which block the effects of adrenaline) and sedatives (which put you in a more relaxed state around your trigger) can be prescribed for this purpose.
Please be aware that any sedative medication can become addictive. Many mental health professionals now avoid prescribing sedatives for phobias, since the success rate of treatments like exposure therapy is high for most individuals.
Where to find help
If you’re dealing with any kind of phobia, know that you’re not alone. Nearly
1 in 10people experience some type of specific phobia every year, with more than 12 percentof people experiencing phobia during their lifetime, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. There are organizations you can reach out to today to speak to someone about getting help for phobias.
- The American Psychiatric Association Hotline: 703-907-7300
- The National Institute of Mental Health: 866-615-6464
- Anxiety and Depression Association Hotline: 240-485-1001
- If you are having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Day or night, 365 days a year, someone will answer who can help. 800-273-TALK (8255)
In most climates, clouds aren’t something that you can typically avoid. If this condition is impacting your daily life, there is no reason to delay seeking help.
With behavioral therapy, your outlook is good, and chances are you’ll be able to decrease the symptoms of nephophobia effectively without medication.
To be successful, people with phobias need to be committed to their treatment plan and ready to work on their condition. Speak to your doctor if you feel anxious, afraid, or fearful in ways that make it difficult for you to live the life you want.