One in 10 Americans May Suffer From Severe Weather Phobia According To BSU Professor

Heavy snow falling is illuminated by a parking lot street lamp. Photo by: Mike RhodesHeavy snow falling is illuminated by a parking lot street lamp. Photo by: Mike Rhodes

By: Marc Ransford—

With the potential of a major winter storm ready to slam into the Midwest, Marc Ransford writes about a Ball State geography professor’s study concerning why many people are scared of storms. 

Muncie, IN—One in 10 Americans may suffer from severe weather phobia that causes them to lose sleep or have feelings of helplessness, says a researcher at Ball State University.

“Severe weather phobia is very real,” says Jill Coleman, a Ball State geography professor and lead author on the study. “Some people will get physically ill or lose sleep while others will start watching weather forecasts on a more regular basis.”

Weathering the Storm: Revisiting Severe Weather Phobia surveyed about 300 people in 43 states. About 85 percent of respondents reported having at least some degree of severe-weather fear while 46.1 percent describing their fear level as “a little bit.” About 10 percent of participants classified themselves as having an overall fear level as both “extreme” and “quite a bit” categories, possibly indicating severe-weather phobia.

Three percent of respondents reported seeking professional or self-help treatment for severe-weather phobia or specific inclement weather events.

“Overall, we found that people simply love to talk about the weather,” Coleman says. “In the West, it’s about high winds and wildfires, and here in the Midwest it’s all about tornados, thunderstorms and blizzards. On the East Coast, people are more likely to talk about hurricanes than regular thunderstorms.”

The study found:

  • About 99 percent of all respondents had experienced some form of severe weather with the most common event being thunderstorms (90.9 percent) and high winds (90.3 percent) followed by heavy snow and freezing rain (80 percent each).
  • 80.5 percent of respondents do not suffer from severe weather phobia, 4.7 percent believe they do and the remainder is not sure.
  • When it comes to severe weather, respondents reported feelings of anxiety (72 percent), increasing heart pounding (62.9 percent), changing schedules (60.8 percent) and feelings of helplessness (60.4 percent).
  • Participants who reported taking a weather-related course also admitted experiencing more anxiety symptoms and behaviors.


The study also found that 11.7 percent of participants reported they know someone who suffers from severe-weather phobia.