What Is Lilapsophobia


It’s natural to be afraid of things that make us feel unsafe or uncomfortable; these often include flying, heights, the dark, fire, you name it! However, in some cases, it becomes more than your average fear; this kind of fear is medically known as a Phobia.

What is a Phobia?

It is a type of mental illness that involves an extremely irrational fear of anything

Now that we know what a phobia means, what exactly is Lilapsophobia?

It can be described as a greater-than-usual or abnormal fear of hurricanes or tornadoes. It may also be classified as a specific fear, an anxiety disorderwhich the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)3 describes as "an intense or excessive, irrational fear of something, either an object or a situation, that poses little or no actual danger.”

Although tornadoes and hurricanes are dangerous and many people fear them, a person with lilapsophobia has a higher level of fear than a normal person, and this fear causes distress or disruption in their daily life, even if they are not in any real danger of being affected by a tornado or hurricane.

A person who has this condition can experience high amounts of anxiety just by thinking of tornadoes and/or hurricanes, and this anxiety can also then lead to a panic attack. 

Causes of lilapsophobia

Phobias can develop at any time during a person's life; it could be during childhood, adolescence, or even early adulthood. A phobia development can be linked to experiencing a frightening event or stressful situation. However, it's not always clear why some phobias occur, but one's genetics and environment may play a huge role in the development of phobias. For example, a family history of mood disorders or even mental illness can place an individual at risk of a phobia. Furthermore, if you have ever had a traumatic experience related to bad weather or tornadoes, or if you witnessed something terrible happen to a loved one due to severe weather conditions, it may lead to the development of lilapsophobia.

It could also be developed as a learned behaviour, which occurs when a person develops fear through observing or hearing about others' experiences with severe weather.

Signs and symptoms of lilapsophobia

Many people who live in hurricane or tornado-prone areas are concerned about them, particularly during storm season. If you have lilapsophobia, you live your life as if you are constantly threatened. Symptoms of lilapsophobia may manifest regardless of whether an individual is near a hurricane or tornado. As a matter of fact, just the thought of a tornado or hurricane can trigger anxiety.

Lilapsophobia can cause both behavioural and physical responses

Behavioural responses include:

  • Building a shelter in an area that is not prone to tornadoes or hurricanes. 
  • Checking weather reports on a regular basis.
  • Refusing to leave the house when the weather forecast predicts bad weather.
  • Avoiding buildings that do not appear to be "storm safe"
  • Stockpiling necessities even when there is no threat of bad weather

Some physical responses are:

  • Crying fits that are difficult to control.
  • Unable to sit still.
  • Tense muscles and stiffness. 
  • Headache. 
  • Diarrhea or nausea
  • Repetitive activities, e.g., pacing
  • Tremors. 
  • Anxiety.
  • Rapid heartbeats
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Avoidance behaviours.

The fear of severe weather can take over their thoughts, making it difficult for them to concentrate on their daily activities. Those suffering from lilapsophobia develop a habit of constantly monitoring weather forecasts and seeking reassurance. 

Management and treatment for lilapsophobia

Your GP or healthcare provider will diagnose you with this condition after asking you a few questions about your behaviour and symptoms.

They might ask: 

  • What symptoms do you have, and how severe are they?
  • How long have you been dealing with behavioural changes?
  • If there is a family or personal history of anxiety disorders or phobias. 
  • If a previous hurricane, tornado, or weather event caused you or a loved one pain.
  • Whether tornadoes or hurricanes have caused changes in your daily routine.
  • How often do you think about hurricanes or tornadoes?
  • If you avoid doing things or going to places you used to enjoy because you are afraid.

Lilapsophobia, like many other phobias, is commonly treated with therapy and medication. Seeking professional help from mental health specialists is crucial for managing lilapsophobia. Changes in your lifestyle can also be effective in reducing the anxiety caused by your phobia. 

  • Psychotherapy: This treatment option for phobias is very popular. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is used to identify and challenge negative thought patterns associated with severe weather as well as to develop coping mechanisms for anxiety.
  • Exposure therapy: in some occasions, traditional CBT may not be successful in controlling the symptoms; therefore, exposure therapy, a form of CBT, gradually exposes individuals to their feared stimuli under controlled conditions step by step, helping them develop coping mechanisms and reduce anxiety responses. 
  • Medications: In some cases, doctors may prescribe anti-anxiety medications or beta-blockers to alleviate symptoms.


To diagnose lilapsophobia, it is important to see your GP, who will assess you and then make a referral to a mental health professional. The diagnostic process typically involves a thorough evaluation to determine if the fear of tornadoes or hurricanes meets the criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which is a special guide used by medical professionals to make a diagnosis of a mental disorder in the UK.

During the evaluation, the healthcare provider will conduct a detailed assessment of the individual's symptoms, medical history, and any past traumatic experiences related to severe weather events. They may also inquire about the impact of the fear on the person's daily life, such as avoidance behaviours or disruptions to work, school, or personal relationships.

It is worth noting that the diagnosis of lilapsophobia is made when the fear is considered to be a specific phobia rather than a normal fear response to severe weather.  Your doctor may also consider other factors that could contribute to the fear, such as other anxiety disorders or any underlying mental health conditions. This comprehensive evaluation helps ensure an accurate diagnosis and guides the development of an appropriate treatment plan.

If you suspect that you or someone you know may have lilapsophobia, it is recommended to seek professional help from a mental health specialist. They can provide a proper assessment and diagnosis, as well as offer guidance and support for managing the fear and improving overall well-being.


How can I prevent lilapsophobia?

While it may not be completely possible to prevent lilapsophobia entirely, once you develop this phobia, managing the anxiety through therapy and developing coping strategies can help individuals better handle their fear.

How common is lilapsophobia?

The prevalence of lilapsophobia is not precisely known, but specific phobias in general, of which lilapsophobia is one, are relatively common, affecting approximately 7–9% of the population.

Who is at risk of having lilapsophobia?

Anyone can develop lilapsophobia, but individuals who have experienced traumatic weather events or have a family history of anxiety disorders may be at a higher risk.

What can I expect if I have lilapsophobia?

Lilapsophobia can significantly impact daily life, causing distress and interfering with normal functioning. However, with proper treatment, many individuals can learn to manage their fear effectively.

When should I see a doctor?

If your fear of severe weather significantly affects your daily life, causes distress, or leads to avoidance behaviours, it may be beneficial to seek help from a mental health professional.


Lilapsophobia is an extreme and irrational fear of tornadoes or hurricanes, categorized as a specific phobia. It involves an unhealthy and intense fear of severe weather conditions, which can lead to anxiety, panic, and avoidance behaviors. The fear can be triggered by traumatic experiences or learned behaviour. Seeking professional help from mental health specialists is essential for managing lilapsophobia. Treatment options include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, and medication. Although prevention may not be possible, individuals can develop coping mechanisms to effectively manage their fears and improve their mental health.


  1. Cleveland Clinic [Internet]. [cited 2023 Jul 13]. Lilapsophobia: definition, causes, symptoms, & treatment. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22375-lilapsophobia
  2. Registered Nurse RN [Internet]. 2012 [cited 2023 Jul 13]. Lilapsophobia: overcome your fear of tornadoes, severe storms, and hurricanes. Available from: https://www.registerednursern.com/lilapsophobia-overcome-your-fear-of-tornadoes-severe-storms-and-hurricanes/
  3. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) [Internet]. [cited 2023 Jul 13]. Specific phobia. Available from: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/specific-phobia
  4. Lilapsophobia(Fear of tornadoes and hurricanes) [Internet]. Psych Times. [cited 2023 Jul 13]. Available from: https://psychtimes.com/lilapsophobia-fear-of-tornadoes-and-hurricanes/
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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On-Emore Akpevwe

Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery - MBBS, Medicine and Surgery, Delta State University (NG)

Hi, I'm Akpevwe, a Medical Doctor who has always loved writing and enjoyed writing as a hobby for many years.

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