Psychology of Fear: How Weather Anxiety Turns to Fascination

By Jillian MacMath, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
November 1, 2013; 2:53 AM ET
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Though fear can cause trepidation and avoidance in some people, it can also have the opposite effect, leading to a newfound interest and fascination.

More than 25 percent of people suffer from a fear or phobia of something, according to Dr. Ron Glassman, who specializes in the treatment of fear, phobia and anxiety.

Of that 25 percent, about 1 percent of people will have a fear or phobia of something related to weather, with thunder and lightning topping the list.

"The vast majority of people are hyper reactive as a result of having some kind of fear or phobic reaction or stress response kick in as a response to being exposed to the thing they fear," according to Glassman.

For others, however, a traumatic event does not need to occur. Occasionally, people are "prewired" to feel anxiety and fear for certain things.

While many think of fear as an inhibiting condition, it's not unusual for it to become a motivator instead, Glassman explained.

"It starts out as a fear, then an interest, and then it becomes a goal to overcome it. That is not unusual in the fear world. It is very common."

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For some, that interest has even become a career.

"Any time you had winds, dark clouds, heavy rain that would send me running to the basement," AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Heather Waldman said of herself as a child.

"My parents couldn't have the radar up on television if they knew a storm was coming through, because I would see it. Even as a 5- or 6-year-old, I sort of started to understand the concept of what that meant, and I would know something was coming," she said.

As others pushed Waldman to understand the weather, however, a fascination grew, eventually leading to a career in broadcast meteorology.

For some, fear can be a useful thing, according to Chief Forecaster and Senior Vice President of AccuWeather.com Elliot Abrams. It allows people to have a "healthy respect" for the weather.

"One person's fear can be another person's joy, with the weather, but we have to respect the weather regardless of what it is," Abrams said.

"And that's why, in the forecast business, I think that just about everyone that goes into it hopes at some point to be able to save somebody's life or prevent an injury or prevent some damage."

(AccuWeather Thumbnail Photo/Jesse Ferrell)

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