A fear of clouds is clinically known as nephophobia. It is what is called a specific phobia. Though you may feel like you’re alone in your fear, know that others have also lived with phobias. About 12.5% of U.S. adults experience a specific phobia over their lifetime.
To learn more about fear of clouds and its symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, coping, and more, keep reading.
Definition of Specific Phobia
Fear of clouds is part of a group of phobias called specific phobias. This is a strong, irrational fear of something that carries little to no actual danger. Adults with a specific phobia know that they are in no real danger, but the object (or even thinking about it) creates significant anxiety symptoms.
Specific phobias can be broken down into several categories. Fear of clouds fits into the natural environment category of specific phobias. Natural environment type phobias are the second most prevalent subtype of phobias, making up between 9% and 12% of specific phobias.
Types and examples of specific phobia include:
- Animal type: Dogs, reptiles
- Natural environment type: Weather, heights, storms
- Blood-injection-injury type: Seeing blood, getting a shot or having a blood test, watching medical shows of procedures
- Situational type: Airplanes, driving, enclosed spaces
- Other types: Loud sounds, costumed characters
Phobias are different from simple fears. They differ in the intensity and actions of the affected person and their symptoms. A phobia typically has certain characteristics, including:
- The object triggers intense anxiety almost every time. Clouds would cause anxiety more days than not.
- Children may display anxiety through tantrums, crying, or being extra clingy.
- The object or situation is actively and consistently avoided for six months or longer. Someone may try to go outside as little as possible to avoid seeing clouds or purposely not look up.
- The fear or anxiety is disproportionate to the actual danger. Clouds are nearly always harmless unless they’re severe-weather clouds, but even regular clouds on a sunny day may trigger fear and anxiety.
- Significant clinical distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other functioning is observable.
- These symptoms are not caused or explained by another condition like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Symptoms of anxiety are usually part of the phobia and can include:
- A feeling of imminent danger
- The need to escape
- Sweating, chills, flushing, trembling
- Shortness of breath and/or feeling lightheaded
- Choking feeling
- Nausea or stomach pain
- Fear of “going crazy” or losing control
- Fear of dying
You may have only some of these symptoms. What symptoms you have may depend on the situation.
Getting a diagnosis can start by discussing your fear and anxiety with your primary care provider. They can refer you to a mental health professional. There are no tests to diagnose specific phobia or fear of clouds. A diagnosis is made through a clinical interview, self-report, and even observation.
The mental health professional will use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). It outlines diagnostic criteria for each disorder, including anxiety disorders like phobias. The criteria are similar to the characteristics listed as symptoms, which detail the phobia response and what triggers it.
No one knows the specific cause of phobias. Possible causes are having a negative experience with the object or situation, after which a negative association develops. This leads to a phobia. Or, the person may have observed their parents or others reacting fearfully to the trigger.
The origins of weather phobias have been explored, including whether the phobia develops from parental conditioning or a traumatic experience like a severe or violent storm. But data on this are lacking.
Severe-weather phobias are widely recognized, especially after natural disasters, when there are articles about coping with severe weather and its impact. But fear of clouds is less familiar to people.
A phobia such as the fear of clouds can significantly impair and limit your life. There are effective treatments for specific phobia.
Despite this, it is estimated that only about 10% to 25% of people with a specific phobia get treatment. This may be because avoiding the trigger reduces the person’s stress and anxiety. However, this is not possible for everyone, especially not for someone with a fear of clouds.
Many experts consider exposure therapy to be the gold standard treatment for specific phobia. It involves an in vivo (real-life) approach or one using pictures and images to expose the individual to the triggering object or situation. The experience is repeated until the exposure no longer triggers the fear response.
In exposure therapy, your therapist may have you start by looking at pictures of clouds, then looking out the window at clouds, and eventually working up to going outside when clouds are present. Your therapist will develop a specific treatment plan for your needs.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) may also be helpful. Exposure therapy is a form of CBT, but in CBT, additional techniques are used to change inappropriate or unhelpful beliefs.
Medication is typically thought to be of limited use for specific phobias. If medication is used, like antianxiety medication, it is often in conjunction with therapy like CBT or exposure therapy and not as the primary, sole therapy.
Living with specific phobia, especially fear of clouds, which you can’t easily avoid, can be challenging. It’s important to take care of yourself to cope as effectively as possible. Self-care is not a replacement for treatment but a necessary supplement. Things you can do include:
- Ask for support: It’s tempting to isolate yourself, especially during rough patches, but let a trusted friend or family member know that you need support right now to cope with your phobia.
- Join a support group (online or in person): Sometimes, other people in a similar situation who know what it’s like to live with a phobia can be helpful.
- Practice self-care: Get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet, stay hydrated, and minimize caffeine. Exercise regularly (if you are new to exercise, ask your healthcare provider if it’s safe for you to do so).
- Keep stress to a minimum: Practice stress-management techniques.
Fear of clouds, or nephophobia, is a specific phobia that can significantly impact a person’s life. It involves an outsized fear of clouds that causes marked anxiety and distress that is only relieved with avoidance of the situation. The causes of phobias are unknown, but there are treatments available that can be effective.
A Word From Verywell
Fear of clouds is a significant phobia to have since clouds often are present and are represented in artwork and in printed, online, and video materials. But treatment is available, and you don’t have to manage this alone.
Talk with your healthcare provider about your phobia and let them know you’re interested in finding someone to help treat it. They can help connect you with a mental health professional specializing in phobias.