Chionophobia is the irrational fear and extreme dislike of snow. The word originates from Greek chion meaning snow and phobos meaning fear, aversion or dread. It is typically linked to a fear of bodily harm or death.
The cause of this phobia is often the result of a traumatic childhood experience involving snow, such as an injury received while playing in snow.
In the case of adults, the phobia can be caused by being involved in a traffic accident while driving in snowy conditions.
Chionophobia is considered a branch of pagophobia (the fear of ice or frost) since snow is a form of ice. It can also be developed from aquaphobia (the fear of water), as snow is frozen water, this fear is surprisingly common.
Other related phobias include:
- Chionothyellaphobia – the fear of blizzards
- Nivisphobia – the fear of avalanches
- Frigoriphobia – the fear of cold weather
- Lilapsophobia – the fear of severe weather events
- Astraphobia – the abnormal fear of thunder and lightning*
*While snowfall is not generally affiliated with thunder and lightning, it does happen.
Living with chionophobia is not easy, especially during the winter or in places where snow is the way of life. Friends and family may ignore the phobia, thinking the sufferer is attention seeking. However, for the phobic, this is a real and serious phobia that interferes with your everyday life.
According to a study carried out by the American Meteorological Society, chionophobia is the second most prevalent natural environment phobia subtype.
Symptoms of Chionophobia
Paying undue attention to weather reports, refusing to leave home during snowy weather, and experiencing panic attacks are extremely common in people with chionophobia. For people with true chionophobia, the mere forecast of a winter storm or snowfall can induce physiological and extreme symptoms of fear and anxiety such as:
- Cold sweats
- Panic attacks
- Feelings of doom and dread
- Feeling like fleeing or hiding
- Heart palpitations
- Stomach disorders
Causes of Chionophobia
Chionophobia can stem from a traumatic childhood event connected to snow, such as taking a hard hit from a snowball or being in an accident caused by ice.
For some, winter weather can bring myriad activities such as skiing, making snowmen, snowball fights, etc. However, a person who fears injury could develop chionophobia because of the risk involved.
Heavy snowfall often leads to the sufferer being unable to leave the house, possible power outages, frozen pipes and fallen trees, etc. Snow shoveling afterward can be exhausting work, especially for the elderly. Slipping on ice can sometimes cause fractures that occasionally lead to fatalities. Snow also brings freezing rain or icy sleet. Ice storms claim many lives every winter.
The “dirty” snow that accrues roadside can be a health hazard. This snow can contain sharp objects, salts, chemicals or even bodily fluids. Children often eat this snow, which can result in disease or injury. People with extreme germ phobias fear the pathogens present. Other elements like hypothermia and frostbite can also lead to chionophobia.
Avalanches, unstable snow forts, and thin ice are some of the potential hazards of winter activities. While most people take precautions to guard against becoming trapped, that thought can be a major anxiety trigger for others.
Hypothermia and frostbite are conditions that if not treated properly may lead to serious injury or even death. Thankfully, occurrences of this are relatively rare in the modern world except during emergency situations. Cryophobia, the fear of cold, can be paralyzing, inducing sufferers to remain indoors.
Winter driving is potentially hazardous. Most drivers develop habits that minimize the risks. For those with a pre-existing fear of driving, however, winter weather driving may seem impossible.
Like many other phobias, the fear of snow is highly personalized. No two people experience it the same way and not all fears related to snow are clinical phobias. The vast majority of known snow-related fears fall into a handful of common categories.
How to Overcome Chionophobia
The best method for coping with chionophobia depends on the severity and the level of impact that it has on your life. It is vital to not ignore the panic attacks. If your fear is severe or life-limiting, seek the guidance of a trained mental health professional. Winter weather is a fact of life, but with proper assistance and hard work, there is no reason for chionophobia to seriously affect your day-to-day life, work, career, etc.
Others find gradual exposure to winter activities help reduce anxiety. Family and friends can help the phobic understand that not all snowstorms are dangerous, providing the necessary precautions are taken. Self-education about different types of snow or weather conditions – and their effects on local conditions – can also help relax the fear.
Hypnotherapy is a proven remedy for treating many social and specific phobias, including chionophobia. The treatment deeply relaxes the sufferer to allow the therapist to analyze the phobia’s exact cause and make him or her open to suggestions. Therapy is a proven method to reduce the intensity and frequency of panic attacks experienced.