Understanding Chionophobia: The Fear of Snow

A Look at This Weather-Related Natural Environment Phobia

Winter road in snow-covered landscape in Bavaria
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Chionophobia, or intense fear of snow, is a type of phobia categorized as a natural environment phobia. Natural environment phobias include other weather-related phobias like the fear of thunderstorms (astrophobia), the fear of wind (ancraophobia), and, of course, the fear of snow (chionophobia). According to the American Meteorological Society, natural environment phobias like chionophobia are the second most prevalent phobia subtype.

Chionophobia and the Fear of Snow

Chionophobia is not just a dislike of snow or a rational fear of severe weather forecasts, it is an irrational fear of snow that is typically linked to a fear of bodily harm or death. Though phobias can and do manifest themselves differently in different people's experiences, there are typically two primary fears behind chionophobia: the fear of becoming snowbound and the fear of being stranded in snow.

Symptoms of True Chionophobia

Like all phobias, the fear of snow may cause a variety of symptoms. 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 symptoms of fear and anxiety like cold sweats, panic attacks, and even an unrealistic feeling of doom and dread.

Coping With Chionophobia

The best methods for coping with the fear of snow depend on the severity and the level of impact that your fear has on your life. Some people find that becoming educated about different types of snow and their effects on local conditions can calm their fears. Others find that gradual exposure to winter activities is calming.

If your fear is severe or life-limiting, however, 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 it to seriously curtail your life when faced with snowy winter weather.

Other Snow-Related Fears

Like any phobia, the fear of snow is highly personalized. No two people experience snow phobia in precisely the same way and not all fears related to snow are, in fact, clinical phobias. Nonetheless, the vast majority of known snow-related fears fall into a handful of common categories.

Fear of Severe Weather

The fear of snow is often, although not always, associated with a more generalized weather-related phobia. Lilapsophobia is the fear of severe weather events, while astraphobia is the fear of more run of the mill storms. Although snowfall is not generally affiliated with thunder and lightning, these events may certainly occur. For those with a fear of weather-related phenomena, even the possibility of a severe storm may be enough to trigger a phobic reaction.

Fear of Being Trapped

Avalanches, unstable snow forts, and thin ice are just a few of the potential hazards of winter activities. Most people take precautions to guard against becoming seriously trapped by snow or ice, but for some people, the concept of being trapped is a major anxiety trigger. For people with a strong phobia of being trapped, even the slight sinking feeling of walking through a light layer of snow may be enough to induce a panic attack.

Fear of Injury

Snowy conditions are often accompanied by ice, which is slick and potentially dangerous, and sometimes covered by a layer of snow. For those who have medical phobias or a fear of being injured, snow may present an anxiety-inducing risk. Some fears of injury due to ice and snow are rational, so it's important to note that fears that are rooted in rational considerations are never considered phobias.

Fear of Cold

Hypothermia and frostbite are very real conditions that, if not properly treated, may lead to serious injury or even death. However, they are relatively rare in the modern world except during emergency situations. Particularly in colder climates, clothing, blankets and emergency heat supplies are readily available and adequate for the prevailing local conditions. Nonetheless, some people have a specific irrational fear of being cold. Known as cryophobia, the fear of cold can be paralyzing, inducing sufferers to remain indoors even at great personal cost to relationships and obligations.

Fear of Illness

Remember that old playground advice, "don't eat the yellow snow?" Although pure, new-fallen snow is relatively safe and clean, snow that has sat on the ground may be contaminated with bodily fluids, chemicals and numerous other hazards. The risks are minimal, particularly for those who do not make a habit of eating old snow. For those with germ phobia or hypochondriasis, however, even the slight risks associated with snow may be too much to bear.

Fear of Water

Of course, snow is simply frozen water. While most of us consume and use water in a variety of ways on a daily basis, aquaphobia, or the fear of water, is surprisingly common. In extreme cases, aquaphobia can even lead to a fear of bathing, so it is theoretically possible that a fear of water could also lead to a fear of snow.

Fear of Driving

Winter driving is often tricky and potentially hazardous. Caution is prudent, and most people develop winter driving habits that minimize the risks. For those with a pre-existing fear of driving, however, driving in winter weather may seem impossible. In addition, some people with no fear of driving in mild weather develop a specific phobia of winter driving.


American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th Ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Jill S. M. Coleman, Kaylee D. Newby, Karen D. Multon, and Cynthia L. Taylor. Weathering the Storm: Revisiting Severe-Weather Phobia . American Meteorological Society (2014).  

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