North Texas

Severe Weather Leaves North Texans with Anxiety

The threat of storms this week has caused anxiety for many North Texans living in areas hit by tornadoes.

“People might be so frightened that they wouldn't want to go to work or go to school,” said Dr. Anne Marie Warren, a clinical psychologist at Baylor University Medical Center.

Warren often sees patients who have been victims of severe weather events. Typically, they’ve suffered some sort of trauma, such as a loss of home or loved one. The experience is often followed by cognitive or behavioral changes. Most commonly, Warren said her clients are anxious, scared or hyper-vigilant.

“The sirens go off. There's a lot of noise from the TV coming, the warnings go,” explained Warren. “And those things, for people that are anxious, can trigger some of those anxiety reactions.”

However, a person doesn’t need to be directly impacted by a storm to feel its effect.

“It makes me feel anxious because I've known all week that these storms are coming,” said Ericca Christy, a Fort Worth resident.

In lieu of heavy rain and wind this week, Christy left her high-rise condo to stay with her parents at their home in Frisco.

“She's always been paranoid. I don’t understand why she’s so traumatized,” said her father David Stephens.

Since Christy was young, she’s always feared the sirens and warnings associated with tornadoes. Her parents suspect it’s likely because she grew up around the weather. However, her concerns still persist to this day.

“I think the actual images of tornadoes ripping through things and watching all the debris in the air, that's the freakiest part to me,” explained Christy. “It sounds like an irrational fear. I can't help it. It doesn't go away.”

According to Warren, increased access to video of storm damage on television and the Internet has likely contributed to the anxiety many feel during bad weather.

But for Christy, staying informed has actually helped her stay calm. Even as she watches a storm unfold on television, she finds comfort in knowing exactly what is happening outside.

“All I do is watch TV and watch Twitter and Facebook,” explained Christy. “Sometimes you just let the storm pass, and hopefully you come out on the good end of it.” 

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