The X-Men house some of the most recognisable superheroes in the Marvel Universe, and Storm is certainly one of the most powerful. Strong, intelligent and noble, Ororo Munroe is a staple member of the team, helping to guide a new generation of mutants.
But even the mightiest of superheroes aren’t immune to mental health disorders, and Storm is no different. Storm suffers from claustrophobia, a debilitating condition felt by people across the globe. But rather than it being a weakness, I think Storm’s claustrophobia makes her more relatable.
The root of Storm’s trauma goes back to her childhood. When she was six years old, Ororo’s parents were killed during a military aircraft attack that sent the plane crashing into their home. Buried underneath a mountain of rubble, Storm developed an intense fear of tight spaces. Eventually, she managed to escape by summoning a windstorm to remove the debris.
Forced to survive alone from a young age, Ororo had to grow up quickly. She wandered through Africa, learning how to control her powers, but her claustrophobia remained. When she joined the X-Men, Storm was forced into a variety of situations that made her confront her fear. An early example occurred when she and Jean Grey chased a thief into a New York subway station. Unable to see the sky, Ororo experienced an extreme panic attack.
Another incident occurred when the X-Men battled the Juggernaut. During the fight, Storm was trapped behind a wall of rocks, which brought her back to the moment she was a little girl. Feeling paralysed, Storm felt powerless to help her friends against Juggernaut.
Claustrophobia coping strategies
When Storm is in the midst of a claustrophobic episode, she feels unable to breath and may suffer from panic attacks. With her powers being linked to the weather, it makes sense that she’d feel better by being able to see the sky. I imagine it provides her with a feeling of freedom and reminds her that she can go anywhere.
Everyone has their own mental health coping techniques, and Doctor Janina Scarlet described some excellent strategies for Storm in her Psychology of Inspirational Women series. In the article, Doctor Scarlet frames Storm as her patient and highlights how she would go about helping Ororo cope with her claustrophobia. One of the techniques Doctor Scarlet mentions is exposure therapy, which would involve being with Storm in an enclosed space and gradually increasing the time spent there until Storm felt more comfortable.
Even without therapy, Storm has proven that she can face up to her fears. Perhaps the best example of this occurred when she travelled into the New York underground to rescue her teammate, Angel, from an outcast mutant community called The Morlocks. Despite being in a confined tunnel, Storm didn’t let her claustrophobia get the better of her. She fought to protect the people she cared about, demonstrating her incredible willpower.
Overcoming a phobia is never easy, but characters like Storm remind us that it’s okay to feel scared. What matters is how we learn to cope with trauma, to move beyond it and stop it from defining who we are as people. Storm finds the strength to cope with her claustrophobia every day. Sometimes she wins, sometimes she loses. But she never gives up. That is the essence of a true superhero.