A severe phobia of deep water is called thalassophobia. When exposed to triggering stimuli like deep pools, the ocean, or lakes, people who have thalassophobia suddenly develop anxiety. This anxiety may be so intense as to prevent a person from enjoying activities like going to the beach or riding a boat. It might even inspire fear.
Thalassophobia is an example of a specific phobia, which is an unfounded fear of a particular object. The intense feelings of fear that are brought on by specific phobias, such as thalassophobia, are out of proportion to the actual threat and can result in significant distress or impairment.
Aquaphobia, a general fear of water, is not the same as thalassophobia.
This article examines thalassophobia’s signs and causes. Additionally, it covers some of the available therapies as well as ways to avoid developing this and other phobias.
The Greek thálassa, which means “sea,” is where the word “thalassophobia” originates. “Fear of the ocean” is a common name for it.
Thalassophobia is a particular phobia marked by a strong aversion to deep bodies of water. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classifies it as an anxiety disorder (DSM-5).
What Causes Thalassophobia and Where Does It Come From?
Thalassophobia, like the majority of specific phobias, is likely to arise as a result of experiences (either early in life or later) and may also result from picking up on other people’s fears. Therefore, a traumatic childhood experience, such as diving into deep water before learning to swim, may serve as the basis for a person’s thalassophobia.
This is likely to make their fear worse if they start to avoid any significant bodies of water. This is because when we avoid the things we fear, we never have the opportunity to discover that they aren’t actually all that scary. This aversion to the sea and ocean may result from a variety of causes. Thalassophobia is probably a result of a mix of nature and nurture, similar to other phobias.
Evolution and genetics might be important in the natural world. The more cautious and wary of deep bodies of water our ancestors were, the more likely they were to survive and pass on these wary genes to their offspring.
This fear may also be partially learned due to experiences people may have had around water. Being frightened by something while swimming, for example, may also be a possible cause of this type of fear.
Observing others who also struggled with a fear of deep water, especially parents and other powerful adults, may also have played a role.
A person may also be more likely to develop a particular phobia, like thalassophobia, if a number of risk factors are present. Here are a few of these:
- Knowing someone in your family who suffers from thalassophobia or another type of specific phobia
- Having a more pessimistic, sensitive, or anxious personality
- Deepwater, large bodies of water, or ocean travel-related traumatic personal experiences
- Hearing about incidents involving water accidents from others or from media sources
What Does Thalassophobia Feel Like?
Therefore, how does thalassophobia manifest, and what behavioural and emotional signs might you experience? Thalassophobics often have panic-inducing symptoms at the mere thought of being near deep water. These symptoms include rapid heartbeat, shaking, sweating, and hyperventilation.
These physiological reactions will be more intense the closer and more immediate the contact with deep water, so sitting in a boat above deep water may cause a complete breakdown and intense fears of impending death and horror.
What Are Some Common Thalassophobia Triggers?
Videos or pictures of underwater creatures can also be upsetting, as can images of vast seas and oceans. A person’s reaction to the mere thought of deep, open water may depend on how severe their thalassophobia is. Other scenarios that could lead to issues include driving over deep water bridges, flying over seas and oceans, and watching movies with ocean and underwater scenes.
Thalassophobia individuals may be fine up until they lose sight of land. Others might become triggered by simply being in an environment where they are uncomfortable, like the beach or a swimming pool.
How Common Is Thalassophobia?
Due to a lack of relevant survey data, it is challenging to pinpoint the prevalence of this fear. The prevalence of aquaphobia in the general population is estimated to be between two and three percent, so it stands to reason that everyone in this group would either have thalassophobia or be at risk of developing it.
The fact that there is an active Reddit forum for thalassophobia with over a million members provides a more anecdotal hint.
Suggestions for Overcoming Thalassophobia
Though managing thalassophobia can be difficult, there are ways to cope and reduce your fears.
Try a relaxation technique to calm your mind and body if you discover that fear-related symptoms arise when you are near water or even just the thought of it. A few examples include:
- Deep breathing
- Progressively relaxing the muscles (PMR)
The more you use these methods, the simpler it will be for you to keep your symptoms under control when faced with your fears.
While therapy is frequently the best course of action, facing your fears can also be accomplished through self-help methods. Start by simply imagining yourself near a deep body of water, and then calm yourself by using the relaxation exercises you have been practising.
Start with images, then move on to smaller bodies of water, and eventually the sea, ocean, or a sizable lake as you gradually expose yourself to the source of your fear. Use your relaxation techniques each time to reduce your fear response.
Your worries should decrease over time, and you should find it much simpler to achieve a calm state of mind.
Phobias can usually be effectively treated. The preferred method would be Cognitive Behavioural Therapy based on “gradual exposure” therapy.
Your therapist will gradually expose you to water-related stimuli—possibly beginning with your imagination, moving on to pictures and videos, and concluding with actually swimming or boating over water—while teaching you coping mechanisms along the way.
Therapy is proven to be effective in treating phobias and related disorders. This may help in calming your state of mind and making you learn coping mechanisms as well.
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