Fear Of Deep Water
Looking down from the surface into the dark, ever-changing environment of the ocean can be scary for even the most experienced swimmers. From monstrous sea creatures to potential drowning, there are many reasons why people are afraid of the water.
If you've had a fear of deep water that has inhibited you from enjoying your time in the ocean, then you've come to the right place. The last thing you want to do is leave this type of phobia untreated, as it could limit the way you move throughout life.
We're going to discuss where those fears come from and what you can do to mitigate them. We'll also provide multiple techniques to help overcome your fear!
What Is Thalassophobia
Thalassophobia - Intense fear of deep, dark bodies of water.
Many people refer to Thalassophobia as a "fear of the ocean," though this specific phobia is far more complex than that.
Thalassophobia is much different than aquaphobia, which involves a person that is afraid of water itself.
Thalassophobia is a natural-environment type of phobia, which differs from the other three main phobias, including:
People who suffer from Thalassophobia will get a sudden burst of anxiety when exposed to deep water bodies, including lakes, oceans, or deep pools. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classifies this specific phobia as an anxiety disorder.
Not everyone experiences thalassophobia or the fear of deep water in the same way, however. Some people panic from simply not being able to touch their feet to the bottom of the pool when swimming, while others only panic when they are swimming in deeper bodies of water. Some people even experience this from standing on a boat and looking at the water around them.
Thalassophobia is very similar to other specific phobias in that people experience many of the same symptoms.
However, compared to other types of anxiety disorders and phobias, physical and emotional symptoms of thalassophobia have to do with deep water exposure. Some of these physical and emotional symptoms include:
Most people with this phobia experience a "fight-or-flight" response, prompting them to escape the situation immediately. For this reason, many who suffer from thalassophobia will avoid getting near large bodies of water. In addition, many people experience "anticipatory anxiety," in which they get feelings of extreme nervousness just before they encounter their feared object.
In many cases, these symptoms can be pretty dangerous when swimming. For example, experience a panic attack while out in the water could put you at risk for drowning.
For this reason, we always say that it is better to think of the dangerous part of this situation as your panic response while swimming, not being in the water. We also recommend swimming within sight of a friend or lifeguard at all times.
As with other types of phobias, several factors can cause a person to develop thalassophobia. A few of the main factors include:
If you've ever had a traumatic experience surrounding ocean travel, open water, or deep bodies of water, it could be a possible cause of your fear. For example, something may have frightened you while you were swimming in open water. When you associate this particular situation with a frightened or panicked response, you can develop a fear of being in that situation as time goes on.
If we look at it from a genetic perspective, we can see that our ancestors were potentially fearful and cautious of open water. People who had this fear response were more likely to survive, and passed the fear gene down to their children.
If you've had parents or other people in your life with a fear of deep water, it could be a contributing factor. If a family member has thalassophobia, for example, you are more likely to develop it. You might also hear stories focused on deep-water accidents that trigger this fear.
Thalassophobia can be triggered by:
Treatment: How To Overcome Thalassophobia
The American Psychiatric Association says people can combat symptoms of anxiety or fear with the proper treatment.
Specific phobias like thalassophobia can be diagnosed by a mental health professional or primary care provider. They will then be able to come up with treatment options that work for your specific case.
According to DSM-5 Criteria, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, criteria of phobias include:
Exposure Therapy is the primary and most effective treatment available for thalassophobia. Through exposure therapy, people can become free of the particular phobia that effecting them, and conquer it once and for all.
This method uses steps of increased exposure. For example, one of the first steps might be looking at a few photos of the ocean.
Next, you might watch a few videos with deep water in them.
Once you gain more comfort, you can take a trip down to your local pool or beach.
With controlled exposure to deep water, you learn that the things that stimulate your fear response aren't actually dangerous. In the end, you begin associating this exposure with a more positive outcome.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an effective form of psychotherapy that can treat very specific phobias, as well as several other anxiety disorders.
CBT gives people insight into their behavioral responses and thought patterns, allowing them to alter negative thoughts, thereby adjusting how they feel and behave.
With Thalassophobia and other specific phobias, CBT is best used in conjunction with exposure therapy.
If you find yourself experiencing panic or anxiety related to a deep body of water, you can try one of three relaxation techniques to calm your body and mind, which include:
There are many reasons people develop unreasonable fears of deep water. You may have thalassophobia if you avoid being around pools or in the ocean because you experience panic and intense fear when around deep water.
Of course, it is essential to talk to a mental health professional before diagnosing yourself. Through the help of a professional, you can work to overcome these fears.
Only 10%-25% of people with a specific phobia will ever seek help. Don't think of your fear as irrational. Fears are common and you are not alone. Understanding that your deep fear of water is sensible and justifiable is the best way to work toward overcoming it.
Seek out the support you need and don't let this fear of water hold you back. You do not have to live with thalassophobia any longer. We wish you much success on your journey!