For those unfamiliar with the term, it refers to an extreme apprehension about being submerged for any length of time, regardless of how shallow the water may appear from above. A person who suffers from thalassophobia is terrified of what lies beneath the surface of the water.
The causes and treatments of this anxiety disorder can help you better understand and manage the symptoms of this phobia.
What to Look for If You Have Thalassophobia
Thalassophobia, as opposed to aquaphobia, is a persistent, intense fear of deep, dark bodies of water and what lies beneath their surface. Whether in the deep sea, a deep river, a large lake, or any other deep body of water, fear can result from the thought of an unknown sea creature swimming below you, or even just from knowing how deep, expansive, and dark the water you’re in is.
The idea that the water gets darker as you go deeper is the most terrifying part for many thalassophobics. They also may fear the idea that they really don’t know much about the life forms that exist in the deepest depths. There are both physical and emotional symptoms someone with thalassophobia may experience.
The following are possible signs and symptoms of thalassophobia:
- Increased rate of heartbeat
- a feeling of being out of breath
- Abnormal breathing
- Rapid breath
- Dry mouth
- Butterflies in the stomach
- Chest discomfort or tightness
- Chills, hot flashes, or sweating
The following are examples of thalassophobia-related emotional symptoms:
- Staying away from large bodies of water is a good idea.
- Stressed out
- a desire to run away
- I’m completely exhausted.
- Extreme, intense, sudden fear or anxiety
- Fearing a loss of control
- a flurry of ideas
- Feeling detached
- Inability to sleep
Even if you’re only thinking about or looking at pictures of water, you might get the symptoms. When you’re out on the water, the thought of being so far from land can be terrifying. In most cases, people who have this fear will be scared, nervous, and generally uneasy around any large body of water — it doesn’t have to just be the ocean.
What Triggers Thalassophobia?
Several things can trigger thalassophobia. Fear and panic can be induced by the following situations:
- Lakes\s Swimming pools
- The sport of scuba diving
- Sea creatures — mythical or real\s Submarines
- Pictures, films, or shows on any of the aforementioned topics
- Imagining or dreading having to deal with any of the aforementioned situations or people
What are the root causes of fear of the sea?
Like many other phobias, thalassophobia hasn’t been extensively studied. As a result, researchers don’t know absolutely, but they believe there’s likely a combination of factors that can contribute to symptoms of thalassophobia. They may be related to genetics, past experiences, brain circuits, or upbringing that can result in an intense fear of deep ocean or other deep water.
A number of phobias may have a genetic component to them. Phobias are considered a type of anxiety disorder, which is often hereditary. Phobias may be inherited, according to recent findings.
Anytime you experience a traumatic event, for example something scary regarding or around water, the resulting fear may last well into adulthood and develop into a true phobia.
Circuits in the brain
When we are afraid, our brain is programmed to respond. When we experience a threat, whether it’s real or just perceived, our brain kicks into fight or flight mode. Several studies have found a link between anxiety disorders and abnormalities in the brain circuits that control fear of the sea (such as thalassophobia).
People who grow up with anxiety-ridden family dynamics might be more prone to developing phobias. We can learn to be afraid. If a parent has an extreme fear of water or the ocean, it may be something a child picks up. This means that a child might be influenced by their parents’ anxiety and develop a fear of the ocean’s deep waters.
How to Deal with Fear of the Sea
Although the fear may feel overwhelming at times, you can learn how to overcome a debilitating phobia like this. With the right help, thalassophobia can be managed.
Thalassophobia can be treated with both short-term and long-term tools and techniques. A fear of deep water can be effectively managed with relaxation techniques such as meditation, visualisation, or deep breathing.
The following have been found effective in coping with thalassophobia — and remember, the more you use these techniques, the stronger their impact can become.
- Deep breathing: Deep breathing exercises are great because they’re something you can do anywhere. Take a deep, long breath, hold it, and then release slowly. Repetition of this breathing exercise until you notice a softening and relaxing of your body is what you need.
- Fear can be faced and overcome through the power of visualisation. You could visualise successfully navigating deep waters without going into a panic. This is something you might want to work on with a therapist to get the best results.
- Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR): Progressive muscle relaxation is an easy-to-learn technique that can be extremely useful during high stress or high anxiety periods. People who suffer from panic attacks have found it to be extremely beneficial. PMR is a type of exercise in which you gradually tighten and then relax specific muscles in your body. It can relieve mental or physical stress and help calm or quiet your mind.
- Self-help exposure: Self-help exposure through visualisation can help you confront many of your fears, including thalassophobia. Picture yourself close to a small body of water. Calm yourself down by utilising any of the relaxation techniques you’ve learned. After that, gradually imagine yourself being exposed to larger and larger bodies of water until you reach your goal. Tolerance and fear are two sides of the same coin that can develop over time.
Consider taking an online thalassophobia test to find out for sure if your fear of deep water is real or just a fear in your head. These evaluations are intended to assist you in determining the severity of your symptoms. In addition, a medical professional can make a formal diagnosis for you. You can seek help from a medical professional, a therapist, or another mental health care provider.
Though there isn’t technically a formal test to diagnose thalassophobia, your doctor or therapist can help you understand more about your fear. A doctor can also rule out any other medical complications that might be contributing to your phobia. Treatment for a specific phobia, such as thalassophobia, can begin as soon as you are diagnosed with the condition.
If you suffer from thalassophobia, you should know that it is treatable and manageable. For those who find that their fear is preventing them from fully participating in life (such as being unable or unwilling to go out on a boat, swim in open water, or visit the beach because of their anxiety), it may be worth seeking help from a mental health professional.
Therapy for thalassophobia
Once you make the decision to get help for your condition, be prepared to be open about your current lifestyle and any past traumas with your therapist or doctor. In order to help you overcome your phobia, it’s important that you’re as honest as possible with your therapists.
The goal of your counselling sessions is to help you understand how your fear developed, identify your specific triggers, and learn to successfully manage any emotional and physical responses when they occur.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) (CBT)
Treatment for thalassophobia may include understanding your body’s reaction to the fear, as well as using cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a type of psychotherapy (talk therapy) that involves changing dysfunctional thoughts. CBT helps you control your thoughts instead of feeling overwhelmed by them. For the purpose of evaluating common coping mechanisms, you may be assigned assignments that require that you visit the ocean while remaining on land.
Thalassophobia is commonly treated with exposure therapy, a type of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This form of therapy mainly consists of gradual, repeated exposure to whatever you fear in a safe environment. Avoidant behaviour can be redirected and anxiety can be reduced through exposure.
For example, if you have thalassophobia, you might fear the ocean. To help you overcome your fear of the ocean, a therapist may employ exposure therapy, which entails having you imagine yourself in the water. Then, they might move on to showing you images of the ocean. Finally, they can help you get a closer look at the ocean through an in-person or virtual reality experience.
While there isn’t an exact record of how many people suffer from thalassophobia specifically, there are statistics on how many people experience a phobia of some kind: an estimated 9.1 percent of American adults report having a phobia in the last year.
While a persistent fear of vast, deep, and dark bodies of water can result in crippling anxiety symptoms, you absolutely can overcome your fear. Participating in therapy, whether it’s in-person or online therapy, will help you get one step closer towards overcoming your phobia. A therapist can assist you in conquering your fear, no matter what it is. Therapy can help you overcome your fear of the sea or spiders.
Reduce the amount of time you spend living in fear and avoidance by learning to cope with your phobia more effectively. Instead, you’ll have a newfound perspective on the world and be able to prioritise living life to the fullest and enjoying each day. Getting back in the water may even be on your list of priorities.