Does the thought of swimming in the sea or ocean give you shivers? How about images of deep-sea creatures? If the idea of large water bodies gives you a feeling of immense fear, then you might be experiencing thalassophobia. Just like any other phobia, it may be characterized by panic attacks, shivers, sweating, and much more.
The fear of large water bodies and sea creatures can hinder one from having a good time with friends. Individuals with thalassophobia are often anxious when boarding ferries, boats, and other forms of water transportation. They also feel apprehensive about the idea of water sports.
The phobia becomes problematic when one is unable to undertake normal activities like swimming, traveling by water vessels, or passing by large water bodies. In such cases, one is advised to visit a doctor or a behavioral specialist.
What is thalassophobia? It is a greek term that means ‘fear of the sea.’ It is defined as the persistent and intense fear of deep water bodies like the sea and ocean.
What is the difference between thalassophobia and aquaphobia(fear of water)? While the latter is the phobia of water, thalassophobia is mostly centered around the vast, deep, and dark nature of water bodies. Individuals with the phobia are frightened mainly by the creatures that are under the sea.
The possibility of dangerous sea creatures causes phobia of the ocean. If you are at the beach with your feet in the water, you might have a panic attack at the thought of crabs, lobsters or octopus biting your feet.
If you are on a water vessel, you might be anticipating when it will tip over, and you sink in the cold dark waters.
If these scenarios make you anxious or nervous, then you might be thalassophobic. Here are some thalassophobia images. Are they sending chills down your spine?
Deep-sea creatures, especially when in large numbers, may make some individuals uneasy.
Causes of thalassophobia
Even though there are no specific causes for this phobia, some factors may trigger it. The triggers may vary depending on an individual. They include:
- Genetics - If your ancestors were afraid of large, deep, and dark waterbodies, then it is likely that they might have passed the fear down to you.
- Past experiences - some experiences like watching someone drown may lead to this fear. You might also be triggered by personal traumatic experiences that involved deep seawater and ocean travel
- Upbringing - if you were brought up around individuals who had the phobia, then they might have passed it on to you.
- Personality - if you tend to be anxious or sensitive most times, then you may be triggered by large water bodies and deep-sea creatures
- Stories from people - depending on how the story is told, one may end up having anxiety about large water bodies. Media that focuses on water accidents and dangerous deep-sea creatures may also trigger or worsen the condition.
Signs of thalassophobia
Before you can conclude that you have thalassophobia, it is critical to know the difference between fear and phobia. While fear is a negative emotional response to an event or object, a phobia is an extreme emotion that is often characterized by a feeling of nervousness. In most cases, it affects the quality and experience of life.
Some people may not know that they have a fear of the sea. Symptoms of this phobia may range from mild sweating, lightheadedness to extreme cases of shortness of breath and rapid breathing.
Here are signs that you might be having thalassophobia:
- Racing heart
- Rapid breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Sense of imminent doom
- Severe panic attacks
- Dry mouth
- Butterflies in the stomach
- Chest pains or tightness
Most of the individuals with this phobia prefer to stay away from large water bodies altogether. Discussing the sea and oceans may be a trigger and they will often seem anxious when such topics arise.
If you suspect that you have the phobia, checking on your symptoms may be an excellent way to find out. You can also take an online test that will help you discover if your fear is mild or extreme. For extreme cases, you may need to consult a doctor for a diagnosis.
The doctor will assess your triggers and symptoms and give a comprehensive analysis. For your fear to be diagnosed as phobia, you will have to have certain elements. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), you have the phobia if your fear is:
- Excessive, persistent and often unreasonable for six months or more
- Experienced every time you are near an open, deep or broad water body
- Out of proportion to the actual dangers
- Tends to make you stay away from the sea, or endure with immense fear
- A hindrance to the quality of your regular lifestyle
Like most phobias, treatment involves behavioral therapy. This may be done using exposure to the trigger, which in this case, is the sea or ocean. Some techniques that may be included in the treatment include systematic desensitization, gradual exposure, and cognitive restructuring.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) involves shifting negative behaviors and thoughts to positive ones. It focuses on the specific emotions and thoughts associated with the problem.
System desensitization involves replacing a fear response with a relaxation response. It is often taught through breathing techniques. Once learned, an individual can do it alone without the help of a therapist.
This phobia, when extreme, affects someone’s way of life. It may result in extreme complications like:
- Loneliness and social isolation - Most of the people with this phobia tend to stay away from social gatherings that may involve contact with the sea or ocean. They prefer to stay alone in order to avoid anxiety attacks that they may have when exposed to water bodies.
- Panic attacks - they are often characterized by sweating, chest pain, and even immense fear of dying
- Depression - Some people living with thalassophobia may show symptoms of behavioral changes.
- Substance abuse - some individuals may turn to drug and substance use to help them ease the phobia.
How to cope with thalassophobia
Thalassophobia does not have to make your life difficult. There are several methods you can use to deal with it or overcome it altogether. It may involve exposure to the object of fear or long sessions of therapy. Here are some ways to help you deal with it:
If you have such a phobia, you should realize that you are not the only one going through it. You can try to find a support group of individuals working towards overcoming it.
If you cannot locate a support group within your region, you can always find an online one. For instance, Reddit has a forum for those with a fear of open water. Individuals share their experiences and images that may trigger and eventually help deal with the phobia.
This is one of the methods used in therapy. You can start by viewing images of the object of fear and eventually visiting the large water body. If you are scared of swimming in the sea, you can begin by signing up for swimming classes
If deep-sea creatures trigger your fear, you can visit an aquarium. Facing your fear may help you overcome it. It will take time, but eventually, you will find yourself being at ease around large water bodies.
If you find yourself experiencing symptoms such as sweating, a racing heart, and shortness of breath, you might need to use some relaxation techniques. They include deep breathing, visualization of a calm situation, and progressive muscle relaxation.
While thalassophobia may be triggered by genetics, personality, or upbringing, there are ways of preventing its onset. These methods can be adapted at a young age. Steps you take to prevent or minimize its development include:
- Get help early - If you suspect that the symptoms (e.g. numbness, difficulty in breathing) may be triggered by the fear of large bodies of water, then you should seek professional help. Visit a doctor who deals with the phobia, and they will give you the support and insight you may need
- Model desired behaviors - If you are an individual with sea and ocean phobia, you should try to deal with it or model positive behaviors. This will prevent kids or those around you from eventually developing the phobia.
Understanding thalassophobia and its triggers can help one deal with it. It does not have to stop you from taking part in activities like swimming, deep-sea diving e.t.c.