The fear of drowning is a rational and logical fear experienced by many who cannot swim. Aquahobic or Thalassophobic individuals, however, experience a great deal of anxiety around all kinds of water bodies ranging from large oceans to small bathtubs.
Aquaphobic or Thalassophobic?
Aquaphobiais defined as an “irrational” fear of the water in one way or another, while Thalassophobiais defined as an intenseand often unwarranted fear of the ocean.
The reasons for these fears can be numerous.
Prior traumatic incident with the water such as a near drowning or having been pushed into the water as a part of a prank or accidentally fallen off a boat or a jetty. Or it might have been as a witness to a traumatic event such as the near drowning or the death of a loved one in water.
The fear of water can sometimes be passed on with the best of intentions from respected sources such as teachers, coaches or parents: These “elders” might have given too many cautionary warnings to children and others about going into or near the water. A parent who is afraid of water is likely to pass on the fear to the child. Stories, movies, incidents or news reports about drowning, can also instil a deep sense of fear of the water.
People who are not used to water, such as people who have grown up in rural or sandy desert areas are more likely to develop Aquaphobia.
Some proficient pool swimmers are Thalassophobic. They become very tense and nervous about being too far from shore, being in deep bodies of water where they cannot see the bottom, being exposed to seaweed, jellyfish, stingrays, sharks, etc… Even the sight of a shadow in the water can conjure up irrational fears.
In general, people who are very anxious or highly strung are likelier to develop a fear of the water.
So what can be done about it?
If the fear of water is affecting your sporting and/or recreational activities then you must find ways to reduce distress and overcome the avoidance of water.
The steps to transform these fears are:
Find a water relationship education program with an experienced swim coach trained in working with water phobics.
Exposure therapy is the next treatment for these phobias. In either case, the individual is exposed to the “fearful” environment and learns to ‘unlearn their fear’ of water.
No two phobics are the same. Hence treatments for overcoming Aquaphobia or Thalassophobia are also bound to be different.
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