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Overcoming Fear of Swimming and Open Water

How common is the fear of water?

More common than you might think. Statistics, albeit from a decade old Gallup Poll reveal that 46% of adults are afraid in water over their heads in pools, and 64% are afraid of deep Open Water. These statistics may explain why, in terms of population and sport participation, why swimming, and in particular Open Water Swimming, is still in its early stages of development.

What causes this fear of water?

The most common cause of aquaphobia is a previous negative experience either personally or by association or via parents who pass on their fear of water to their children. Anyone who has been through a near-drowning experience, a boating mishap, or even poor unqualified swimming instruction can develop a phobia about water.

An archaic practice from years gone by was the “sink or swim” method. This practice has created many Aquaphobics over the years. When it comes to Open Water, the fear of what is below the surface, prevents many from venturing any distance from shore and beyond their depth. Movies, such as “Jaws” have convinced millions that it is not safe to swim in the sea.

Learning to swim is a rite of passage for all Australians and, unfortunately, frightening experiences are common. People can experience fear from any number of actions, from submerging their face and holding their breath underwater to simply being out of their depth. For others it may be pushing beyond a certain distance from shore, fear of exhaustion or more commonly, what lies beneath (jellyfish, sting rays, reefs, rocks, etc). Irrespective of the source of the fear, it needs to be addressed in order to move forward.

Fear is an uncomfortable emotion triggered by the perception of danger, real or imagined. While “rational” fear serves to protect us from threat, less rational fear or fear induced by a past or inherited perception of danger will limit our growth and development.

So how do we overcome fear that is holding us back from doing what we want to do in the water?

The goal is to become comfortable in and around water, and there is no “one size fits all” solution. Both the mental and technical barriers need to be addressed by skilled and experienced specialists to manage and overcome aquaphobia. In order to accomplish this, your water relationship “therapist” will help you overcome your fear through a series of incremental steps. Over time, your small successes will increase your confidence, allowing you to gradually acquire the skills which will enable you to enjoy swimming without fear.

Swimwell has been providing this service in Melbourne for over 10years.



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