Fear Of Water – How To Cope With A Challenging Situation

By Nicola Kirkpatrick|Updated April 13, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Erika Schad, LCP, CWLC

When you have a fear of water (aquaphobia), it can significantly interfere with your daily life. Water is all around us. It's almost impossible to avoid. A phobia is an abnormal and persistent fear. If you have a phobia of water, you'll do all you can to avoid rivers, oceans or maybe even just having a bath. You may have such a deep-rooted fear that you could be worried about potentially finding yourself in a situation where you're splashed with water.

Everyone who suffers from water phobia reacts differently to certain stimuli. You may have spent many hours trying to rationalize your fears but have got nowhere. In this article, we find out more about aquaphobia treatments and how to cope when you're faced with a challenging situation.

The Difference Between Aquaphobia And Hydrophobia

Although you may think that aquaphobia and hydrophobia are the same, the former term relates to a social phobia wherein you experience an irrational and ongoing fear of water. On the other hand, hydrophobia relates to the fear of water that develops in the latter stages of rabies.

How Does Fear Of Water Manifest Itself?

Being frightened of water is a common phobia. It relates in part to the fact that water is the unknown. A fast-flowing river on a summer's day may look beautiful to many. However, when you have a phobia, you may be frightened of what potentially lies under the surface. You could find your mind conjuring up scenarios of you getting into trouble in the water or perhaps encountering frightening creatures. You may worry that a fast current might drag you away. There are a million and one scenarios.

Being frightened of drowning is entirely logical if you don't know how to swim. However, if you're aquaphobic, you experience high-level anxiety around all water. Your phobia might be so intense that you avoid even looking at photographs of the ocean. You may have a very strong fear of dark water as you worry about what lies beneath. You can use logic to reason with yourself that water doesn't present a danger, but, you cannot control the terror that comes into your mind.

What Causes Aquaphobia?

Before you can begin to work on your phobia of water, you need first to understand what you're dealing with. There are various causes of water phobia, including:

  • Being unused to water. For example, if you spent your formative years in a land-locked or desert area.
  • Experiencing a trauma relating to water. For example, you may have fallen into a body of water and been unable to swim. You might have been pushed into the ocean as a joke and almost drowned. A relative or friend may have drowned in the past and so on.
  • Having close relatives or caregivers who are aquaphobic. Having people close to you who are water phobic may result in that same phobia being passed on to you.
  • Being a naturally highly-strung or anxious person. If you're a sensitive individual, you may have an increased risk of aquaphobia.

What Are The Symptoms Of Water Phobia?

If you have water phobia, you'll know yourself that you suffer from the condition. However, we've put together a short list of symptoms just in case. These include:

  • Experiencing panic attacks or anxiety at the thought of being near water.
  • Doing all you can to avoid water.
  • Crying, sweating, trembling and losing control when faced with water.
  • Feeling faint or fainting at the sight of water.
  • Experiencing shallow breathing, higher blood pressure than normal and hyperventilating when you see water.

Of course, the above symptoms vary from person to person depending on the extent of their fear of water. Certain individuals may actively avoid bathing or showering as their phobia is so intense. For some, their phobia is buried in the subconscious mind. Therefore, certain people may not even be aware that they have a water phobia. They may put practices in place where they merely avoid water rather than going through the emotional upset of being exposed to their fears.

If you can identify with any of the above, seeking therapy could work for you. Many busy people are currently benefiting from online therapy at BetterHelp.com. To begin your journey and to be matched with the most suitable therapist to help you overcome your fear of water, go to www.betterhelp.com/start/ today.

Overcoming Your Fear of Water

You don't need to feel alone if you're aquaphobic. Two out of three people in the U.S. are frightened of open bodies of deep water. Additionally, 37 percent of U.S. Citizens fear the deep-end of a swimming pool. In fact, perhaps many water phobias begin or are exacerbated by swimming lessons as a child when many are forced to get into the pool no matter what. It's true that learning to swim could save your life if you're faced with a life-threatening situation that involves water. However, if you're too frightened of the prospect, to begin with, you'll never be able to enjoy the water safely.

In many cases, people with water phobia don't always seek out treatment. They manage to get through life by avoiding water. If your fear of water is affecting your life negatively and holding you back from enjoyable activities such as going to the beach, on a cruise or even laying by the pool on vacation, it's imperative that you seek treatment. There are various methods you can try, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is perhaps the most common of treatments for this condition. Your therapist works with you either in person or online to help you remove negative associations and thoughts from your mind. Positive and rational thoughts are worked on to replace any negative worries and attitudes. You will have homework set for you such as visiting the ocean for a specified period with the aim of reducing your fear response.
  • Exposure Therapy. Exposure therapy is another common treatment for water phobia. Along with your therapist, you'll either be exposed virtually or in real life to an environment that contains water to unlearn your fear.
  • Psychotherapy and Hypnosis. If your phobia is particularly intense, you may benefit from either or both these therapies.
  • Medications. Alongside exposure therapy, you may sometimes be prescribed medications to help you relax and to reduce any panic attacks you may experience.

There are various treatment options available to you. These depend on how intense your phobia is. Together with your therapist, you can successfully find the right option for you, so you have a better overall quality of life.

Self Help Tips To Help You Cope With A Challenging Situation

Ideally, challenging and worrisome situations can always be avoided. Unfortunately, though, life just doesn't work like that. What can you do if you're faced with your biggest fear? Say, your sister invites you over for a pool party, or you've received an invitation to your best friend's wedding that's beside a lake? Here, we look at some self-help techniques to keep you feeling as calm and as centered as possible.

Acknowledge Your Fear

When your near water, you go into fight /flight mode. Your heart races, you feel anxiety rising, and you begin to sweat. You need to take steps to regain control and to de-escalate the fear you're experiencing. You may be worried about how others around you will react to you being scared. Focus on yourself instead. Accepting your aquaphobia is the first step to conquering it! Remember that many people have this phobia. It's nothing to feel ashamed of.

Pinpoint Where Your Fear Came From

Before you face the water, think back to when you remember first becoming scared of it. Was your fear learned from your parents or peers or was there a specific incident that triggered it? Sometimes knowing where fear comes from and having a logical starting point can equip you with the tools to understand and consequently deal with your phobia.

Contradict Your Negative Thoughts

You're scared of water. Think of all the times you've been near water, and things were okay. You didn't fall in. You didn't drown. Think of all the friends you have who enjoy the water and of all the lovely experiences you've heard they've had. Water is natural. We need it to live. It's a good thing.

Learn To Manage Your Anxiety

Stay aware of your breathing. Concentrating on taking regular, slow breaths can shift your focus from other more negative physical and emotional responses. If you still feel anxious, try practicing mindfulness. If you feel very worked up, rather than trying to push your worrisome feelings away, focus on these sensations. Work with and accept your anxiety, so it doesn't overwhelm you.

Expose Yourself To Your Fear

Ideally, if you know that a challenging situation is set to arise, you should try to break yourself into it gently. Try visiting the body of water a few times before the big day, getting as close as you feel comfortable. Think with your rational mind and know that it cannot harm you. Take a good friend whom you trust with you. They will support you throughout the exercise. Do remember to do only what you feel comfortable with. If you start to feel very upset, just leave. There's always tomorrow, and there's plenty of help there.

There are many ways to overcome your fear of water. By taking control and doing so, you'll feel confident and empowered.

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