What Is Thalassophobia And How Can You Cope with It?

By Jessica Anderson|Updated April 11, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC

Thalassophobia is a Greek term that translates to “fear of the sea.” It includes being afraid of deep water, traveling on water, and creatures that live below the surface. Being afraid of bodies of water can add significant challenges to your life. If you find yourself showing indicatorsof this fear, you might have to miss events with family and friends, or you might find yourself feeling uncomfortable while those around you are having fun.

After all, it’s hard to have fun when your heart is racing and your hands are shaking. If you find that you feel afraid when you see deep water, then you may have thalassophobia.

Thalassophobia is Fear Of Traveling On The Sea - Do You Have It? Learn More

At this time, thalassophobia has no known cause; consequently,there is no current means of prevention. Even without preventive options, there is still hope for treatment. With consistent treatment, some people with thalassaphobia can manage symptoms in a matter of weeks or months, while others report experiencing changes to symptoms in a year. From therapy, to support systems and communities, to exposure, there are a variety of options available to those seeking management for their condition. We will discuss these methods in detail later in this article.

Phobias as a whole can be difficult to recognize, because what may seem irrational to someone without the phobia is very real and alarming for the individual experiencing the symptoms of the phobia. While phobias are not easy, they typically do respond to treatment—something that can offer hope to people currently experiencing symptoms of the disorder.

How Do I Know I Have Thalassophobia?

To determine if you have thalassophobia, it is important to first understand the difference between fears and phobias. Fear is classified as a negative emotional response to an object or event. A phobia comes with such severe anxiety that it negatively impacts an individual’s quality of life.

If your fear of deep water interferes with life events or leading the life you want to live, then it is more likely that you are experiencing thalassophobia. If it consumes your mind on a regular basis, know that you do not have to live with this phobia forever. Treatment is often straightforward and widely available. If you’ve always had a fear of the sea, but you’re not sure if you’d describe it as a “phobia,” then you may want to speak to a health professional or further research the differences between fear and phobia. Familiarizing yourself with the most up-to-date literature can help you better determine where your symptoms lie: under the umbrella of fear or phobia.

Tempting though it may be to self-diagnose, online tests and self-administered questionnaires are not enough to deliver a true diagnosis. Instead, if you suspect thalassophobia, it is best to take a tally of your symptoms, and deliver those symptoms to a mental health professional. Before speaking to a professional, it can be helpful to write down the most common periods when you experience an increase in symptoms, what preceded those periods, and what (if anything) helped ease symptoms.

How Can I Move Forward?

If you have thalassophobia, it may feel debilitating. Phobias are characterized by debilitating fear or anxiety, and they can cause significant changes to the way that you structure or live your life. People with phobias, including thalassophobia, can undergo treatment for their condition and limit the reach of their symptoms. Through support, exposure, and therapy, you will one day be able to enjoy swimming at the beach or boat rides on the lake with your family and friends.

Find Support

Finding like-minded support groups can be extremely beneficial when working toward overcoming thalassophobia. Reddit can be a great resource for an online support group; you can quickly find you’re not alone. If you’ve never been on Reddit before, it may be helpful to know that the site is divided into separate forums called “subreddits.” Each subreddit is dedicated to a specific theme, and can usually be found under the title or word you are in search of.

In this Reddit forum, people bond with each other by confronting one of their deepest fears. They post the very images and videos that scare them from the safety of their computers or phones. In doing so, they become more comfortable with the sea and its lifeforms without having to be anywhere near a body of water.

Support groups can also come in the form of in-person groups and therapist-run support groups (online or in person). These groups are usually more structured than a site like Reddit, and may use more focused and comprehensive approaches to offer support for people suffering from the specific phobia of bodies of water, or may be utilized as a generalized source of support for people with phobias of all kinds. To find these support groups, you can check in with local therapy or community centers, or speak with your health provider.

Face Your Fears In Person

Another way to overcome thalassophobia is to face the fear head on. If your fear stems from not being able to swim in deep water, you can try to sign up for swimming classes. If you’re worried about sea creatures, try visiting them at an aquarium. If you’re able to look directly at your fears, you may be surprised by how quickly you’re able to move past them.

It is important to note that engaging in exposure therapy entirely on your own can prove problematic. It is helpful for some, but triggers panic or anxiety attacks for others. If you do choose to try exposing yourself to bodies of water in the absence of a mental health professional’s guidance, start slow, and remember: phobias are recognized mental health disorders. They are not small or simple fears that can be easily removed.

Exposure therapy typically occurs under the guidance of a professional, and may not be as effective when it is done as a solo venture. If you find that your own attempts at exposure therapy are not working as you’d hoped, consider enlisting the help of a professional.

Professional Help for Thalassophobia

Thalassophobia can lead to anxiety, depression, and panic attacks if left untreated. If finding a support group and facing your fears is not enough, you may benefit from talking to a therapist. Thalassophobia can improve with both standard talk therapy and a psychological tool called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

Therapists employ CBT to lessen or eliminate phobias that are resistant to other methods. It’s based on the idea that the perception a situation is more closely tied to the reaction than the situation itself. In other words, anticipation is often worse than the event in question. CBT can transform fears into positive thoughts, an approach that improves your reaction and reduces your fear when later confronted with the phobia in real life.

With support from a professional counselor, you can develop the tools required to successfully manage the symptoms of your phobia, or even overcome the phobia altogether. Phobias can make seeking out help difficult, whether that is because the fear itself feels rational or because you fear that there is no help available. In either case, you may want to speak with an online provider. BetterHelp has experienced counselors who are available to meet with you anywhere and anytime. You can see reviews of BetterHelp Counselors below.

Thalassophobia is Fear Of Traveling On The Sea - Do You Have It? Learn More

Counselor Reviews

“Brandon has been great and really instrumental in helping me get through a difficult period in my life. He is nonjudgmental, responsive and a great listener. He is also great at reading into what you are saying and finding the underlying cause of your fears and helping you work through it. I’m excited to continue the work to heal with the help of

Brandon.”

“I’m so thankful that I was paired with Faith. She has helped me identify the trauma that is the root of all of my anxiety and has helped me develop and implement coping strategies that have greatly reduced the frequency and intensity of panic attacks. These are things that I will be able to use for the rest of my life, long after I no longer need Faith’s support. Most importantly, she gave me hope. She encouraged me to keep trying. To keep fighting. She told me she was proud of me for being brave enough to even look my fears in the face, and she believed that it would get better. Faith has literally changed my life.”

Conclusion

Living with thalassophobia can be difficult. From feeling too afraid to engage in activities with friends and loved ones to struggling to get out and about in your city or town, phobias can have a very real and lasting impact on your life. Fortunately, with the right tools and professional help, you may be able to become comfortable with– and even enjoy–bodies of water once again. Take the first step today.

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