What Is Thalassophobia And How Can You Cope with It?
By: Jessica Anderson
Updated July 02, 2020
Medically 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 struggle with 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.
According to psychology, thalassophobia has no known cause, so we do not currently know how to prevent it. However, you can still have hope. This phobia is not permanent because there are many treatment options. Thalassophobia is actually one of the easier phobias to overcome. On average, it only takes a few months for individuals in treatment to triumph over their condition. In severe cases, the phobia can be overcome in one year or less. Thalassophobia can be cured through a variety of methods, including support systems, exposure, and therapy. We will discuss these methods in detail later in this article. For now, hold on to hope because your condition can easily be cured.
Regardless of how or why you experience thalassophobia, it's important to know that you're not alone. This phobia is common, and it is normal. Help is available whenever you're ready to move forward.
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 simply a negative emotional response to an object or event. A phobia comes with such severe anxiety that it negatively impacts the quality of life.
If your fear of deep water interferes with life events, then you're probably experiencing thalassophobia. If it consumes your mind on a regular basis, know that you do not have to suffer from this phobia. Treatment is simple 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 take a thalassophobia test before seeking treatment. This will help you to determine whether your fear is moderate or severe.
The test is made up of seven multiple-choice questions. You will rank your feelings about a phrase, using the following scale: extremely anxious, very anxious, somewhat anxious, a little, or not at all. It also asks you how severe you'd rate your symptoms and what methods you've used to control them in the past. When you finish, the test will tell you whether or not you have thalassophobia and how severely the phobia may be impacting your life.
If the test indicates that you have this phobia, consider coming up with a plan to help you overcome it.
How Can I Move Forward?
If you have thalassophobia, it may feel debilitating. However, you should know that it is one of the easier mental health challenges to overcome. 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.
Finding like-minded support groups can be extremely beneficial when working toward overcoming thalassophobia. Reddit is a great resource for an online support group; you'll 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. The Reddit forum for thalassophobia can be found at r/thalassophobia.
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.
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, sign up for swimming classes. If you're worried about sea creatures, visit 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.
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 typical 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 talk through your fears and erase the phobia from your life completely. If you have a busy schedule or if your phobia makes outings difficult, 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.
"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."
If you're living with thalassophobia, you can overcome your fears. Your life does not need to be as hard as it is right now. With the right tools and professional help, you can become comfortable with-- and even enjoy--bodies of water once again. Take the first step today.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What causes Thalassophobia?
At this time, there are no specific causes of the symptoms of Thalassophobia. Developing Thalassophobia may be linked to a negative traumatic experience involving traveling on the water, or the water itself. Thalassophobia is a treatable condition that has shown improvements when people get cognitive-behavioral therapy for this condition.
What are the symptoms of Thalassophobia?
Some of the symptoms of an uncommon phobia such as Thalassophobia include -- racing heart, dizziness, shortness of breath, and anxiety. If you feel that you are at risk of developing Thalassophobia, reaching out to a licensed mental health expert can help. Talking to a licensed therapy professional about a potential treatment for Thalassophobia is the first step.
Why am I afraid of the ocean?
While people with Thalassophobia specifically fear the ocean itself, there aren't many clues as to what causes this mysterious condition. Talking to a licensed therapy professional is the best way to get to the bottom of what may be causing you to have an unusual fear of the ocean or traveling across the water.
What is Megalophobia?
Megalophobia is the fear of large objects. Examples of objects that people with Megalophobia fear are large airplanes, boats, animals, towering structures, and anything that makes them generally feel small and helpless. Learn more about potential causes and treatments for Megalophobia by talking to a licensed mental health professional.
What is Hydroskourophobia?
Hyrdoskourophobia is similar to Thalassophobia. This is the fear of deep, dark water. People with Hydroskourophobia fear deep lakes, oceans, pools, rivers, and ponds. If you suffer from this condition talk to one of the licensed therapy professionals at BetterHelp to find relief.
What is Latrophobia?
Latrophobia is a fear of anything that has to do with doctors and medical treatments. People with Latrophobia may have an irrational fear of doctors' offices, hospitals, clinics, and medical procedures. If you or someone you know is suffering from this condition online sessions with a licensed therapist can help.
What is Tomophobia?
Tomophobia is concerned with the fear of potential negative outcomes for upcoming invasive medical procedures and treatments like surgery. For people suffering from Tomophobia, worrying about life-saving surgery is often a concern. Talking to a licensed therapy professional can help you overcome this fear.
What is the weirdest phobia?
While there are many unusual phobias that could make the cut, one of the most unusual phobias is "Phobophobia" which is a fear of having a phobia itself. If you or someone you know is suffering from an unusual or debilitating phobia, contact a licensed therapy professional at BetterHelp for support.
What is Submechanophobia?
Subemechanophobia is the fear of large submerged man-made objects. People with this phobia have an unusual fear of objects submerged in large bodies of water like submarines, sunken ships, propellers, buoys, and other man-made objects that become submerged on the ocean floor.
Do islands touch the ocean floor?
Islands are large land masses that are usually tops of mountains and volcanoes that are protruding from the ocean floor. These submerged mountains and volcanoes are normally connected to the ocean floor.
What is the fear of death called?
Thanatophobia is the fear of death or the dying process. People with this condition often suffer severe and debilitating anxiety by being consumed with thoughts of death and dying. If you're suffering from Thanatophobia, a licensed therapy professional at BetterHelp can help.
What is Scolionophobia?
Scolionophobia is the fear of leaving home and going to school. Psychology experts believe that this phobia is directly related to at least one other phobia. If your child is suffering from Scolionophobia sessions with a licensed therapist can help.
How much of the ocean is unexplored?
It may surprise you to learn that only five percent of the worlds' oceans have been explored. This means that ninety-five percent of the ocean has yet to be explored.
FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions)
What Causes Thalassophobia?
Thalassophobia is a Greek word that means fear of the ocean or the sea. People who have this fear may experience it for different reasons. Here are some common causes of thalassophobia:
- An individual who experienced traumatic events associated with the sea may develop a fear of the ocean.
- A person who has a genetic predisposition to thalassophobia can create a fear of the ocean.
- Brain development - an individual who develops Thalassophobia may not have the appropriate area of mind developed, which handles the fear response.
How do you know if you have Thalassophobia?
You know you have thalassophobia if you have an intense fear of the ocean. When you're scared to go near or into the sea, you likely have this condition. If that's the case, you can get help by seeking therapy. It's not an untreatable condition. Having thalassophobia means that you have triggers to work, though, and a competent counselor can help you understand them. You can figure out why you're afraid of the ocean, and develop a plan to overcome that phobia.
What is the fear of deep dark water called?
Among the fears associated with thalassophobia is the phobia of the deep dark water. It could be a fear of drowning or being scared of sea creatures. When the water is deep, it's easy to assume that it's unsafe. Maybe you had a bad experience learning to swim. You could have had a relative who got injured in the ocean, and that makes you fearful. Whatever the cause of thalassophobia, it's possible to get support and learn to cope.
What is the rarest phobia?
There are many rare phobias. Some of them include:
- Panophobia - Panophobia means fear of everything." Pantos" in Greek means all or everything. Thus, pantophobia indicates that a person is afraid of everything
- Phobophobia - Phobophobia is like a meta-fear. You're scared of being afraid. People who have this condition are fearful of having or developing phobias
- Nomophobia - means you are fearful of not having access to your phone
- Sesquipedalophobia - is the fear of long words. Individuals with this phobia may be intimidated, or find it hard, to read books or articles.
These are a few of some rare phobias, but there are more. It's hard to say which is the rarest phobia, but these are some more obscure ones.
What is the most common phobia?
Phobias, or fear of things, are quite common. Here are some fears that many people experience:
- Agoraphobia - is the fear of being in particular situations where a person could be easily embarrassed or feel trapped. People with this condition often find it difficult to leave the house because it doesn't feel safe.
- Claustrophobia - is the fear of enclosed spaces
- Acrophobia - is the fear of heights. Many people are afraid of rollercoasters for this reason. They may be scared to go to the top of a mountain, even if it is breathtaking.
- Arachnophobia - is the fear of spiders. People who are fearful of these creatures may have had a traumatic experience with them.
These are some common phobias that people have. Remember, just because you're afraid of something doesn't mean it's going to last forever. You can get better with the help of a licensed counselor. You may participate in exposure therapy, where you have gradual interactions with what you're afraid of to conquer that fear. There are many ways to approach phobias, and a licensed mental health professional can help.
What's the difference between Thalassophobia and Aquaphobia?
Thalassophobia and aquaphobia are similar in that they're both the fear of types of water. However, there is a difference between the two. Aquaphobia is a generalized fear of water and encompasses being afraid of drowning in particular. Meanwhile, thalassophobia is an extreme fear of the sea or ocean. People who have either of these conditions may have trauma associated with water. Maybe a person was abused, and water was involved, or perhaps an individual never learned to swim, and they're afraid of the unknown. There are many reasons to be scared of the water, and specifically the sea. Someone with either of these phobias could have insight into their fears, but not know how to address or conquer them. It's natural to be afraid to confront how you feel, especially with a phobia. But once you talk to a mental health professional about your fear, you will get the support and help you need.
Is Thalassophobia real?
Thalassophobia is real. People with this condition may downplay the significance of it. They might think that being afraid of the water isn't real because others have made fun of their phobia. Remember, not everyone will understand your fears. Each person has a unique experience and processes information differently. If you have thalassophobia, you can tell your loved ones that your fear is extremely real. They have the choice of whether to accept that or not. But don't let anyone try to tell you that your fears are invalid. If you're stuck in your phobia and can't find a way to get through it, a mental health professional, like a therapist or counselor, can help. Whether you see a therapist in your local area or select an online counselor, there are ways to address thalassophobia. The first step is admitting you have a fear, and then you can go from there. Therapy is a wonderful place to work through these issues and get the help you need without judgment.