Defining Thalassophobia And Learning To Cope

Updated November 18, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Thalassophobia is a Greek term that translates to “fear of the sea.” It includes being afraid of the ocean, traveling on the ocean, and fear of creatures that live below the surface. Fear of the sea may add significant challenges to your life. If you exhibit symptoms of thalassophobia, you might have to miss events with family and friends, or you might find yourself feeling uncomfortable while those around you are having fun. At its worst, phobias such as thalassophobia can result in serious complications such as substance use disorder, depression, or anxiety.

Thalassophobia Can Be Disruptive To Daily Life

What Causes Thalassophobia?

The cause of thalassophobia seems to vary depending on the individual’s situation and may include negative experiences related to the ocean, learned behavior or genetic predisposition, or issues around brain function. 

There are no current means of prevention for thalassophobia, but there is hope for relief with treatment. With consistent treatment, some people with thalassaphobia can manage symptoms in a matter of weeks or months, while others report experiencing changes in symptoms in a year. Therapy, help from a support system, and exposure to the stressor are some of the options available for individuals seeking to manage their condition. 

Phobias can be difficult to recognize because what may seem irrational to those without the phobia is very real and alarming for the individual experiencing its symptoms. While the symptoms of a phobia can be difficult, they typically do respond to treatment.

Complications From Thalassophobia

Some people who have never experienced the difficulties resulting from an intense phobia may not understand or even validate those experiences in others. But complications due to phobias like thalassophobia can significantly impact the mental health of those who have it.  

  • Social Isolation- Some who experience thalassophobia may avoid social interaction because of their fear, potentially resulting in feelings of loneliness, relationship problems, problems at work, or problems at school.

  • Mental-Health Disorders- Depression and anxiety sometimes manifest from feelings of fear associated with an intense phobia. 

  • Substance Use Issues- Some use drugs or alcohol to cope with the stress they feel as a result of their phobia. 

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 your daily life, then it is likely that you are experiencing thalassophobia. Some other indications of thalassophobia include:

  • Immediate feelings of intense fear and anxiety with exposure to the sea. For some, even thoughts of the ocean can result in these intense feelings. 

  • Feeling powerless to control your fear or symptoms. 

  • Physical symptoms such as nausea, rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, and more.

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 should speak to a mental 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 align more with a fear or phobia.

Although many are tempted to self-diagnose with online tests and self-administered questionnaires, they are not usually enough to deliver a true diagnosis. Instead, if you suspect thalassophobia, it is best to record your symptoms and the context details surrounding them. Then communicate them to a mental health professional. 

How Can I Move Forward?

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 potentially limit the reach of their symptoms. 

Find Support

Finding like-minded online support groups can be extremely beneficial when working toward overcoming thalassophobia.  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 many support sites online. Therapist-facilitated groups may use a more focused approach to support people coping with a specific phobia or they may be used as a generalized source of support for people with phobias of all kinds. 

Exposure Therapy To Treat Thalassophobia

Another way to overcome thalassophobia is to face the fear directly. (Also sometimes referred to as exposure therapy.) If your fear stems from an inability to swim in deep water, you may take a swimming class. If you’re worried about sea creatures, you may 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 vital to note that exposure therapy is typically facilitated by a professional and may not be as effective, or even problematic, without one. If you find that your own attempts at exposure therapy are not working as you’d hoped, remember that phobias are recognized mental health disorders and can have serious symptoms. Therapy is usually the best course of action. 

Professional Help For Thalassophobia

Thalassophobia can lead to anxiety, depression, and panic attacks if left untreated. Those experiencing this phobia may benefit from talking to a therapist to manage symptoms. 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 symptoms of a phobia are more connected to the anticipation of a phobic event than the event itself. CBT can transform fears into positive thoughts, an approach that may improve your reaction and reduce your fear when later confronted with the phobia in daily life.

With support from a professional counselor, you can develop the tools required to successfully manage the symptoms of, or even overcome, your phobia. For various reasons, it may be difficult for some to seek help when coping with uncomfortable emotions related to a phobia. Some individuals may find barriers to therapy due to accessibility issues, scheduling limitations, or financial concerns. 

In these cases, speaking with a therapist online using a platform such as BetterHelp may be a good option. BetterHelp can connect you with an experienced counselor available to meet with you anywhere and anytime, often at more affordable rates than in-person therapy. 

You can see reviews Of BetterHelp Counselors below.

Thalassophobia Can Be Disruptive To Daily Life

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.”

Takeaways

Living with thalassophobia can be difficult. From feeling too afraid to engage in activities with friends and loved ones to difficulties with daily life, any phobia can have a very real and lasting impact. With the right tools and professional help, it’s possible to become comfortable with– and even enjoy- activities in the ocean. 

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