Thalassophobia is a specific and intense fear of the ocean or deep bodies of water.

There are people who have fear of water but it seems more people are afraid of the vast, depth, and danger of water than the water itself.

Thalassophobia can discourage people from doing activities they love such as swimming in an open sea, visiting the beach, or even traveling by boat. 

In this article, we are going to discuss what causes thalassophobia, the signs and symptoms, and the possible treatments.

What is Thalassophobia?

Thalassophobia is defined as the fear of the ocean or other vast bodies of water. Some people with this type of phobia can be afraid of a large body of water while other people can experience panic episodes just from looking at the image of the sea or looking at the sea itself. 

This phobia is usually considered a natural-environment-specific phobia because fears associated with the natural environment are experienced more frequently.

A person with thalassophobia can also experience the fear of the sea creatures and the sea, or the fear of either. It should be noted that thalassophobia is different from aquaphobia. 

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While thalassophobia is the fear of the deep parts of the sea and sea creatures, aquaphobia is the fear of water whether large or small. Therefore, thalassophobia can cause a wide range of symptoms that can be mild or severe.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), reported that in the United States,  the most common mental health illness is phobias. It is reported that approximately 7–9% of people in the United States have a specific phobia.

But as widespread as phobias are in the United States, it's interesting that the data for people with thalassophobia is yet unknown. Although multiple studies suggest that water-related phobias such as thalassophobia or aquaphobia are more common among women.

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Best Thalassophobia Quizzes to Try

In case you suspect you or someone close to you might have thalassophobia, taking an informal online test might give you an indication of whether you have this specific type of phobia. Some of the tests you can take are:

1. Formplus thalassophobia quiz: Complete the thalassophobia test designed by Formplus to determine whether your symptoms can be associated with this specific phobia. The questions are simple to understand and easy to answer. Once the test is completed, you will get automatic feedback on your performance. It is important that you visit professional medical health practitioners to be properly diagnosed.

2. Buzzfeed thalassophobia quiz: Buzzfeed also has a detailed quiz on thalassophobia that can help you understand your symptoms and determine whether you have the condition. Visit the website to participate in the test.

It is important to note that these quizzes are not a replacement for medical examinations. If you notice some signs or symptoms of thalassophobia in yourself or your loved ones, seek help from licensed medical professionals. 

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Causes of Thalassophobia 

The fear of deep bodies of water like most other types of phobias can be caused by different factors such as genetics and the environment. Genetics and evolution may play an important role in the cause of thalassophobia. 

There are possibilities that the fear of large oceans can be passed down through genes from parents to the offspring the same way a person's upbringing can trigger thalassophobia. 

Thalassophobia could also be a result of past experiences suffered by a person.

A person with past traumatic experience with the deep sea may develop fear for it while people can also partially learn to fear large oceans due to experiences other people may have had around water. 

These people may be family members such as parents or siblings. Listening to the news about water accidents or reading about it can also cause the phobia to be triggered.

Furthermore, someone with other conditions such as anxiety, hypersensitivity, and others can easily develop thalassophobia. For example, a person frightened by something while attempting to swim may develop a type of fear for the ocean.

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Symptoms of Thalassophobia

According to DSM-5 and the mental disorders diagnostic manual used by mental health professionals and psychiatrists, thalassophobia is not a recognized distinct disorder. Therefore, the symptoms of thalassophobia may fall under the diagnostic criteria for specific phobias.

Most phobias are capable of triggering both emotional and physical symptoms and signs of fear and anxiety. Some common physical symptoms of thalassophobia include:

  • The feeling of dizziness and sweating
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Racing heart and rapid breathing
  • Experiencing shortness of breath
  • The feeling of being overwhelmed
  • Feelings of anxiety
  • A need to escape
  • The feeling of detachment

If a person with thalassophobia comes in direct contact with the ocean or other large bodies of water, or even as much as drives past the beach, they may experience one or more of the symptoms. But in some cases, they may not necessarily have to be near an ocean to experience these symptoms.

Some people with this phobia only have to view an image of deep water, imagine the ocean, or simply sight words such as "ocean", "sea" or "lake" and their fear get triggered.

In addition to these physical symptoms, people with this condition may experience anticipatory anxiety when they are aware of the possibility of coming in contact with the object of their fear. They may feel extremely nervous before going onboard a ferry boat or at the thought of partaking in any form of water travel.

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Treatment for Thalassophobia

The treatment for thalassophobia should only be recommended by a mental health professional, that is why you must seek a formal diagnosis. Hence, it is important to consult a healthcare professional such as a doctor, psychiatrist, or psychologist about your symptoms for proper investigation.

There are no formal tests to diagnose thalassophobia to this day but your doctor will likely assess your symptoms for any possibility of underlying medical factors. 

While no specific treatment of thalassophobia is available because of limited research, people are expected to experience similar symptoms and receive similar treatment to other phobias.

According to multiple studies, in the reduction of symptoms of specific phobias like thalassophobia, behavior therapy treatments, such as exposure-based treatments are quite effective. Systematic desensitization and cognitive behavioral therapy are also great managers of specific phobias symptoms.

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Some other means that could help in managing your anxiety are practicing some coping strategies such as breathing exercises, visualization, and progressive muscle relaxation (PMR).

These techniques get better with time and practice and you become better at controlling your symptoms in the face of your fears. 

Over time, while you continue the treatment recommended by the professional, you can also try the self-help approach to overcome your fears. Begin by visualizing yourself near a deep body of water, then calm yourself with the relaxation techniques you have been practicing. You may gradually confront the source of your phobia by looking at images of water then you may go near smaller bodies of water, and eventually the large sea.

What's the Difference between Thalassophobia and Aquaphobia?

Both thalassophobia and aquaphobia phobias center around water but the two phobias are not the same. A person with thalassophobia does not necessarily fear water, but the deep parts of the ocean.

People with thalassophobia develop anxiety when around large seas and possibly sea creatures. A person with aquaphobia on the other hand fears water itself. 

It does not matter if the water is deep or large or small, a person with aquaphobia is afraid of being in any body of water mostly because they fear drowning. 

Conclusion

Thalassophobia may stem from genetics the same way it could develop through traumatic childhood events that a person may have experienced directly or witnessed. It could also be triggered by words of mouth and through news outlets but as with other phobias, it can be managed. 

There are several types of therapy, including CBT and exposure therapy, that can be administered to help minimize the effect of thalassophobia. If you or someone you know exhibits some of the listed symptoms of the phobia, ensure you visit a professional.

Lastly, do not belittle the impact of some coping strategies such as practicing breathing exercises, being self-compassion, as they can help in managing your water anxieties.



  • Formplus Blog
  • on 6 min read

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