Home Mental Health Thalassophobia: causes and treatment for the fear of the oceans

Thalassophobia: causes and treatment for the fear of the oceans

by Gauri Kolhe

Most of the people experience some kind of phobia. Thalassophobia is one of these phobias. Thalassophobia is a kind of phobia involving the fear of ocean or sea or basically any deep body of water like sea, ocean, pool and lake are deep and dark as well as dangerous.  It is derived from the Greek word Thalassa which means “ocean” and Phobos which means “fear”.

Any individual who suffers from the thalassophobia experiences anxiety and fear just by seeing these bodies and is daily life has negative impact of this.

As thalassophobia is associated with water as aquaphobia, many people get confused between them.

There is only one thing which can differentiate them that aquaphobia is considered as mental disorder white thalassophobia is not recognized as distinct order by the diagnostic manual of mental disorders used by psychiatrists and other mental health professional.  

In United States various phobias are the most common types of mental disorders according to national institute of mental health (NIMH).

How much population experiences thalassophobia is not known although many of the phobias are common among general population.

 There are phobias tend to belong following different types.

  • Natural environment type phobias: heights, water, storms.
  • Animal type: dogs, snakes, spiders
  • Blood injection type: fear of seeing blood, getting a shot
  • Situation type: enclosed in place, elevators and airplanes and driving.
  • Other: phobia of choking, vomiting etc.

Depending on the types of phobia, thalassophobia is classified as natural-environment type of specific phobia. As natural environment consist various elements, natural environment type is the most common type of phobia.

Causes and Triggers

Numerous factors are there which can cause the phobia associated with the fear of the deep and vast water bodies. Most of the factors consist the combination of nature related factors and nurture. The factors that trigger this phobia are mentioned below:

  • Genetics     

Evolution and genetics is an important perspective of nature and may play a role as trigger factors in any kind of phobia. Each and every information passes down from ancestors to their offspring. Thalassophobia is also passing down to us from our ancestors who were fearful and cautious of the persistent and intense fear of deep bodies of water.

  • Past experiences of individual     

 Some past memories of the past incidences may also be the trigger of thalassophobia. Some of the health experts say that this kind of phobia developed in many people during the incidences when they have had water around them. Another cause of the fear may be frightening of individual from something at the time of activity associated with water like swimming, walking near the ocean etc.

  • Upbringing of the children      

Kids are always having keen interest in the things they see, listen and they keep growing by observing those things. So observing parents or other adults who suffered from the thalassophobia may be a contribution in the fear of deep water.   

Risk Factors of thalassophobia

  • A number of risk factors are there that might increase the risk of developing thalassophobia in peoples. Some of these factors include following:
  • Experiencing traumatic incidents associated with deep water, ocean, sea like drowning in the water at the time of swimming etc.
  • If any individual have family member who experiences thalassophobia or any other type of specific phobia might be a risk factors of him.
  • Some of the people might be experience the fear of thalassophobia being used to listening the stories and incidents elated to ocean or other water accidents. This could be risk factors of thalassophobia in those people.

Signs and symptoms of thalassophobia

Symptoms anxiety and fear of any specific phobia can be seen in physical and emotional behavior.

The physical symptoms include-   Nausea, shortness of breath, seating lightheadedness, increased heart rate, rapid breathing.

The emotional symptoms of thalassophobia- symptoms may be seen in a person of being overwhelmed, have a sense of doom, a person may feel detached from the situation, a person want to escape the site.

The extreme experience of fear of thalassophobia can be happen when you have the direct contact with the sea or other water sources. But this is not necessary that person only can experience by direct contact, some of the individuals may experienced fear just by imagining the ocean, looking at a photograph of the ocean or pool or lake.

Generally a response of any phobia is greater than a feel of nervousness or anxious. The fear is response similar to the feeling of facing something dangerous where you have to decide either to fight the situation of flight from the site.

In this situation a vast series of reactions that your body gives and you try to deal the fear by avoiding of enduring or run afar from the dangerous threat. This kind of feeling is experienced by the person having thalassophobia when they see the water body or ocean.

In order to face the physical symptoms arises from the fear of thalassophobia some people avoid to go near the ocean sometimes they even try to avoid having a look of the ocean in television, internet or sceneries of the ocean, sea, lake or pool.

It is believed that people experience the anticipatory anxiety just by knowing that they are going to encounter the object of fear. For example a student feel nervous when they go to the exams, same thing happens to the people having thalassophobia.

They started to feel nervous just before going on ferry boat or any other form of water travel. The excessive nervousness turns into anxiety and physical and emotional symptom have been seen.

How can you diagnose thalassophobia?

Almost every specific phobia has its own way of diagnosis so how can you differentiate the thalassophobia and diagnose it is the first question comes to your mind when  you something is wrong with you on seeing the object of fear.

If you are stuck in this type of situation and feel any suspicion then there are few things which guide you what to do so that you can clear your suspicion. Nowadays it is very popular to Google about everything.

Taking informal online test is one of the primary options which indicate you that you may be have thalassophobia. These informal surveys on internet are based on asking the quiz and sowing the images if the ocean or other water bodies which can trigger.

The seriousness of your problem determines by taking quiz and involving excessive dangerous   images of object of fear.

Although online surveys help you to identify the situation but sometimes people don’t understand the situation and get confused with the answers. So for legal diagnosis and to assure the condition, consider to have a visit to your doctor and get counseling with health professionals (psychiatrist, psychologist or doctors.)

As there is no specific test for the diagnosis of thalassophobia, your doctor ask you some you some questions and on the basis of the answers doctor will assess the symptoms that detect the triggers or any other factors causing thalassophobia. Once he catch understand your problem and symptoms then you can be diagnosed with the phobia.

Criteria to be diagnosed with the specific phobia according to DSM-5:

  • A person has a persistent, unreasonably excessive fear of the ocean
  • If you feel that the extent of fear is greater than the proportion of the actual dangers
  • If you feel the fear every time when you are exposed to the ocean like deep and open water
  • If you feel like you are trying to avoid going on the beaches or avoiding pool parties with your friends
  • The fear of ocean makes your life uncomfortable and interfere your normal routine functioning
  • The fear of deep bodies has been of six months or longer than that
  • The anxiety arises by the specific phobia cannot be diagnosed with any other disorder like generalized anxiety disorder or post traumatic disorder

Treatment of the thalassophobia

Thalassophobia is not recognized as mental disorder but it is assumed that people with thalassophobia experience the same treatment results to other specific phobias even though there are not many researches are available. So the methods of the treatments also resembles with other phobias.

Some researches suggests that behavior therapy treatments are quite effective in reducing the symptoms of thalassophobia especially exposure based treatments. Cognitive behavioral therapy and systemic desensitization are the other form of behavior therapy found to be effective.

Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on the challenging and changing cognitive behavior and improves the mental health.

Some researchers suggested that in vivo exposure if the object f fear more effective than imagined exposure but a which was published in the frontiers in psychology reported that experiencing virtual exposure effective as the real world exposure.

Overall treatment has many strategies like systemic desensitization, relaxation techniques and cognitive reconstruction.

Complications associated with thalassophobia

The fear of ocean develops the complications which may end up affecting your daily life in negative ways. Some of the complications of the thalassophobia are:

Panic Attacks

A sudden and intense feeling of fear is recognized as panics attack which is associated with chest pain, numbness, feelings of choking, feelings of unreality, and a fear of dying. So don’t take it easy, go to your health expert.


Depression is another complication which can cause bye the specific phobias. Many researches shows that people generally have sudden changes in the mood and have symptoms of depression.

Loneliness and Social Isolation

People who experience the symptoms of Anxiety and fear of suffering a panic attack sometimes try to avoid public gathering or other social events due to the fear that they might be found to have phobias. Generally they want to live alone and get themselves isolated from the society or minimum exposure to the society.

Misuse of substances

Some people think that their fear can be overcome by consuming the substance that surpasses the anxiety and start consuming such substances kike alcohol and other substances.


Although genetic and evolutionary factors causes onset of specific phobias, there are some prevention that can be helpful to prevent thalassophobia can be approached by the individual with thalassophobia include :

If you are in suspicion of developing the fear of ocean then you have to get help early so that you can overcome the thalassophobia.

As it is mention above that observe behavior could be a cause of thalassophobia so try to control your own fears in positive way so that children surrounding you will not get affected and have a risk of developing thalassophobia.

The best prevention is consulting a doctor.

You can cope up this fear by approaching some strategies like self exposure and by developing confidence so that you can live your life healthy without any fear.

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