Many phobias are heavily associated with water bodies and Thalassophobia is one of them. It points out an intense and often unwarranted fear of the ocean. The word "Thalassophobia" comes from Greek Thalassa; which stands for sea or ocean and phobos; which stands for fear or dread.
Thalassophobia often has a connection to fear of salty water, large waves, distance from the surface as well as the vast hollowness. Some people with this condition might not be afraid of the ocean, they might be simply fearful of facing sea creatures.
Signs and Symptoms
There are some cases of thalassophobia which are very serious and critical. In these cases, the symptoms can negatively affect the diagnosed person’s daily life. There’re also some other cases where the symptoms start to manifest when the diagnosed person gets a view of the shoreline.
Some person with this condition is often unable to watch movies, documentaries, images, drawing, etc. involving the ocean. Particularly, thalssophobia presents various physical and mental symptoms like:
- Shaking at the sight of the ocean
- Feeling terrified
- Feeling detached with reality
- Feeling numb
- Unable to express yourself clearly
- Running away
- Gastrointestinal distress
People with thalassophobia usually show these types of symptoms once they get a view of the ocean and the shoreline.
Causes of Fear of the Ocean
There are various reasons for a person developing thalassophobia. Exposure to a stimulus that can create a fear response may develop this phobia. This stimulus can be a traumatic or haunting event like drowning or seeing a shark attack in the ocean.
Sometimes people are provided with news reports that are associated with great white sharks, electric eels as well as other dangerous creatures that have the tendency to attack human beings in the ocean.
Besides, there are many documentaries about large squid being washed up on the shore and fishermen catching them for their livelihood. All these sightings and reports can develop the fear of the ocean into some people.
Those who were nearly drowned while swimming in the ocean can also get diagnosed with this phobia. Even expert swimmers, surfers who weren’t scared of the ocean previously can also develop this phobia if they drown themselves accidentally while swimming or surfing in the ocean.
If a person without thalassophobia gets to hear about serious drowning incidents and serious attacks in the ocean, then he may get thalassophobic. If the fear response area of one’s brain hasn’t evolved or advanced completely, then it makes it easier for the phobia to develop.
How to treat the Fear of the Ocean?
Overcoming thalassophobia is possible with the right type of therapy. There are various available treatment options. You might be able to find one that works for you perfectly. Among them, the most effective ones are CBT, exposure therapy, hypnotherapy, etc.
In a 2013 study, researchers used neuroimaging techniques to determine the effectiveness of CBT on some phobias. They found that CBT has a significant helpful effect on neural pathways in people associated with specific phobias. Therefore, it can be said without a doubt that CBT has been proved to be an effective treatment process in the case of thalassophobia. (Source)
Exposure therapy is mainly a subset of CBT. There are many people with phobias and among them, only a few people talk about it. Those who don't can deteriorate the phobia. Fortunately, exposure therapy allows you to expose yourself to your fear in a safe and assuring environment.
If you’re a thalassophobic and have decided to treat this condition of yours with exposure therapy, then you may have seen images or watch videos of the ocean with a mental health professional by your side.
Eventually, you may have to visit a sea beach or dip your toes or feet into the seawater with the help of your therapist. Over a course of time, this type of safe therapy will reduce your overall fear of the ocean.
Also, there is hypnotherapy which involves deep relaxation under the guidance of a trained practitioner. It helps the therapist to discover the root cause of your thalassophobia.
There are also some experimental treatments like auricular chemotherapy and virtual reality therapy. Both of these treatments depend on the visual systems of the brain. However, both of them are new. Therefore, more research is needed to identify its effectiveness.
Societal and Cultural Impact of the Fear of the Ocean
Those who have developed thalassophobia also develop fearfulness towards sea travel. Therefore, they won’t feel encouraged to go on a vacation on a cruise or commute via a ferry boat and consequently deprive themselves of some pleasure.
Moreover, if an athlete who is skilled in water sports like jet-skiing, surfing, etc develops this phobia; then the athlete most likely wouldn’t want to participate in these events. Therefore, their athletic career would be in jeopardy.
How common is the Fear of the Ocean?
Thalassophobia is quite irrational. Between 1958 and 2014, there were only 35 fatal shark attacks in America. Therefore, only a few people; who were associated with these incidents have developed thalassophobia. In one word, it’s really unlikely for a majority of people to develop thalassophobia.
Besides, there is a movie named “Jaws” which was released 40 years ago. Even normal people start to freak out when they see this movie. Still, it can be said that this movie contributed to the rise of thalassophobic people.
What should you do if you have the Fear of the Ocean?
Dealing with thalassophobia can be quite challenging, but there are things that you can do to cope with and ease your fears.
If you find yourself getting afraid when getting a glimpse of the ocean or thinking about the ocean, then try to use some relaxation techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, etc. to calm yourself physically and mentally.
You can also take a self-help approach to face your fears. You can start it by simply visualizing yourself near a deep body of water, and then use the aforementioned relaxation techniques.
Moreover, the most important thing to remember when dealing with thalassophobia is to be kind to yourself. You have to be patient enough when you’re dealing with this condition. Don’t try to push yourself so hard. Give yourself the time and resources you need and don’t feel any kind of hesitation if you think you need a therapist or a professional’s help to deal with thalassophobia.