Bathophobia is the irrational fear of depths. Someone experiencing this condition may find it extremely difficult to even think about depths, let alone be near them in real life. Their fear of depths may be due to the fear of the unknown. Their fear of depths may include the vastness of the ocean, caves, canyons, or anything else that is somewhat analogous.

People who suffer from bathophobia may also suffer from ligyrophobia (fear of loud noises), achluphobia (fear of darkness), or acrophobia (fear of heights), among others as all of these phobias share a similar theme. The theme that all of these phobias appear to share is that all of the specific fears associated with each phobia seem to all be evolutionarily advantageous.

For instance, someone suffering from bathophobia or acrophobia may be due to centuries and centuries of evolutionary adaptations. This is likely the reason as to why most people become extremely anxious when near the edge of a cliff or when overlooking the railings on a balcony several stories high. This innate terror that most of us experience is likely meant to help protect us from imminent danger.

Someone with severe bathophobia may experience anxiety that is so extreme that they may even endure panic attacks that may force them to be hospitalized. However, this is likely to be a rare occurrence.



Symptoms of Bathophobia

People suffering from bathophobia will find themselves enduring heightened amounts of anxiety that may greatly hinder their day to day life. For instance, someone living near a lake, ocean, or mountains may be highly anxious individuals due to their fear of depths being difficult to avoid. Nevertheless, avoidance may still be something that someone with bathophobia may try to implement in an attempt to relieve their intrusive anxiety.

Someone with bathophobia may make major life decisions that are based solely on their irrational fear of depths. For example, they may choose to live in areas that are more inland to avoid oceans, as well as areas absent of lakes due to the depth of them. They may also choose to live in very flat areas to ensure that they will not encounter mountains or cliffs.

If someone is also suffering from an additional disorder such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), among others, then they may experience exacerbated symptoms of bathophobia. For example, someone with OCD may find themselves obsessing about things throughout their day to day life. So, it is not implausible to conceive such a person eventually becoming obsessed with their fear of depths.

Below, you will see some more common symptoms of bathophobia:

  • Intense anxiety when near great depths
  • Anxiety at the mere thought of depths
  • Unable to control very strong emotions
  • May experience panic attacks
  • Muscle tension, shakiness, and sweating

Causes of Bathophobia

There is no known cause of bathophobia. However, there is a consensus among most mental health professionals that both genetics and one’s environment play significant roles in someone developing any give mental disorder. So, someone with a family history of mental disorders, especially anxiety disorders may have a higher chance of developing bathophobia. This may be due to them then having a higher chance of being genetically predisposed to developing mental illness.

If someone were to have a genetic predisposition to develop mental illness, then it may only take them experiencing some sort of traumatic event for them to develop full blown bathophobia. Such a traumatic event which may cause someone to develop an irrational fear of depths may be that they once fell off of a very high platform or that they were once shipwrecked. Such experiences may be so emotionally damaging that it may lead them to develop bathophobia insofar as they have the genetic makeup to do so.

Another potential cause of bathophobia may be that they were already suffering from a different mental disorder beforehand. For instance, someone suffering from GAD may be a highly anxious person who finds day to day aspects of life to be very challenging. So, it is quite plausible to conceive that someone with GAD may develop bathophobia by concentrating a great deal of their daily fears toward depths. The same hypothetical can be seen with other anxiety disorders like OCD, for example.

Though we can speculate as to what the many possible causes of bathophobia may be, the overwhelming consensus is that genetics and environment play crucial roles in the development of any given mental disorder.



Bathophobia Treatments (abridged)

Just as there is no known cause of bathophobia, there is also no known treatment method specifically designed for this disorder either. However, as is the case with virtually all phobias, exposure therapy is one of the most beneficial forms of treatment for people suffering from phobias.

Exposure therapy works by having the therapist slowly expose the patient to that which they fear over a given period of time. Though the patient will likely experience a great deal of anxiety when exposed to their fear, the goal is for them to eventually be desensitized from their fear so that it will bother them less over time.

It is imperative to ensure that the therapist implementing exposure therapy is very knowledgeable and experienced with treating phobias. The importance of this lies in the fact that if the patient is exposed to too much too soon, then this may have an opposite affect by worsening their bathophobia as opposed to helping to desensitize them from it.

The therapist may expose the patient to depths by showing them pictures or videos of areas with great depths. These images will likely give the patient a high amount of anxiety, but if implemented correctly, the end goal will be the patient being less affected by the images over time. Thus, minimizing their symptoms of bathophobia.

If you think you may have bathophobia or if you are suffering from some of the symptoms described in this article then you should talk to your doctor as soon as you can so that you can get properly diagnosed and treated. Upon seeing your doctor, she may refer you to see a specialist such as a therapist or a psychiatrist.




Treatments (expanded)

Yoga Poses for Bathophobia

There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from bathophobia. In part, this is due to the meditative state of mind that yoga tends to emit in those who practice it on a consistent basis. Yoga can be thought of as meditation in motion. It can help to relieve some of the anxiety associated with bathophobia due to the mere fact that by engaging in yoga, your attention will be redirected to something more productive.

There are many different types of yoga that someone with bathophobia can benefit from, such as hatha yoga or hot yoga, among many others. Nevertheless, regardless of the many different forms of yoga that exist, virtually all of them can help to relieve some of the stress and anxiety that is associated with bathophobia.

If you have never practiced yoga before, then it may be in your best interest to take a class or watch some guided videos that can help you through each pose. Just like with meditation, the more you practice yoga, the more adept you will become at it. Besides helping you to reduce your symptoms of bathophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Bathophobia

MBSR is an 8-week evidence-based program that offers secular, intensive mindfulness training to help people who are suffering from anxiety, stress, depression, and other sorts of mental anguish. MBSR may be able to significantly help someone who is suffering from bathophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with bathophobia can expect to learn a plethora of different skills that can help them to relieve the intense anxiety that’s associated with their specific phobia.

Talk to your doctor or therapist to see if MBSR can help you to reduce the intensity of your symptoms of bathophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.

Meditation for Bathophobia

There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from bathophobia. Specifically, mindfulness meditation has been shown to be quite beneficial for helping people to enter into a more equanimeous state. There are many different ways with which you can implement mindfulness meditation and there are also many different meditation apps which are designed to make things as easy as possible for you.

Mindfulness has the potential to significantly help those suffering from bathophobia due to how it will help one to distract themselves from their fear by refocusing their attention onto something else that does not have any sort of emotional baggage attached to it, such as by focusing on the breath for example. This is one of the most basic ways that one can meditate and be present.

For someone with bathophobia in the midst of a panic attack, redirecting one’s attention to the various sensations felt when breathing can actually help to reduce the amount of mental anguish experienced during such an influx of anxiety.

To implement mindfulness meditation to help relieve one’s symptoms of bathophobia, you can do so by paying close attention to the way the muscles in your abdomen and chest contract and relax with every inhale and exhale. You can spend time dwelling on how it feels as your chest expands during each inhale and how it sinks in with every exhale.

Besides focusing on your breathing, you can also focus on the sounds around you, the way your skin feels as you touch certain objects, the way foods taste, as well as the way certain aromas smell. Essentially, honing into your 5 senses can significantly help you to reduce some of the anxiety that is associated with bathophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.

Exposure Therapy for Bathophobia

As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as bathophobia. It can be an efficient way to help desensitize the patient to their specific fears. Be that as it may, it is imperative that the therapist implementing it on their patient is very adept at doing so. For example, if the therapist were to slightly expose someone with bathophobia to their fear, then it may not be very effective as they may need a higher amount of exposure to truly trigger any sort of worthwhile change in the patient.

The same can be said for the antithesis of this scenario. If the therapist were to excessively expose someone with bathophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their bathophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with bathophobia has a very strong sense of just how severe their symptoms are so that they can know the level of exposure that the patient will likely be able to handle.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Bathophobia

CBT is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve one’s mental health. It is a modality that is often used to treat people suffering from anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. Someone with bathophobia may also be able to benefit from CBT as well seeing as how it would allow them to have a much better understanding as to why they think and behave the way they do in relation to their irrational fears.

CBT can be immensely helpful for someone with bathophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with bathophobia is exposed to their fear, they will almost always have an instantaneous subconscious reaction to their fear. Such a lack of introspection is likely a large part of why someone with this condition will suffer to the extent that they will. CBT can help you to take a step back and analyze your fears more deeply than you typically would.

Besides learning to be more fastidious with regards to understanding one’s specific fears, someone with bathophobia engaging in CBT can also expect to learn various other skills aimed at helping to relieve the anxiety caused by their condition.




Psychiatric Medications for Bathophobia

Anti-anxiety meds

These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe bathophobia due to the fact that people with phobias often experience panic attacks as well. Some common anti-anxiety medications include Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin, among many others.

These types of drugs are not typically taken on a daily basis, but they may be insofar as their bathophobia is severe enough. However, this is something that you should first discuss with your doctor before you decide to do so to ensure that it is safe and effective.

Antidepressants

These types of medications aren’t only for people who suffer from depression as they can also help people suffering from anxiety disorders as well, such as bathophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of bathophobia.

These types of drugs are typically taken on a daily basis. They can indeed help prevent panic attacks from occurring, but they are more so used to help reduce people’s daily anxiety. Talk to your doctor to see if taking antidepressants can help to reduce your symptoms of bathophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.

Exercise for Bathophobia

Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including bathophobia. Specifically, cardiovascular exercise can significantly help to relieve one’s stress. This is not to say that weight-resistance training would not benefit someone with anxiety, but rather that aerobic exercise is has been shown to be more effective at releasing those feel good chemicals in the brain, such as endorphins.

According to the American Psychology Association, exercise can help to condition the mind to better cope with stressful situations. This makes sense when we take into consideration the high amount of stress that the body is put under during strenuous exercise. So, if you yourself are sedentary, then engaging in some form of aerobic exercise may be able to significantly help reduce your symptoms of bathophobia by making it much easier for you to cope with the anxiety and stress that’s associated with this condition.

There are many different aerobic modalities that you can partake in to help reduce your symptoms of bathophobia, such as swimming, biking, skiing, walking, and jogging. You can also acquire the many benefits of exercise by playing sports such as tennis, soccer, basketball, and racquetball, among many other sports. Engaging in some form of exercise consistently may be able to help relieve some of the pain associated with bathophobia over time.

Limiting Caffeine for Bathophobia

It is no secret that consuming large amounts of caffeine throughout the day can aid in making you more anxious. This makes sense when we look closely at how caffeine affects our body’s physiology. When we consume a high dose of caffeine, our heart will start to beat faster and we become more tense. Essentially, our body will begin to go into a “fight or flight” state of mind. Such a frame of mind is often a precursor for someone with bathophobia to experience panic attacks.

So, consuming little to no caffeine throughout the day may be able to significantly help reduce your day to day anxiety. Although doing so will likely not make all of your anxiety go away, it will indeed help you to reduce any unnecessary suffering that you would have otherwise experienced if you were to consume a large amount of caffeine.

Beverages like coffee and tea are often high in caffeine, as well as some energy drinks. In fact, even some foods have caffeine in them as well, such as dark chocolate. Being more conscious of your daily caffeine consumption may help you to reduce some of the symptoms associated with bathophobia.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Bathophobia

DBT is a very effective form of treatment for people struggling with emotion regulation. It is often used to treat people suffering from borderline personality disorder. Nevertheless, it can also be very advantageous for someone suffering from anxiety disorders like bathophobia too. This is due to the numerous amount of coping skills you can expect to learn in a DBT group. These groups typically last about 6 months long and can have anywhere from two people to several people depending on how many join the group.

One very effective DBT skill for helping someone with bathophobia is half-smiling. This technique works by having you think about that which you fear or upsets you all while slightly raising the corners of your mouth by lightly smiling, thus the term “half-smiling.” Although, it isn’t enough to just think about your fear while half-smiling, you also have to try and refrain from entertaining those painful emotions that your specific fear may evoke.

Mindfulness meditation is also heavily used in DBT and can greatly benefit someone with bathophobia as it is done in a group setting, which helps to put the patient out of their comfort zone. These group mindfulness practices may include drinking warm tea to hone in on the sense of taste and tactile senses or simply focusing on the breath.

Coping ahead is another very useful DBT skill that can help someone with bathophobia. With coping ahead, you will want to find a place where you can sit down quietly without distraction. Close your eyes and then think about the many different possible scenarios where you would face your specific fear and overcome it or cope with it. Doing so will help you to be much better adept at coping with your bathophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.