Selachophobia (Fear of Sharks)
Selachophobia is the intense fear of sharks. This phobia, unlike many others, is based in some logic due to the fact that sharks are very dangerous creatures. We know this because there is an ample amount of records which show us shark attacks on humans in many different countries.
With this being the case, selachophobia is much different than pupaphobia (fear of puppets) or sesquipedalophobia (fear of long words) due to the fact that sharks, unlike puppets or long words, are actual threats.
Nevertheless, even though the fear of sharks is justified when we look at how dangerous they are to humans, those suffering from selachophobia experience deep amounts of dread and anxiety even when there is absolutely no threat of a shark attack.
For instance, someone with selachophobia may become extremely anxious and fearful if they saw a shark at an aquarium or on TV. Feeling slightly anxious when seeing a shark in real life at an aquarium is not intimation of mental illness, but irrational feelings of intense fear and dread may be. This is an important distinction that should be taken into consideration.
Symptoms of Selachophobia
People who suffer from selachophobia may find it extremely difficult to be in or near bodies of water, even if it’s freshwater. Their fear of sharks may influence major life decisions, such as where they decide to live (i.e. more inland). This may mean easily becoming seasick or becoming extremely anxious when on a boat. Someone suffering from selachophobia may experience a great deal of anxiety when merely seeing a picture or a video of a shark.
Though their fear of sharks is somewhat logical as sharks can be extremely dangerous to humans, the intensity of their fear, as well as the amount of time spent thinking or worrying about sharks is irrational and may be intimation of selachophobia. However, everyone suffering from a fear of sharks will oftentimes experience varying symptoms of varying intensities.
Below, you will see some of the more common symptoms of selachophobia:
Irrationally fearful of sharks
Feelings of dread even when there is no apparent reason to
Avoiding bodies of water
Intense anxiety when looking at pictures or videos of shark attacks
May feel unsettled swimming in large swimming pools
Causes of Selachophobia
The exact cause of selachophobia is not known. However, genetics and environmental factors are likely to play significant roles in the development of this mental illness. If you have a family history of mental illness, especially of anxiety disorders, then this may increase your chance for developing selachophobia. However, such a specific phobia such as this is most likely rooted in experience and environmental factors.
For instance, someone may develop selachophobia because they experienced a traumatizing shark attack or perhaps they were swimming in the ocean where they soon realized that there were several large sharks swimming near them. Traumatizing experiences such as these may be enough for someone to develop selachophobia. However, everyone perceives danger differently. So, what one person deems to be dangerous someone else may see little to no danger in the same situation.
Other factors that come into play when looking at the potential causes of selachophobia may be how media portrays sharks on TV and in movies. For example, the iconic 1975 film “Jaws” helped to tote the line that sharks are nothing more than dangerous beasts with a lust for human flesh. Though today this movie may appear to be a mere parody of what was supposed to be a horror film, the impact this movie had on people during this era shouldn’t be undermined.
This is not to say that movies cause selachophobia. This example is merely meant to point out how environmental factors can influence someone’s mental health insofar that they they have the genetics to do so. Like virtually all phobias, the exact causes are not entirely known. However, it seems apparent that genetics and one’s environment are likely to play significant roles in the development of selachophobia.
Selachophobia Treatments (abridged)
There is no specific treatment method for this condition. However, talk therapy may be able to help reduce the symptoms associated with this phobia. Exposure therapy may be able to help as well, but the amount of exposure would obviously be very limited. So, it may be more helpful to utilize some form of talk therapy to try and reduce the symptoms of selachophobia.
Talk therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be very advantageous for treating this condition. In CBT therapy, the therapist and the patient work together to try and figure out the underlying reasons as to why the patient is so fearful of sharks. The therapist will also help the patient to acquire several coping skills, as well as ways to help them change or improve their behavior with regards to their selachophobia.
Exposure therapy may be advantageous to treat selachophobia as well. In this context, it would work by having the therapist slowly expose the patient to their fear (within reason). So, this may mean that they’ll be exposed to a picture of a shark or of a video of a shark. In extreme cases, they may merely be asked to think about sharks. Though this may not sound like treatment, merely thinking of their fear is enough to bring forth mental anguish. So, with this being the case, oftentimes such thoughts are pushed into the depths of the subconscious mind.
Anti-anxiety medications may be able to help treat selachophobia as well. However, it should be noted that to truly improve your condition you will want to make healthier behavior changes. This means that you will need to learn the cognitive skills necessary to become adept at dealing with your symptoms appropriately and efficiently.
If you think you may have selachophobia, then you should talk to your doctor as soon as you can so that you can get properly treated. It is also advised that you speak to your doctor before you begin any form of treatment or take any medication.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Selachophobia
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 selachophobia 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 selachophobia 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 selachophobia 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 selachophobia. 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 selachophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.
Yoga for Selachophobia
There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from selachophobia. 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 selachophobia 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 selachophobia 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 selachophobia.
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 selachophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Selachophobia
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 selachophobia 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 selachophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with selachophobia 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 selachophobia engaging in CBT can also expect to learn various other skills aimed at helping to relieve the anxiety caused by their condition.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Selachophobia
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 selachophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with selachophobia 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 selachophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.
Exposure Therapy for Selachophobia
As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as selachophobia. 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 selachophobia 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 selachophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their selachophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with selachophobia 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.
Reducing Caffeine for Selachophobia
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 selachophobia 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 selachophobia.
Psychiatric Drugs for Selachophobia
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 selachophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of selachophobia.
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 selachophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.
These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe selachophobia 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 selachophobia 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.
Exercise for Selachophobia
Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including selachophobia. 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 selachophobia 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 selachophobia, 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 selachophobia over time.
Meditation for Selachophobia
There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from selachophobia. 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 selachophobia 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 selachophobia 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 selachophobia, 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 selachophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.