Thalassophobia (Fear of the Sea)
Thalassophobia is the irrational fear of the sea. Someone suffering from this condition may find it extremely difficult to be in or near the sea. Their fear may also include being fearful of large lakes, ponds, and rivers too. Essentially, any relatively large body of water with a significant depth that comes with it the risk of drowning or of being home to carnivorous creatures may spawn fear and terror in the mind of someone with thalassophobia.
Someone suffering with this illness may make conscious decisions in their day to day life to ensure that they avoid seeing any large bodies of water so their symptoms of thalassophobia won’t be exacerbated. They may also choose to live more inland to avoid this as well. Though doing so will help reduce their anxiety in the short term, it will likely also be worsening their fear in the long term as they will then be reassuring themselves that the sea is something worth fearing.
For some people who are fearful of the sea, they may have physical limitations which may cause this, such as having poor vision or being unable to swim. However, for those with full blown thalassophobia, their fear of the sea is so over-the-top that they may even experience panic attacks because of it.
Though there are real risks with being in the ocean, someone with thalassophobia will put a magnifying glass on such risks; making it the focal point of their idea of the sea.
Symptoms of Thalassophobia
Someone suffering from full blown thalassophobia can expect to find themselves enduring intense bouts of anxiety at the mere thought of the sea. They may realize the real dangers of the sea, such as tsunamis, the risk of shark attacks, the risk of drowning, etc., and use those realities as evidence that the sea is something that should be gravely feared at all times. They will likely be unable to think about these things rationally.
Someone with thalassophobia may become overly concerned during bad weather, as storms will likely increase the dangers for ships in the sea, as well as influence the height of the tide, among other things. Their intense worry during situations such as this will not be grounded in reality and will be immensely dramatized. Their inability to react to such situations coherently and logically is a large reason as to why they suffer to the extent that they do.
Depending on the severity of their thalassophobia, they may becoming instantly immersed in a fight, flight, or freeze frame of mind when near the sea. Their heart will begin to race, their breathing will increase, their senses sharpen, muscle will tense up, as well as perspire. The physiology of their body will change to prepare themselves for an immediate threat. However, for someone with thalassophobia, the threat of the sea is in their mind and not based in reality.
Below, you will see some more common symptoms of thalassophobia:
Intense anxiety when around the sea or ocean
Anxiety when thinking about the sea
Avoiding large bodies of water altogether
May choose to live more inland
Unable to cope with their intense fear
Muscle tension, shakiness, and sweating
May experience panic attacks
Causes of Thalassophobia
According to research, more than eighty percent of our ocean is unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored. Such mystery of what rests in these uncharted areas may evoke immense amounts of fear in those with thalassophobia. This, as well as the fact that the ocean has an average depth of 2.3 miles (3.7 kilometers) with 700,000 to 1,000,000 species residing there is enough to make even someone who is slightly weary of the ocean to develop thalassophobia insofar as they have the genetics to do so.
Other reasons as to why someone may develop thalassophobia is due to environmental reasons. For example, someone may develop this disorder due to them nearly drowning once before or knowing someone close to them who has drowned. A shark bite, severe jellyfish sting, or some other incident may be enough for someone to develop this condition insofar as it was traumatizing enough for them.
Besides environmental factors, someone may merely have a genetic predisposition to develop thalassophobia. For example, someone with a family history of mental illness, especially of anxiety disorders, may have an increased risk of developing this disorder. This could be due to them also having a higher chance of being genetically predisposed to developing mental illness in general.
Though we do not definitively know what causes certain disorders to develop, there is an overwhelming consensus among most mental health professionals that both genetics and environmental factors play a role in the development of virtually any given mental disorder.
Thalassophobia Treatments (abridged)
Treatment for thalassophobia will likely include some sort of talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and/or exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is one of the most common forms of treatment for those suffering from most phobias. Exposure therapy works by having the therapist gradually expose the patient to that which they fear for a given amount of time. Though doing so will inevitably give the patient a high amount of anxiety, it will also help to desensitize them from their fear in the long run.
Theoretically, the more someone is exposed to something they fear, the less it will bother them over time. This is essentially the reasoning behind exposure therapy. However, for some phobias, exposure therapy can be very challenging for the therapist to implement ethically, as well as to conveniently implement, such is the case with thalassophobia.
Being that the therapist cannot bring the sea into their hour long session together, what she can do to help her patient is show them pictures or videos of the sea in an attempt to spark an influx of anxiety within them. They can also ask the patient to go near the sea on their own time and to write down how they felt moments before arriving there, while they were there, as well as how they felt once they left.
If you think you may have thalassophobia or if you are suffering from some of the symptoms of this condition, then you should talk to your doctor as soon as you can so that you can be properly diagnosed and treated. Upon doing so, your doctor may refer you to see a mental health professional such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist for further treatment.
Exposure Therapy for Thalassophobia
As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as thalassophobia. 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 thalassophobia 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 thalassophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their thalassophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with thalassophobia 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.
Working Out for Thalassophobia
Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including thalassophobia. 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 thalassophobia 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 thalassophobia, 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 thalassophobia over time.
Yoga Sessions for Thalassophobia
There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from thalassophobia. 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 thalassophobia 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 thalassophobia 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 thalassophobia.
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 thalassophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Thalassophobia
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 thalassophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with thalassophobia 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 thalassophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.
Psychiatric Medications for Thalassophobia
These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe thalassophobia 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 thalassophobia 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.
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 thalassophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of thalassophobia.
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 thalassophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Thalassophobia
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 thalassophobia 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 thalassophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with thalassophobia 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 thalassophobia engaging in CBT can also expect to learn various other skills aimed at helping to relieve the anxiety caused by their condition.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Thalassophobia
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 thalassophobia 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 thalassophobia 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 thalassophobia 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 thalassophobia. 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 thalassophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.
Meditation Practice for Thalassophobia
There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from thalassophobia. 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 thalassophobia 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 thalassophobia 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 thalassophobia, 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 thalassophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.
Control Caffeine Consumption for Thalassophobia
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 thalassophobia 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 thalassophobia.