Thalassophobia (Fear of the Ocean): Symptoms, Diagnosis & How to Overcome Your Fear of the Ocean

Thalassophobia (Fear of the Ocean): Symptoms, Diagnosis & How to Overcome Your Fear of the Ocean

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What is thalassophobia?

A severe phobia or intense dread of big bodies of water is referred to as thalassophobia. The fear of open bodies of water, such as oceans, seas, or even big lakes, is known as thalassophobia.

There are certain folks who could experience some anxiety when they think about the ocean. But for some people, being terrified of the ocean can be a much more significant issue. There’s a possibility that you have thalassophobia if your fear of the ocean is so pervasive and severe that it interferes with your daily life.

The definition of the phobia known as thalassophobia

The concept of thalassophobia originates from the Greek words Thalassa, which refers to the ocean, and Phobos, which means dread.

It is estimated that between 5 and 10 percent of persons in the United States are affected by certain phobias. Source: Some phobias reach their zenith while a person is a youngster and gradually fade away as they become older; nevertheless, other phobias might reach their zenith when a person is an adult.

Continue reading to find out more about the symptoms and causes of thalassophobia, as well as the treatment options available for conquering your fear of the ocean.

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What are the symptoms of thalassophobia?

When you suffer from a certain fear of Trusted Source Just like having dread of the ocean, you could experience an extreme fear of something even though it’s not actually a threat to you at that particular moment. If you are exposed to or are in close proximity to a large body of water, your body may react by causing you to experience severe symptoms of anxiety.

Having an anxiety disorder includes having a phobia. Some of the signs and symptoms of thalassophobia are comparable to those of anxiety.


The following are examples of reliable sources of anxiety:

agitation, a feeling of being on edge or worried, an inability to concentrate, irritability, muscle tension, sweating, looking flushed, heart palpitations or increased heart rate, shortness of breath, chest pain or discomfort, a sense of impending doom, and a sense of loss of control are all symptoms of anxiety.

a queasy stomach and even some hot flushes.

problem sleeping

The fear of sand and water can have a detrimental effect on one’s quality of life.


There are occasions when the signs and symptoms of thalassophobia manifest in a more severe manner, which might bring on an attack of panic.

How do I know if I’m experiencing a panic attack?

Attacks of panic are brief but strong bouts of fear that come on suddenly and escalate rapidly, with symptoms reaching their height within minutes. You might go through the following while having a panic attack:

heart palpitations

extreme perspiration trembling abrupt shortness of breath or difficulty breathing feelings of impending doom or loss of control

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What can trigger it?

If you suffer from an ocean phobia, feelings of uneasiness may come over you at any time you think about the ocean, go to the water, or even view the ocean. For instance, you might see one of them when you’re walking along the shore or driving near the ocean. When you’re in an airplane and flying over the ocean, you might experience one of these.

Depending on how severe your thalassophobia is, you might feel anxious just by gazing at a snapshot of the ocean or even by hearing the term “ocean.”

A separate type of phobia known as arachnophobia, which is a fear of spiders, was the subject of research conducted in 2014, and its purpose was to determine the degree of anxiety that people with this phobia feel in comparison to individuals who do not have this phobia. The subjects examined pictures of spiders as well as those of other creatures and cuisines. The results of a study showed that people who had a specific phobia of spiders interpreted photographs of spiders as representing a greater level of danger than people who did not have arachnophobia.

This shows that persons who suffer from a specific phobia may experience sensations of worry even when they are exposed to photos of the thing that causes their phobia.

What causes it?

There are a lot of different things that could lead to somebody developing a phobia of the ocean.

A negative encounter with water may give rise to a fear response and a phobia in certain people. For instance, if you came dangerously close to drowning when swimming in a lake or saw a shark while swimming in the ocean, you might develop a strong phobia of those environments.

Phobias are also capable of developing in the absence of any triggering event or experience. The following are some potential triggers that could lead to the development of non-experiential phobias:

Factors related to genetics According to the findings of a study of the research conducted in 2015 by Trusted Source, anxiety disorders such as certain phobias may be inherited to a lesser or greater degree. On the other hand, this hypothesis has to be supported by findings from larger studies and additional studies.

Environmental considerations. A person’s risk of acquiring thalassophobia increases if they are exposed to or hear about terrible occurrences that take place in big bodies of water, such as a person drowning in the ocean.

Biological aspects to consider. If the brain is unable to process fear properly, it may be simpler for an individual to develop a phobia such as thalassophobia.

It’s possible that a fear of the unknown is another aspect that contributes to thalassophobia specifically. Fear and anxiety can develop in a person when they do not have access to sufficient knowledge or when they are unable to exert control over a situation or their environment. It’s possible that some people are more sensitive to the unknown than others.

Some researchers in the field of science believe that a fear of the ocean may have more of a fundamental origin than an irrational one, particularly when considering the ocean’s depths. They say that when people think about locations they haven’t seen, like the ocean or the deep sea, their imagination can take over and make things more vivid for them.

However, if your fear is strong enough to interfere with your day-to-day activities, you should think about having a conversation with a mental health expert who can assist you in coping with or overcoming your phobia.

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How is it diagnosed?

Going to a doctor is the first thing you should do if you think you might suffer from a specific phobia. Doing so is also the first step in overcoming your phobia. Tests could be run by a primary care physician to eliminate the possibility of a physical ailment.

A medical professional will most likely conduct an examination that includes the following components:

examination, assessment of the patient’s medical history, review of the patient’s symptoms, laboratory tests

The results of laboratory testing can assist the attending physician in excluding the possibility of other disorders that share similar symptoms, such as hyperthyroidism or heart disease.

After that, you can be sent to a psychiatrist or another mental health expert so that you can get a diagnosis. They will decide whether or not your anxiety satisfies the requirements for a particular phobia that are described in the recommendations of the American Psychiatric Association (APA)Trusted Source.

To qualify as a specific phobia, the object or scenario in question must meet all of the following criteria:

almost always cause marked fear or anxiety cause anxiety that is not proportional to the danger of the object or situation causes avoidance or endurance with extreme anxiety and discomfort cause significant distress or impair your ability to function in important areas of your life cause anxiety that is persistent, lasting six months or more not be better explained by another mental health condition cause anxiety that is not better explained by another mental health condition almost always cause marked fear or anxiety cause anxiety that is not proportional to the danger of the object or situation cause avoidance or endurance with extreme anxiety and discomfort caused

Is there an effective treatment?

Through the use of the appropriate treatment, you should be able to overcome your fear of the sea.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

When it comes to treating specific phobias, such as a fear of the ocean, cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the therapies that has proven to be the most successful Trusted Source. During the course of therapy, a professional in the field of mental health may assist you in becoming less sensitive to the presence of significant bodies of water.

They might begin with triggers that are less likely to cause anxiety, such as pictures of still water, while simultaneously helping to reinforce the notion that the ocean and other huge bodies of water are safe. The next step is for them to assist you in the development of coping skills and instruct you in various relaxation techniques.

They might also employ a different strategy called flooding. As part of this treatment, they will work to increase the amount of time you spend in huge bodies of water in an effort to alleviate some of the dread and anxiety you experience.

At some point, it might even need going to a beach or dipping your toes in the ocean with a trained professional by your side. This kind of controlled exposure can, over time, help diminish the overall dread that you have of the ocean.


Medication is another possible method for alleviating the symptoms of anxiety.

Anti-anxiety drugs have the potential to alleviate both the mental and physical manifestations of anxiety. They are often recommended for people who suffer from acute anxiety that hinders their ability to work normally.

Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs that have shown some promise in alleviating symptoms when used in the short term. However, given the tremendous potential for addiction that these drugs present, medical professionals would typically only prescribe them in extreme cases.

Natural remedies

It’s possible that trying out some natural cures and strategies will help you feel less anxious or more at ease. These might be some of them:

tisanes d’herbes

CBD dietary supplements made from herbs

journaling meditation exercise support groups

Virtual reality exposure therapy

There are also some more modern approaches that can be used to treat phobias, such as exposure therapy through virtual reality (VRET). While still allowing you to have an immersive experience, this sort of therapy can provide regulated and gradual exposure to the thing that causes your phobia.

However, because VRET is still in its early stages of development, additional research is required to evaluate how successful it is.

Can phobias like a fear of the ocean be prevented?

If you suffer from thalassophobia or any anxiety illness, you may find that life is more difficult as a result; nevertheless, there are things you can do to assist prevent anxiety attacks even if you have this condition.

Identify and manage your triggers

It is important to be aware of the things that cause you to stress in order to avoid situations that could result in anxiety.

If you have a fear of lakes and have to drive by one on the way to work, you might want to choose another route until you have made more progress in overcoming your fear. You may do the same thing if your pals wish to spend their vacation at the beach; just recommend another spot for them to go instead.

Prioritize your health and wellness

It has been shown that maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine can help minimize the symptoms of anxiety. In addition, maintaining a healthy routine might help reduce feelings of stress and impatience.

Avoid drugs and alcohol

It’s possible that some substances, like drugs or alcohol, can provide you with a feeling of temporary relief from your anxious symptoms. On the other hand, they may make the problem even more severe while also interfering with your ability to sleep. This may cause an increase in stress.

Follow the guidance of a mental health professional

Mental health experts have the training and knowledge to assist patients in conquering their fears and anxiety disorders. It’s possible that making progress in your therapy will make you feel less anxious about going underwater.

Tips for coping with thalassophobia

If you have a fear of the water or any other phobia that negatively impacts your quality of life, the first thing you should do is talk to a medical practitioner or a professional in the mental health field. If you do not currently have a healthcare professional in your area, the Healthline Find Care tool can show you the various possibilities that are available in your area.

These organizations can assist you if you are experiencing difficulties with your mental health as a result of your phobia:

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers both a phone and a text crisis line for anyone in need of assistance.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) is able to provide a comprehensive directory of both short-term and long-term assistance resources.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a free resource that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assist people who are experiencing a crisis.

Talking to the people you care about can also be a helpful approach to gaining support. Every year, one in every five adults living in the United States will struggle with some kind of mental illness. You may find that having support from other people is helpful in coping with thalassophobia while you attempt to control and ultimately overcome your fear.


Thalassophobia, sometimes known as a fear of the ocean, is a specific kind of phobia that can have a detrimental impact on a person’s quality of life. A mental health professional is someone who can assist you if you require assistance in conquering your phobia of the ocean.

In addition to exposure therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy is a form of treatment that may be utilized for thalassophobia. Both of these treatments have a very high rate of success. In addition, getting treatment for your phobia of the sea can eventually help you regain some of your quality of life.

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