The fear of water known as aquaphobia seems like it is an unusual phenomenon. However, most people have a certain degree of fear. It’s normal to be afraid of drowning, especially for people who cannot swim. Even good swimmers may develop a fear of water in certain scenarios such as being on a boat. The average person is able to overcome their fear or develop coping mechanisms.
It should not be confused with Hydrophobia even though the literal meaning is derived from the Greek words hudōr, meaning, water and phobos, meaning fear. Hydrophobia is different as it is used to refer to a later-stage rabies symptom of swallowing difficulty, fear experienced when the affected is provided with liquids to drink and the inability to quench thirst, the new term aquaphobia was created to refer to the general fear of water and drowning using the Latin word aqua and the Greek word phobos.
Many people may have a fear of water, but a person with aquaphobia has a persistent and an abnormal amount of fear that prevents them from being close to water. This type of phobia is specific and classified as an irrational fear of something that doesn’t inherently cause much danger. People with this disorder may become anxious around swimming pools, lakes, or even bathtubs and tend to avoid activities such as swimming, boating, etc. In some people, this anxiety commonly extended further to being splashed with water when least expected.
When it comes to how many people are affected, the National Institute of Mental Health estimates that phobias affect up to 19.2 million adults in the United States today. Women are more likely to experience them than men. The symptoms can appear at any stage in life but are more common in childhood or adolescence.
Aquaphobia Fear of Water – Causes
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The causes of specific phobias are not always understood. There is some evidence that phobias may be genetically inherited. If you have a family member who has severe anxiety or any type of phobia, then you may be at risk of developing a phobia as well. It’s unclear as to why people develop different phobias than their relatives though. People who have anxiety disorders may have children with other types of phobias. These are not necessarily related. Having a relative with a phobia puts their children at a higher risk of developing any type of phobia. However, the amount of risk is not well-known.
Aquaphobia may be triggered by a traumatic event that occurs during childhood. Near-drowning is something that children may experience. Falling off of a dock or off of a boat are both traumatic experiences that children may not be able to understand and rationalize. This can cause them to have a severe fear of water, associating it with danger. Additionally, there can be a series of negative experiences that leads to a phobia. These experiences are usually not deadly but may have caused negative associations with water. Both severe and repeated experiences with water usually happen during childhood.
Finally, the Mayo Clinic has suggested that changes in brain function may play a role in developing specific phobias. This cause is not usually linked to any specific event. Brain development and function can be altered by any number of causes. Genetics may also play a role in how your brain develops. Nutrition, medicines, and many lifestyle factors all play a role in how the brain develops, especially during the early years of life. When this is the cause, it’s likely that aquaphobia will occur during the younger years of life.
Symptoms of Aquaphobia
Each and every case of aquaphobia can be slightly different because of the differences in thinking, images and self-talk of each person. The symptoms can be physical, emotional and mental and the fear and anxiety may range from a mere apprehension to a panic attack.
When it comes to the symptoms of aquaphobia these are fairly well-understood. The primary symptom is an intense fear and anxiety in a person who has aquaphobia. This could be a very small amount of water, sometimes even what’s present in a bathroom sink. A larger body of water such as a lake or ocean will also trigger this reaction. Keep in mind that the amount of water isn’t always responsible for the person’s reaction. Since they fear of water is not based on a rational thought process, any water can lead to fear and anxiety.
Other symptoms of aquaphobia include the following:
- Feeling panicked, anxious, and fearful whenever thinking about water.
- An unreasonable amount of fear when being exposed to water.
- Recognizing that the fear of water a person is experiencing is not proportional to its actual threat.
- Avoiding water excessively.
- Sweating when thinking about water or coming in its vicinity.
- Rapid heartbeat.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Dizziness or even fainting.
Not everyone will experience these symptoms but they can all occur with this phobia. The appearance of this phobia displays similarly to a panic attack for most people. However, severity of symptoms vary a great deal from person to person.
Treatment Options for Aquaphobia
Several treatment options, depending on the severity experienced by the sufferer, are available either to ease the symptoms or cure the phobia. The sufferer can take some steps to control his/her phobia at home, but it always advisable to take the help of a professional. This is because licensed professionals can guide them through different exercises to take control of the phobia.
One of the best options for anyone having the phobia in the mild form is to work with someone who is trustworthy. The person may take the phobia sufferer through stages of exposure starting form least intimidating to severe situations over a period of time to make him/her less sensitive to water or drowning.
Persons identified as severe cases of aquaphobia may have to depend on cognitive behavioral therapy, neuro-linguistic programming, hypnotherapy, etc. Generally, medication is not recommended in view of the reflex required for swimming, but it may help to relieve the symptoms of a panic or anxiety attack.
The Fear of Water – Treatment
Aquaphobia, the extreme fear of water, can take over your life as indeed can any true phobia. There are a number of guaranteed, proven and effective solutions. Ther’s a cure for EVERYONE with aquaphobia.
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