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Thalassophobia: Causes, Triggers & Treatment

What is thalassophobia
Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology


The relationship between human beings and fear has existed since the beginning of time.

You might have watched fiction movies or heard horror stories from time to time. But while there are various movies and content to scare us, when it comes to the horror genre, unfortunately, what keeps most of us up all night is fiction versus real phobias that require professional help.

Thalassophobia is a specific type of phobia characterized by an intense fear of deep water or fear of the ocean.

So, is thalassophobia real? And what causes ocean phobia to make an individual’s life miserable? This blog contains all you need to know about thalassophobia and its problematic aspects.

Therapy can save you from the mental exhaustion of fear and worry. Get help instantly.

What Is Thalassophobia?

Thalassophobia Definition

Like many specific phobias, thalassophobia is a phobia characterized by fear of large and deep water bodies. It is also known as fear of the ocean or fear of deep water. The word ‘thalassophobia’ originated from the Greek language in which ‘Thalassa’ means sea and ‘Phobos’ means fear.

Do you know? According to the survey [1*] , it is estimated that around 5% to 10% of the American population has a specific phobia at some point in their life.

Thalassophobia Vs. Aquaphobia

Most people confuse thalassophobia with aquaphobia, and the terms are often used interchangeably. However, both these conditions are distinct.

Thalassophobia Aquaphobia

This phobia is associated with a persistent fear of large and deep water bodies which are dark and have a great depth. People with thalassophobia are not afraid of water; instead, they are scared of the depth and strange things beneath the large water bodies.

Aquaphobia is the persistent fear of water itself.

How Long Does Thalassophobia Last?

Thalassophobia may appear in your childhood and be ongoing throughout late adulthood. The average duration of peak symptoms of this specific phobia is around six months. There might be an exaggerated response and worsening of symptoms every time your phobia gets triggered. Wondering what thalassophobia feels like? Read below the most common symptoms.

Thalassophobia Symptoms

The common thalassophobia symptoms often mimic the signs and symptoms of anxiety. These symptoms are divided into two categories:

  • Physical symptoms
  • Emotional symptoms

Both the physical and emotional symptoms are summarized in the table below.

Physical Symptoms Emotional Symptoms
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid breathing
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Increased sweating
  • Increased heart rate
  • Muscle tension
  • Palpitations
  • Trembling and shaking
  • Chest pain
  • Stomachache
  • Hot flashes
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Intense worry
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Inability to focus
  • Lack of concentration
  • Insomnia
  • A feeling of impending doom
  • Lack of self-control

The fear response of thalassophobia can be caused by various factors and triggers. Dive into the next point to learn about the causes of thalassophobia, and manage your phobia symptoms in the best possible way through effective therapy options.

Struggling from thalassophobia alone? We are there for your help.

What Causes Thalassophobia?

The causes [2*] of developing a specific phobia are multifactorial, including both internal and external factors. However, experts have not yet figured out the exact reasons, but the following triggers and risk factors are thought to be associated with developing thalassophobia closely.

Genetics. It is believed that a person with a family history of a specific phobia is more prone to develop it themselves at any point in life.

Past traumatic events. Individuals who have had the experiences of drowning accidents at the large water bodies or have observed deaths associated with the ocean are more susceptible to developing thalassophobia.

Parental factors. Experts believe that observing a parental figure with a phobia of deep water can also contribute to the development of fear of the ocean.

When it comes to thalassophobia triggers, they depend largely on the chronicity of the condition and the intensity of threat levels. The most common triggers are as follows:

  • Looking at pictures of the ocean or large water bodies.
  • Hearing stories about accidents and deaths that may have occurred at large water bodies.
  • Learning about the death of a close family member or friend due to deep water.
  • Hearing media stories or watching the news and movies containing content related to deepwater accidents.

How do you know if you have thalassophobia?

Unfortunately, there are no formal diagnostic criteria for thalassophobia in the DSM-5, but still, professional help and informal measures can help diagnose the condition.

Get a legit diagnosis and get the best treatment for phobias from our certified mental health experts.

What thalassophobia feels like?

Thalassophobia Diagnosis

If you suspect you might have thalassophobia, the ultimate solution is to see a mental health expert. A certified professional will assess your signs and symptoms and make a legit diagnosis based on your psychological and physical evaluation. There is no legit thalassophobia test for diagnosis, but your therapist may use the DSM-5 [3*] criteria for diagnosing the specific phobias on the following diagnostic measures:

  • You avoid the oceans and have an intense fear of being near a deep water body.
  • The fear of the ocean is persistent and excessive.
  • The fear of deep water is greater than the reality of the threats.
  • The fear of deep water interferes with your normal functioning.
  • The fear is experienced for six months or longer.
  • The symptoms and fear do not fall for other mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Treatment Options for Thalassophobia

There is little research regarding effective treatment options for managing the symptoms of thalassophobia. However, some studies [4*] suggest that therapy can effectively lower the impact of fear.

The most widely practiced therapy for treating specific phobia is behavioral therapy. Common strategies [5*] that have been effective in managing the symptoms of thalassophobia are:

  1. Cognitive-behavioral therapy. It is an evidence-based psychotherapy method that helps correct negative thought patterns.
  2. Gradual exposure therapy. The therapist constructs an exposure fear hierarchy for the client.
  3. Systematic desensitization. It is a specialized treatment that leads to building stronger self-control on trigger exposure.
  4. Cognitive restructuring. This technique helps people lower harmful thoughts.
  5. Relaxation techniques. These exercises help you refocus on calming activities and attention. Standard relaxation techniques involve breathing, yoga, massage, meditation, etc.

A Final Word From MEDvidi

Dealing with thalassophobia on your own can lead to devastating physical and emotional symptoms. However, getting professional help and the best therapy for managing symptoms remain the best solution. It is vital that you avoid triggers and never place yourself in an unsafe situation. MEDvidi offers the best mental health therapy services at the most affordable rates.


5 sources
  1. Specific Phobia. (2023)
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  2. Causes and treatments for thalassophobia. (2020)
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  3. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5-TR)
    Source link
  4. Psychological approaches in the treatment of specific phobias: A meta-analysis. (2008)
    Source link
  5. Recent developments in the intervention of specific phobia among adults: a rapid review. (2020)
    Source link
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Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology


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Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.

Our team of experts strive to be objective, unbiased, honest and to present both sides of the argument.

This article contains scientific references. The numbers
in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.