Most individuals suffer from some extent of fear when it comes to water. Over time, people manage to overcome all those fears or adopt ways to cope with them. Now, if anyone has an Aquaphobia or fear of water, they will live with a constant and unusual amount of fear that prevents them from even getting close to water.
People who suffer from water phobia can have excessive anxiousness even around water bodies including, bathtubs and pools, which seem harmless.
Read on to know more –
Aquaphobia – Fear of water
Aquaphobia, the fear of water is an anxiety disorder wherein a person does not even want to get close to water. It is an unusual fear that hampers the day-to-day activities of individuals. Under severe conditions, sufferers might avoid taking showers or washing their faces with water. They can even stay away from quenching their thirst.
The term Aquaphobia refers to one type of anxiety disorder that carries an intense aversion or fear of water. As per the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, an organization that dedicates itself to the prevention and treatment of anxiety and depression, anxiety disorders affect nearly 40 million adults every year in the United States of America.
Aquaphobia happens to be a specific phobia. It is an irrational fear of something that does not pose much threat. A person might have this phobia if any source of water makes them suffer from an excess amount of anxiety.
According to an estimate by the World Health Organization, 264 million people across the world suffered from at least one anxiety disorder way back in the year 2015. Since then, with increasing challenges in these 8 years, the figure has gone up by a few times.
The National Institute of Mental Health states that 12.5% of US adults are going through their lives with a specific phobia.
Anxiety disorders carry a group of conditions that create feelings of fear among people. They also experience anxiety. Specific phobias like Aquaphobia are one type of anxiety disorder. The severity of this problem varies from one person to another.
Some individuals might fear fast-flowing rivers or deep water bodies, while others might fear just about any water body. They can include the likes of hot tubs, pools, and bathtubs.
Aquaphobia – Meaning
Aquaphobia refers to the fear of water. ‘Aqua’ is the Latin word for water and ‘Phobos’ is the Greek word for fear. A person with Aquaphobia might suffer from extreme fear or anxiety when they think of or see water.
They could avoid going to places close to water. They include lakes or swimming pools. When the condition becomes severe, people might even stop taking showers. They may not even use water from the sink for brushing their teeth or washing their faces.
Their irrational fear can even go to such an extent that they might even avoid drinking water as much as possible. These individuals must understand that doing so can unnecessarily cause other problems like dehydration.
Therefore, anything related to water can cause the problem of Aquaphobia. Even if anyone sees water bodies or people enjoying themselves inside the swimming pool across movies or TV shows, Aquaphobic individuals can become fearful of the consequences. They can have problems getting good sleep along with several other issues.
Hydrophobia vs. Aquaphobia
People often tend to mistake Aquaphobia for another phobia known as hydrophobia. Although both these phobias involve water, still hydrophobia and Aquaphobia are not the same.
Hydrophobia is an aversion toward water that tends to develop among human beings during the later stage of rabies. All those who have hydrophobia, tend to have cramps in their muscles. It happens whenever they see, hears, or taste the water.
On the other hand, Aquaphobia is an irrational fear of water. It has no relation to any illness or physical condition. People simply suffer from anxiety when they see water bodies or even while washing their faces with water or at the time of drinking it.
We have already discussed some aspects of Aquaphobia. It crosses all hurdles of gender, age, race, life experience, education, income, and fitness level.
Now, it is time to check out some interesting facts about this phobia that develops from the fear of water.
According to the research study conducted by Gallup, the U.S. Management Consulting Company –
- 32% of people with Aquaphobia fear putting their heads underwater.
- 46% fear going over to the deep end of the pool.
- 68% have reported that they are afraid of deep, open water.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 46% of sufferers have claimed that they fear getting drowned.
Symptoms of Aquaphobia
A person who suffers from the problem of Aquaphobia, even when they see water, can trigger intense levels of fear and anxiety among them. This can be quite a small amount of water, which one can find in the bathroom sink or a large water body like an ocean.
The extent of water is not what causes this phobia. It is just the water that instills fear inside the mind of an affected person, which results in anxiety.
There are several other symptoms as well. We can further categorize the symptoms as physical and psychological. Both these types can hamper the daily lives of affected individuals to a great extent.
Let us now discuss the symptoms in detail –
This phobia can sometimes become so intense that some individuals might experience physical symptoms. Under those circumstances, leading a normal life can become difficult for these people.
Physical symptoms of Aquaphobia are as follows –
1. Rapid Heart Rate
- When someone suffers from chronic anxiety due to Aquaphobia, they will experience a rapid heart rate. The person would start breathing profusely.
- Under this condition, the heart will struggle to pump sufficient blood to the rest of the body. Therefore, the organs and tissues may not receive enough oxygen.
- If an individual has the problem of Aquaphobia, any water body will make that person anxious. Their breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate would all increase as their body prepares well to deal with the thing that is causing stress.
- In this situation, his brain and body start to interpret anxiety as a sign of escaping danger or standing firm on the ground. It provokes their muscles to act, which results in trembling or shaking.
- Whenever a person is anxious due to this specific phobia of water, their body shows resistance by fighting or flight, and even a freezing response to regulate temperature. This results in chills or sensations.
- Under this situation of chronic anxiety that appears while suffering from Aquaphobia, it can cause the individual to hyperventilate. As a result of that, the blood starts flowing less efficiently. Moreover, the blood flow directs toward their larger organs which are critical for survival.
- Hence, the extremities are left behind with various sensations of being cold. The fear of water might result in chills.
4. Tightness in the Chest
- Chest tightness is another crucial physical symptom that crops up when someone has the problem of Aquaphobia.
- It manifests out of anxiety attacks.
- The problem is more likely to occur when stress or anxiety suddenly comes along rather than the gradual build-up.
- It is common among people with Aquaphobia to experience dizziness as one of their symptoms. This phobia makes individuals extremely anxious. This level of anxiousness results in dizziness along with headaches.
- Dizziness can easily accompany both acute as well as chronic anxiety. In this adverse physical condition, someone can lose balance if the heart fails to pump enough blood to the brain.
- Hence, when an Aquaphobic person goes close to a body of water or any stream of water, they face a problem. The person feels as if he will faint and fall to the ground.
6. Dryness of Mouth
- If someone goes through acute anxiety due to this water phobia, they can often feel that their mouth is getting dry. It happens because the person might often breathe through their mouth.
- It can also occur out of acid reflux problems. It is so because, during phases of acute stress and anxiety, the body becomes more prone to experiencing symptoms of acid reflux.
- Acids can adversely impact the salivary glands. Hence, it produces less saliva. Due to this reason, your mouth would feel dry. People can also start feeling somewhat sticky and experience a very odd taste.
Aquaphobia can even give rise to several psychological symptoms. They are the ones that adversely impact people’s emotional or mental well-being. You might soon have a negative experience, which can disturb your mental peace.
This irrational fear can make you avoid touching or getting close to water. It can even make a person nervous while standing near the swimming pool or while taking a swimming lesson with a trained swim instructor. These individuals will constantly live under the fear of getting drowned or losing their life inside the water.
The following are the psychological symptoms of Aquaphobia –
- Aquaphobia can cause a lot of irritation in an individual’s personality. If the sufferer sees someone drinking water or even if they come across a sequence of someone swimming while watching a movie, they would not like it one bit.
- They will express their dissatisfaction toward the person responsible for the same. He might ask that individual to go to another room to drink water or to watch a movie.
- Hence, this irrational phobia will create a problem for the sufferer and make others’ lives miserable. It is especially applicable to those who are either the sufferer’s friend, family member or any relative.
- Aquaphobia can often make people nervous even when they must carry out a daily activity with water, like brushing their teeth or taking a bath. The extent of fear will be such that they would even avoid drinking water.
- This level of nervousness will always make them avoid doing anything that has an element of fun with the friends involved. Hence, they might move away to the sidelines and allow their friends to enjoy themselves.
3. Fear of Losing Control
- A person with an irrational fear of water or Aquaphobia always fears that if they do not manage to control the result of future events, something terrible will occur.
- It will make them anxious. The sufferer will lead their life under extreme stress.
- The main reason behind this problem is looking for certainty in this fear of water, which tends to be uncertain. There is no concrete reason behind fearing water and getting affected by this phobia.
4. Cluttered Mind
- When you suffer from the problem of Aquaphobia, it can severely hamper your clarity of thought. Therefore, it causes interference in the decision-making process.
- This symptom can reduce your ability to focus on things that genuinely require attention.
- The person will keep thinking about water and how to avoid meeting it. Hence, it will only waste precious time.
5. Thoughts of Death
- The fear of water or Aquaphobia can make an individual feel they would drown to death. Thus, the person will avoid standing in front of a swimming pool or a large water body.
- These types of thoughts can be extremely overwhelming. All those who are suffering from this phobia might even avoid going to places where there are beaches. They may not like staying in hotels that have swimming pools.
Specific phobias like Aquaphobia are recognized all across the world. Even then, it is not clear what causes this fear. Researchers feel that people can genetically inherit phobias from one of their parents. Therefore, if any of the family members has Aquaphobia, it is likely that the affected person has acquired it from them.
There are a few other factors that can play a crucial role in making people suffer from the fear of water or Aquaphobia. The extent of fear can vary from person to person.
Let us briefly discuss the factors –
1. Previous Traumatic Experiences
People who have had to undergo traumatic experiences with water earlier in their life might develop Aquaphobia.
Probably, you or someone close to you almost had a drowning experience while swimming inside the pool or any other traumatic event.
2. Negative News about Water
Someone can hear scary news regarding water, like shipwrecks or drowning in their childhood. They have heavily negatively impacted their mind, thus giving rise to the problem of Aquaphobia.
Some might have watched movies showing scary incidents taking place in the water. They keep playing on their minds for years. Hence, all this negative news creates a wrong perception that water is scary. Therefore, one must avoid it at all costs.
3. Family History
The risk involved with Aquaphobia increases for someone if their family member suffers from an anxiety or phobic disorder. The level of anxiousness can increase if someone carries a specific gene mutation.
Aquaphobia Test and Diagnosis
Mental health organizations across the world officially recognize Aquaphobia as one of the anxiety disorders that impact a person’s life. A doctor might use the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM-5 to diagnose the mental health condition of a person.
DSM-5 does not carry specific guidelines for determining or testing Aquaphobia. Still, Aquaphobia falls under the category of specific phobias. If someone shows up to a doctor, he or she will use similar guidelines and would make a comparison to the patient’s description of the phobia.
Ideally, one must provide the doctor or medical practitioner with every single detail of whatever they feel under the influence of Aquaphobia. It will help the doctor get a better insight into the condition.
A patient can communicate to the doctor that they have been experiencing symptoms for more than 6 months. Then the medical advice diagnosis or treatment would conclude that the person is indeed suffering from Aquaphobia, after clearing all other possibilities.
Though several online tests and quizzes related to Aquaphobia are available over the internet, the best way to get diagnosed and treated is by visiting a certified psychiatrist or mental health expert. By doing so, the patient will have a much better idea of their condition and how to get them treated for the ailment.
Aquaphobia – Treatment
Like most phobias, one can get rid of the problem of Aquaphobia with proper treatment. One can receive the appropriate form of treatment by getting in touch with a doctor or a licensed medical practitioner. He will evaluate the patient’s symptoms and identify their specific phobia.
At the time of diagnostic evaluation, the healthcare provider would review the person’s medical history. The medical reviewer will even ask specific questions to the individual to get a better idea of the phobia. The professional will also ask the person to describe the sequence of events, how severe it is, and the duration for which they have been experiencing the symptoms.
He will use two different forms of psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT and Exposure Therapy apart from practicing some self-care techniques one can practice at home.
Let us now discuss them in detail –
1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is a frequently used therapy to treat patients who are suffering from Aquaphobia.
- While carrying out the therapy, a healthcare professional will allow the person to understand which of their behavioral patterns and thoughts lead to this problem.
- They will work with the affected person to modify these patterns for overcoming the phobia.
- CBT can even include learning about various techniques to relax and various other coping mechanisms to manage fear, anxiety, and panic.
- It comes of great help for enneagram 5s while learning to swim.
2. Exposure Therapy
- Exposure therapy refers to the psychological treatment procedure that allows people to confront their phobias, including Aquaphobia.
- It is considered the best form of therapy for taking care of this fear of water.
- The therapist manages to alter a person’s response to fear by repeatedly exposing them to water that provokes the phobic reaction.
- This exposure therapy takes place across different sessions. In each session, the mental healthcare provider will slowly expose the patient to the main source of their fear over escalating phases.
- The professional will carry out this exposure therapy in a safe, secure, and controlled environment. In each session, they would keep a record. Then, they will analyze the individual’s thoughts, reactions, sensations, and feelings.
- Some of the elements of this therapy include thinking and discussing water, looking into the pictures or watching videos related to water, interacting with water present in a sink or glass, and finally turning on and off the faucets.
3. Self-Care Techniques
- Individuals who are suffering from Aquaphobia can even adopt self-care techniques to overcome this problem.
- They include mindfulness-based strategies, regular physical activity, deep breathing, and yoga. All these can be extremely helpful in treating this fear of water.
How to Overcome Aquaphobia? Self-help Techniques
There are almost 19.2 million American adults who have got diagnosed with some phobia or the other. Aquaphobia happens to be the most common among them. This phobia usually develops among people in their childhood.
Certain tactics can prevent this problem from hampering one’s lifestyle. If you or someone in your family has a fear of water, you can prevent the same from becoming a lifelong problem with three useful tips. One must remember that you should follow these tips only along with a family member, friend, or in the presence of an instructor.
1. Face the Panic and Deal with It
- You must take care of your fear by slowly entering a swimming pool. Then you should allow your body to get accustomed to the feeling of water.
- Start by gradually stepping inside the pool’s shallow end. Try standing at knee-deep height inside the water. Once you do that, feel the water on your skin.
- Continue walking slowly till you manage to relieve yourself from the initial fears and anxieties.
- Once you start feeling comfortable with knee-deep water, you might take the next step to waist-deep and then progress to chest-deep inside the water.
2. Confront the Water
- While you are in a shallow area of the pool, make sure that you keep one hand on a railing or the edge of the pool. Then, pinch them with your other hand and take a gentle dip inside the water.
- Repeat the process of dipping your face inside the water till you feel that the fear and tension are slowly fading away from your mind.
- Once you start feeling comfortable with your face while inside the water, try to blow bubbles under the water. You must do that without pinching your nose.
- Stay patient and keep trying hard till you become successful in trying out these little tricks to get rid of fear. It is a significant step toward overcoming your fears connected to Aquaphobia.
3. Try and Attain Comfort with the Deep End of the Pool
- Proceed toward the deep end of the pool only when you are ready. There is no need to force it. Working your way toward treading or floating water in the deep end can take several years to attain expertise.
- When you finally become ready to get into the deep end, begin by dangling your legs over the edge of the pool. Then, you can gradually start sliding inside the water while you hold on to it.
- In the meantime, try to practice kicking. Focus on holding on to your weight upright in the water.
Summing Up from ‘ThePleasantMind’
Aquaphobia is an aversion to or an intense fear of water. It happens to be a specific phobia. People tend to develop these phobias in their childhood.
An individual might suffer from this phobia after experiencing traumatic or emotional experiences in or close to water. There is also a possibility that a child may acquire the problem from either of their parents.
The good thing is that Aquaphobia is highly curable. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Exposure Therapy are the two effective modes of treatment that can help lower the feelings of anxiety, fear, and panic among people who suffer from this irrational fear of water.
A Psychologist with a master's degree in Psychology, a former school psychologist, and a teacher by profession Chandrani loves to live life simply and happily. She is an avid reader and a keen observer. Writing has always been a passion for her, since her school days. It helps to de-stress and keeps her mentally agile. Pursuing a career in writing was a chance occurrence when she started to pen down her thoughts and experiences for a few childcare and parenting websites. Her lovable niche includes mental health, parenting, childcare, and self-improvement. She is here to share her thoughts and experiences and enrich the lives of few if not many.