Thalassophobia: Fear of Oceans and Large Water bodies

Thalassophobia: Fear of Oceans and Large Water bodies


Imagine an endless stretching ocean, its deep blue colour merging with the horizon. The rhythmic sounds of the waves feel like soothing music. The salty breeze refreshes your mind as it touches your skin. Didn’t this magically relax you?

What if I say such a visual gives panic attacks to a few people? Yes, people living with Thalassophobia fear the oceans. Let’s read more about this.

Thalassophobia: What is it?

Thalassophobia is a type of specific phobia represented by intense and persistent fear of deep water bodies like the sea, ocean, etc. Thalassophobia, like other specific phobias, has symptoms very similar to anxiety making it a part of anxiety disorders. People with Thalassophobia can even be triggered by looking at a picture of a deep water body. They either avoid the marine world or confront it with overwhelming anxiety. Thalassophobia falls under the Natural Environment Type of specific phobias. A few other phobias that are closely associated with Thalassophobia include: 

  • Aquaphobia (Fear of water)
  • Antlophobia (Fear of floods)
  • Bathophobia (Fear of depth)
  • Cymophobia (Dear of waves)

Thalassophobia: What are the causes?

Though there is a lot of research happening to find the exact causes of Thalassophobia, the below are said to be the foremost reasons.

  • Early Experiences: Prior traumatic experiences like drowning may manifest a fear of deep water bodies. Not just personal experiences, but witnessing such events or even exposure to such news information can also be a cause.
  • The Family Dynamics: Growing up in a sensitive or anxious family background can lead to the development of phobias. Additionally, observing another family member with Thalassophobia or other phobias may result in causing it.
  • The Primal instincts: The primal fear of uncertainty that gets triggered for basic levels of survival and safety also contributes to phobias such as Thalassophobia.
  • Genetics: Based on research, there is a 30% to 50% chance of transmission of fear-related genes through generations. 

Thalassophobia: What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of Thalassophobia are very similar to that of anxiety disorders. Common symptoms are discussed below.

Bodily Symptoms 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Sweating 
  • Palpitations 
  • Trembling 
  • Muscle tension 
  • Upset stomach
Cognitive Symptoms 
  • Irritability 
  • Lack of concentration 
  • Sense of loss of control
  • Fear of foreboding 
  • Feelings of overwhelm
  • Obsessive dooming thoughts
  • Avoidance of feared stimuli

The symptoms show up when there is exposure to or even thoughts about the deep sea and ocean. Let us look at the other triggers of Thalassophobia.

Thalassophobia: What are the triggers?

  • Exposure to news about traumatic experiences related to oceans or sea.
  • Being near deep water bodies like the sea, ocean, lakes, pools, etc.
  • Not able to feel the bottom when in water.
  • Seeing pictures of water bodies.
  • Travelling on ships, boats, etc.
  • Visiting beaches.

Thalassophobia: What are the treatment options?

One distinct feature of phobias is the avoidance of the fear-causing stimuli. Therefore, if left untreated Thalassophobia can significantly limit a person’s life. Thalassophobia like other phobias is highly treatable, although the treatment can be sometimes uncomfortable. This is because treatments of phobias would include exposure to the feared stimuli.

Desensitization Technique 

Desensitization helps people face their fears gradually, teaching them to feel less afraid over time by safely confronting what scares them. It is meant to be the most effective treatment for phobias. If a person with Thalassophobia takes up the desensitization technique, it would include initial exposure to pictures of deep water bodies. Then, move on to watch videos or animations related to oceans. Finally, guiding them to experience a real pool or a lake. By gradually facing the feared stimulus in a controlled way, the person learns it is not dangerous. This helps them start connecting it with positive experiences.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT for phobias helps by identifying negative thought patterns about fear, teaching new ways to think and react, and gradually making changes in behaviour. In the case of Thalassophobia, it is more effective when combined with desensitization techniques.


Though there isn’t any direct medication to cure Thalassophobia, often antidepressants are prescribed to treat the symptoms. Also, sedatives are used to relax the person when they have to confront fearful situations like travelling on a ship for work. It is highly important to seek help for Thalassophobia or any mental health issue when it starts to interfere with the quality & functioning of the person’s life.

Thalassophobia: How to deal with it?

  • Stay committed to the treatment plan: Desensitization techniques for thalassophobia include uncomfortable moments that might tempt someone to quit. However, continuing with persistence will reveal its benefits.
  • Resist unhealthy coping: It may look easy to deal with distressing symptoms through unhealthy coping ways like substance abuse or alcohol. But, they do more harm than good.
  • Involving in relaxation techniques: Finding a few mindfulness, meditation and relaxation techniques that work helps greatly during the recovery process.
  • Practising secure self-exposure: Gradually facing your fear can be a powerful strategy for overcoming it. Having supportive people around who can ensure safety is also an effective coping method.

Thalassophobia: How to prevent it?

  • The first step towards prevention would be to get help during initial symptoms of anxiety related to deep water bodies. This would help prevent the fear from forming into a phobia.
  • Family dynamics also play an important role in the causation of Thalassophobia. Therefore, avoiding unhealthy reactions to oceans, sea, etc in front of the children can prevent them from adopting fear.
  • Concentrating on physical health can have a positive impact on how well triggers are identified & managed before they go out of hand.

When dealing with Thalassophobia, it is extremely crucial to practice self-compassion. Taking time and support to address the fears is pivotal. The most important step is to seek expert intervention for overall well-being.


What is Thalassophobia?

Thalassophobia is a type of specific phobia represented by intense and persistent fear of deep water bodies like the sea, ocean, etc. Thalassophobia, like other specific phobias, has symptoms very similar to anxiety making it a part of anxiety disorders.

Are Thalassophobia and Aquaphobia the same?

Thalassophobia is an intense fear of deep water bodies like ocean, sea, etc., Aquaphobia is a fear of water.

Is Thalassophobia curable?

Thalassophobia can be treated by seeking help through exposure therapy and CBT.

What triggers Thalassophobia?

A few triggers include being near deep water bodies, visiting beaches, seeing pictures of water bodies, etc.,

Read More from Psychologs

References +
  • All About Thalassophobia (
  • Thalassophobia (Fear of the Ocean): Symptoms and Ways to Cope (

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