Aquaphobia: How To Beat Your Fear Of Water

Do you struggle with aquaphobia?

Are you wondering how to overcome your fear of water?

Well, the good news is there’s hope!

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…And in this guide, you’ll discover the tried, tested and proven ways to overcome aquaphobia – even if it’s something you’ve struggled with for years…

What Is Aquaphobia?

While most of us consider water a source of enjoyment and extreme fun, for some people, the mere thought or sight of water literally gets their heads spinning. 

There are those who fear the strong waves or being deep into the water. 

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Others can’t even stand the sight of a swimming pool:

Such people have an abnormal and persistent fear that prevents them from getting close to a water body, a condition known as aquaphobia. 

Sometimes, this fear can be so prevalent that even being sprayed or splashed with water causes a phobic reaction.  

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What Causes Aquaphobia?

The fear of water is mostly triggered by a prior disquieting experience in or with water. 

Maybe you once experienced an excess CO2 build-up in a full-face snorkel mask that almost sent you unconscious underwater. 

Perhaps you once fell off your fishing kayak and survived drowning by the skin of your teeth. 

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Such incidents can be traumatic and would prompt aquaphobia. 

But some aquaphobia sufferers just pick up the fear from their parents.

Mental conditions such as fear or anxiety and some other types of phobias can be genetically inherited

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So, if one of your parents of family members naturally fears water, there is a likelihood of you sharing their fear. 

A study conducted by the Mayo Clinic, shows that sometimes changes in the brain function can also trigger the development of specific phobias. 

There are countless reasons why person may find water dreadful, but a previous awful incident always plays a bigger part. 

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Symptoms Of Aquaphobia

Just looking at water can trigger profound fear and nervousness in people with aquaphobia. 

And one doesn’t need to be next to an ocean or such large water bodies. Something as small as water in a sink can cause this fear. 

Even going out in the rain can be terrifying to some people. 

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You see, it’s not the amount of water that triggers the anxiety.

Just thinking about the water itself and the experiences you’ve had with or in it in the past is what brings the fear. 

Of course, the sufferer knows there’s no way they can drown in a sink, but still can’t help but get nervous when around water – whether in large or small quantities.

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Useful Resource: 14 Reasons Why Anxiety Sucks (And How To Fix Them)

Aquaphobia manifests itself in many ways. Here are the symptoms you shouldn’t ignore:

  • Sudden fear, anxiety or intense panic just by thinking about water
  • Persistent fear when near a body of water
  • Realizing that your fear of water is significantly more than the actual threat
  • An extreme urge to avoid water bodies like the ocean, lakes, or swimming pools or you struggle to get into a shower
  • Trembling and sweating profusely 
  • A rapid heart rate
  • Nausea 
  • Dizziness 
  • A feeling of choking

How To Treat Aquaphobia: 7 Tried And Tested Approaches

If you experience the above symptoms, it’s advisable that you see a mental health specialist.

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Being a specific phobia, aquaphobia will usually respond to treatment pretty well. 

The most common treatment for aquaphobia is psychotherapy:

Your doctor might recommend either cognitive behavioral therapy or exposure therapy

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Let’s dig a little bit into these...

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Here, you’ll learn how to challenge your believes and thoughts about water in general and your fear for it. 

Your therapist will help you identify any distorted perceptions or patterns of thinking that result in anxiety. 

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You may be required to record your reactions to various events in your life as part of your therapy. 

Sometimes your therapist may give homework assignments like filling a bathtub with a small amount of water and trying to step in. 

You may also be asked to visit a larger body of water like an ocean or lake while remaining at a safe distance. 

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Since you’re required to keep a journal of all these events, with time you will have created a reliable pattern of your thoughts, both positive and negative.

Your therapist will use the recordings to help you replace the negative perceptions or thoughts with more positive and constructive ones.  

With a good cognitive behavioral therapist, you’ll learn how to:

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  • Control distorted reactions and thoughts
  • Assess emotional behavior and reactions to various water-related situations comprehensively and accurately 
  • Reflect and respond to your fear appropriately

Every win you document increases your confidence and shapes you into a valiant being. Eventually, you will be able to take up even those water-related activities you never thought possible, fearlessly.

Other behavioral therapies that can be used to treat aquaphobia include:

2. Group Therapy

Your therapist may organize group sessions for people with different or similar phobias.

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Attending such sessions and listening to how someone overcame their fear of flying or fire may give you useful insights on how to confront your own fear of water.  

3. Family Therapy

If your fear of water is genetically inherited, or the therapist feels that being in a session with people you love will help alleviate your condition, they may recommend family therapy. 

While this is commonly used to treat children with aquaphobia and other phobias, adults have also been found to benefit from family sessions. 

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Part of this is because the session leaves everyone in attendance feeling obligated to support the aquaphobia sufferer. 

The more encouragement they give to the person, the higher the chances of getting positive results. 

4. Exposure Therapy

Though exposure therapy is mostly used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD), it can also be beneficial to people with aquaphobia. 

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This is because it targets the behaviors that people develop in response to memories, thoughts, or situations that are deemed frightening or fear provoking. 

For instance, you may avoid going near water bodies for fear that you’ll drown.

This learned avoidance behavior, (in your head), will guarantee your safety. 

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Well, it’s true, avoidance can be an effective protective response.

However, as it becomes more extreme, the quality of your life may slacken. 

You may start experiencing difficulties in relationships or at work or lose contact with your family. 

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Moreover, avoidance behavior can make the symptoms of aquaphobia stick around for a longer period or even worse, intensify. 


Because you are trying to stay away from certain thoughts, situations, or emotions instead of taking the time to process them. 

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If an aquaphobia sufferer decides to fully think about the negative experiences instead of avoiding them, they’ll eventually learn that these experiences are not quite as terrifying as they may seem. 

The objective of exposure therapy, therefore, would be to lessen your fear by helping you get rid of the avoidance behavior. 

You will be taught how to actively confront situations, memories, and thoughts that trigger your fear of water. 

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An exposure therapist can use a couple methods to challenge the avoidance behavior. Read on!

5. In Vivo Exposure

In vivo exposure involves directly confronting the actual stimuli.

When used to treat aquaphobia, the therapist assists the affected person in facing the water-related situation directly. 

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For instance, if you fear going to a pool you once drowned in, your therapist will suggesting visiting the pool and directly confronting that fear. 

6. Imaginal Exposure

How about when you aren’t able to directly confront your fears? Your therapist will try imaginal exposure. 

Here, you will be asked to imagine the situations or images you fear the most.

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  • Is it being near an ocean? 
  • Standing in the rain? 
  • Or seeing water in a bathtub?

By painting these images and memories in your mind, you can be able to confront them without actually being “in the situation”. 

7. Interoceptive Exposure

Some people go into a complete panic mode when they see water or come into contact with it. 

They’ll start to sweat, have trouble breathing, and in severe cases, lose consciousness. 

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If you experience such symptoms when near or in water, let your therapist know.

Interoceptive exposure will be introduced to help you confront these bodily symptoms. 

You may be asked to hyperventilate for a few minutes or hold your breath in a safe and controlled manner, or an antiperspirant may be prescribed to minimize sweating. 

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Complications Of Aquaphobia

If aquaphobia isn’t treated, it can escalate to a point where the sufferer’s life is completely impaired, either by the fear itself or attempts to hide or avoid it. 

For example:

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You may find that with time, you are completely unable to use anything that gets you coming into contact with water. 

It could be bathing or even doing your own laundry. Some people have even suffered chronic dehydration as a result of severe aquaphobia. 

Sure, there may be times when a person will show spontaneous improvement, but aquaphobia usually won’t disappear without treatment. 

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Cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy are some of the most effective treatment plans for people with aquaphobia. 

In some cases, a therapist may also prescribe medication such as sedatives to reduce anxiety, antidepressants to help in emotional balance, or beta-blockers to slow the heart rate. 

The anxiety caused by aquaphobia can be life threatening especially for people with high blood pressure or heart disease. 

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It can increase the risk of heart attack or damage to the brain’s blood vessels. 

6 Empowering Tips For Overcoming Aquaphobia

In addition to undergoing treatment, there are a few more things you can do to overcome your fear of water. 

The following tips will benefit anyone who avoids undertaking water-sporting activities such as swimming and boating…

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1. Work with a knowledgeable and experienced instructor

Talk to your instructor before the sessions about your fear of water and find out what strategies they would employ to help you overcome it. 

2. Start slowly and be patient

Just because someone confronted their fear in only a few sessions doesn’t mean it’ll take you similar attempts to overcome yours. 

We all learn things differently, and what worked for someone else may not work for you. 

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Begin slowly:

Work on just being close to a pool and graduate to sitting on its side and dipping your feet into the water. 

Give yourself enough time to get accustomed to the water and feel confident around it. 

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3. Understand that you can’t sink!

Human beings always stay afloat, either near or on the water’s surface. This is due to their body and bone density. 

Even if you sink, your body will come back up on its own. 

Understanding this can play a huge role in helping you overcome the fear of sinking and being stuck at the floor of the pool. 

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4. Take a deep breath and relax

start slow with aquaphobia

To be at ease while in the water, practice deep breathing and try to relax your body while still on the land. 

Walk around the pool to jumpstart your muscles. 

This will prepare you both physically and emotionally and give you the confidence you need to hit the water. 

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5. Celebrate your wins

Every achievement counts, no matter how small. 

You just don’t overcome your fear overnight. It takes time, commitment, and lots of patience. 

Accepting this and rewarding yourself for every progress you make will keep you motivated to keep going. 

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6. Take swimming classes

Even though the above tips can help people with aquaphobia overcome their fear of water, swimming classes are the surest way to glide, float, and stay safe in the water. 

swimming with aquaphobia

Remember to always take someone who understands your condition with you whenever you go swimming, just in case. 

Final Thoughts

It’s not unusual to have some extent of fear of water, but when the fear gets abnormally persistent, it would be wise to seek medical assistance.  

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Aquaphobia is real and its effects can be mentally and physically detrimental to those living with it. 

Good news?

It’s treatable:

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If you are beginning to show symptoms of aquaphobia, have it treated the soonest possible. Later, the condition may have escalated to something hard to attend to. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy have been found to work perfectly in aquaphobia cases. Your therapist will recommend the best for your specific case. 

Practicing being near water and taking swimming lessons can also help you confront your fear of water and get you swimming safely. 

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Just don’t forget to celebrate your achievements!