Aquaphobia – the fear of water

Have you ever noticed those people who despite your repeated requests, reassurances, fun-inspired comments and even the odd push, won’t go near or in the water?

Aquaphobia or Hydrophobia is a fear of going in or near the water.

Darwin's Beercan Derby is an annual event!

This phobia affects about 10% of the population with a totally unreasonable and debilitating affect on the individual at even the thought of going in or on water, such as on a boat or a jet-ski.

Check this out for a fear of the water

For a country like Australia bounded by the ocean and having so many rivers and creeks to enjoy fishing, boating and swimming, or other water sports, it is very sad to see so many people afflicted with Aquaphobia. The photo at right shows a beercan boat made (yes it is) from beercans and somehow joined together. Paddlers climb on board and have to paddle a predefined area and come in first to win!

What Causes Aquaphobia?

There are numerous factors that can cause aquaphobia, such as:

A bad experience in the water and you don’t have to be a child when this happens. Perhaps Mum or Dad or and older brother or sister threw the child in the water and said “you’ll have to learn to swim or sink!” This would be very frightening for anyone who couldn’t swim, young or old.

Sometimes there has been an accident with a boat, rubber tyre, canoe or wakeboard.

Or how about being a teenager and being dive-bombed by your peers, and it’s too close for comfort. Or someone ducking you under when you are not confident in your swimming abilities or a bit out of your depth?

One of the more unusual things I’ve heard was of someone who got taken by a crocodile in a past life and died. In this lifetime they refused to go near the water and from a very young age were able to relate what happened.

For myself, at about age 40, I was canoeing on the Tully River and flipped over, and couldn’t get the pull strap free so that I could get out and I was unable to right the canoe through lack of experience. The thought went through my mind that I could drown and I was running out of air, so I had to sternly tell myself to calm down without taking a breath. I commanded myself to focus and put all my attention on to releasing the pull cord and suddenly I was out and could get to the surface.  It was a very scary experience and I am a reasonably confident swimmer so I can easily understand another’s fear of the water. Fortunately I have not been left with phobic residue.

Treatment for Aquaphobia

Overcoming aquaphobia takes more than a desire to be relaxed about water. It takes determination and commitment too.

Hypnosis or hypnotherapy may be useful for planting seeds of desire, confidence and determination as well as getting to the root cause of the problem. Sometimes we simply don’t know what the trigger has been for this anxiety-provoking phobia, and hypnosis and timeline therapy may work with the subconscious mind to treat the symptoms at their cause. Remember, all phobias have an element of learning so that should mean they can be ‘unlearnt’.

Read more here on help for Aquaphobia

Learning relaxation techniques may also assist because then the aquaphobe has strategies which may help to reduce their anxiety. Learning how to swim with a registered swimming teacher may also help when the person is ready for that next step.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy might also be used to address the thought patterns that kick in and help to maintain the phobia. Thoughts such as, “It’s not safe, what if I get stuck, I hate the water” can be overturned and replaced with more positive statements, as part of the therapy.

Systematic desensitization can also be used so that breathing techniques are combined with short encounters with water and lots of support from your psychologist.

The thing is that phobias do not relinquish their grip by avoidance of the trigger. Most people with a fear of the water will also avoid the water. The fact is that avoidance of water continues to reinforce hydrophobia or aquaphobia, so that the very thing the person tries to avoid becomes the predominant focus of attention and thus acts as the trigger of a phobic reaction even when there is no trigger present.  Take the plunge and seek help.

2012-11-14 River ferry in front of Rama IX bridge on the Chao Phraya River, Bangkok

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