Fear of Sharks – Galeophobia
Many fears are founded on preservation of life, or basic survival, and sharks are certainly a predator worthy of respect and caution. On balance, to be fair, you are more likely to die from a motor vehicle accident than a shark and most of us willingly trade our feet for wheels of some description whether to save time, or because of the distance to be travelled.
“(in 2011) Seventy-five attacks occurred worldwide, close to the decade average, but the number of fatalities doubled compared with 2010. Fatalities occurred in Australia (3), Reunion (2), the Seychelles (2) and South Africa (2), with one each in Costa Rica, Kenya and New Caledonia. The average global fatality rate for the last decade was just under 7 percent, and it rose to 16 percent last year. Excluding the U.S., which had 29 shark attacks but no deaths, the international fatality rate averaged 25 percent in 2011, Burgess said.”
Evolutionary psychologists believe that shark phobias are based on that survival instinct, yet people can still be very afraid of sharks even when they are on dry land, or in a boat. Perhaps being scared on a boat is rationalised by worries of the boat sinking, but what is the reason that one can be scared on land?
And that is the very nature of a phobia, it’s an unreasonable and irrational fear that persists over time, it is not alleviated by rational and logical arguments and triggers intense feelings of anxiety that can escalate to panic.
Just as some people cannot even bear to hear the word “shark”, there are those who cannot cope with pictures of a shark, or seeing a shark on a television program or movie, or in an aquarium. (This can also be true for those with phobias of snakes, birds, moths, etcetera as well.)
I’m not sure of the number of people who suffer from Galeophobia, but if you have found this blog, perhaps you can leave a comment if you have some idea of this.
Other causes of Galephobia?
There are several potential causes of the fear of sharks:
- Mum or Dad was terrified of being taken by a shark and so children learn to fear sharks based on this learnt behaviour
- An incident occurred with a shark for the person themselves, or they know personally of a friend or family member who was involved in a shark attack
- The media overplays a shark incident, accompanied by dire warnings
- Past life incident involving a shark attack
- The movie “Jaws” has a lot to answer for!
Symptoms of Fear of Sharks
- Intense fear of sharks, or of going into the water in case of sharks
- Anxiety: tingling, trembling, fight, flee or flight response kicks in, nausea, hyperventilation
- Panic: inability to think clearly, feeling like fainting, can’t breathe
- Obsessive thoughts of this fear
- Mental castigation over this fear
What can you do if you have this fear? In the scheme of things, anything that is holding you back from living life fully needs to be dealt with because the toxic onslaught of chemicals into your bloodstream every time you are in the throes of fear will certainly impact on your health and well-being.
How about hypnosis?
Hypnosis works by by-passing the gate-keeper of your mind, your ego. Your ego is like the public relations or PR department of your mind and body. Your ego wants to preserve your identity and of course, your life. Your ego knows that you have a shark phobia and rationalises it by saying “that’s okay, we want to live!” and takes every step possible to keep you safely away from sharks.
Under hypnosis, the phobia can be de-constructed, because the ego or gatekeeper has opened the gate to your sub-conscious mind and this allows the new and improved suggestions to filter in and replace the outdated beliefs.
More than one session may be needed as the sub-conscious loosens its connections with the phobia, but sometimes huge changes can occur in the first session.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT is also useful for fear of sharks, as the person is taught to replace their fear-filled thoughts with rational and logical thoughts, accompanied by deep breathing. For example, I’m on land, so I am safe. Or, a TV show can’t deliver a shark into my lounge room, that’s really silly, and I am totally safe. Or, I’d rather be with my friends enjoying the water then miserable and alone. Perhaps this would work: I’ll learn about sharks and find out just how useful they are to the eco-system and the environment so that I appreciate them for their contribution to my life.
Find a psychologist who will take you through an In Viva Exposure therapy program. This would start with rating your response to pictures or videos, getting you to deep breathe and say positive statements while watching the program and regularly re-rating the response. Over time, the anxiety reduces and when sufficiently reduced, training could move to an aquarium with small sharks in the tank, and later still to a full-sized aquarium such as those at Underwater World or Seaworld and finally, to swimming in the aquarium.
This process can take many sessions to achieve however, it may be worth it to be without this paralysing fear.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)
There are several techniques from NLP, such as the Phobia Technique, the Swish Pattern, and the Compulsion Blow-out pattern, which have been used effectively for phobias.