What is Aquaphobia?

Aquaphobia (also known as hydrophobia) is the irrational and persistent fear of water or the pathological fear of water spaces. It is a specific phobia that is also commonly associated with fear of rabies. (The term “hydrophobia” is the historic name for rabies.)

Phobics concerned with large bodies of water will fear the possibility of drowning and the inability to breathe as well as possibly having a fear of the unknown or loss of control. The condition may not significantly affect the quality of life of the patient living far from the sea, etc., but may still be present.

In extreme cases, the sufferer may fear any water in any form, including drinking water, etc., and the fear of rabies is tied to the historic use of the term as well as the symptoms of rabies, in which patients exhibit aggressive behavior, increased secretion of the salivary glands, spastic pains, delirium and hallucinations.

Aquaphobia is also related to kynophobia (fear of dogs or rabies), hydrophobophobia (fear of rabies) and lyssophobia (fear of going insane or getting rabies).

The name originates from the Greek word “hydro” meaning “water".

Symptoms of Aquaphobia

  • extreme anxiety, dread
  • shortness of breath
  • rapid breathing
  • heart palpitation
  • excessive sweating
  • nausea
  • dry mouth
  • confusion / inability to articulate clearly
  • lack of focus
  • irritability
  • diarrhea
  • shaking
  • feelings of powerlessness
  • obsession with the subject of the phobia
  • fear or feelings of losing control
  • avoidance behavior
  • headaches

Learn more about phobia symptoms

Causes of Aquaphobia

Aquaphobia is a specific (or “isolated”) phobia, centered on non-social key factors. Isolated phobias tend to have some previous trauma (often in childhood and often physically injurious) as a root cause; a fear of bees may stem from an injury in childhood, for instance.

Upbringing can also play a role, such as parental warnings about a direct threat (such as “snakes can bite and kill you”) which is especially notable in cases where a threat is more imminent. (An allergy to bees or peanut butter, for instance, would naturally reinforce a real medical concern.)

It is thought that genetics and hereditary factors may play a role in specific phobias, especially those related to a danger of injury. (A primal “fight or flight” reflex may be more easily triggered in those with a genetic predisposition, for instance.)

By contrast, social phobias (like a fear of body odor or touch) are less well understood, are driven by social anxiety and are broadly labeled as “social anxiety disorder”.

In all kinds of phobias, external experiences and / or reports can further reinforce or develop the fear, such as seeing a family member or friend who is affected. In extreme cases, indirect exposures can be as remote as overhearing a reference in conversation or seeing something on the news or on TV and movies.

Hydrophobia, like most phobias, stems from a subconscious overprotection mechanism, and as with many phobias can also be rooted in an unresolved emotional conflict.

Learn more about the causes of phobias

Treatment for Aquaphobia

  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)
  • Habit strategies to relax
  • Cognitive therapy (CT)
  • In vivo exposure
  • Response prevention
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Group therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Energy Psychology
  • Medication
  • Meditation

Learn more about phobia treatments


Book Shelf

The list of books below are hand picked by the staff at Massive Phobia. It's a mixture of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Habit Strategies, Trauma Healing, Mindfulness, Meditation, Buddhist Knowledge and Somatic Study. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did.