Understanding Aquaphobia – The Fear of Water

  • Time to read: 8 min.

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Aquaphobia, or the fear of water, is a surprisingly common phobia that can have serious repercussions for those affected by it. People with aquaphobia often avoid swimming pools and beaches, which can lead to feelings of isolation and depression. It’s also important to note that this fear isn’t limited to just adults; children can experience aquaphobia as well.

For many people with aquaphobia, simply being near water is enough to cause extreme anxiety and panic attacks. This specific phobia can manifest itself in different ways from person-to-person but it all boils down to one thing: an irrational fear of something harmless.

In this article we will explore what causes aquaphobia, its symptoms, and how you can manage your unreasonable fear if you are suffering from this condition.

What is Aquaphobia?

Aquaphobia is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is a persistent and irrational fear of water, which can include anything from a small pond to a large swimming pool. The word aquaphobia is derived from the Latin words aqua (water) and phobia (fear), and is also known as hydrophobia. 

People with aquaphobia may feel anxious, panicky, and even experience physical symptoms like sweating or tremors at the mere thought of water or being near it. The fear can be so intense that it prevents them from engaging in regular activities such as swimming or even taking a shower. 

The causes of aquaphobia are not entirely clear, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. Some people may have a genetic predisposition to anxiety disorders, while others may have had a traumatic experience with water, such as a near-drowning incident. 

Interestingly, aquaphobia can also be traced back to historical times when people believed that the water carried deadly diseases, especially during epidemics of cholera, smallpox, or typhoid. This led to extreme fear and avoidance of water, which eventually became ingrained in people’s minds and passed down through generations. 

Aquaphobia is a serious condition that can greatly affect a person’s quality of daily life. However, with proper treatment and support, it is possible to overcome this phobia and enjoy the benefits of water-based activities. If you or someone you know is struggling with aquaphobia, seek the help of a mental health professional to receive appropriate treatment and support to overcome this persistent fear of water.

Causes of Aquaphobia

Although it may seem like a trivial fear, aquaphobia can be extremely debilitating and can cause significant distress to those who suffer from it. In this section, we’ll take a closer look at the causes of aquaphobia and explore some of the risk factors that that contribute to this water phobia.

Traumatic Experiences

One of the most common causes of aquaphobia is a traumatic experience that occurred in or around water. This could be anything from being caught in a rip current at the beach, to nearly drowning in a swimming pool or deep bodies of water. Trauma can have a long-lasting impact on our psyche, and it’s not uncommon for people to develop aquaphobia or a fear of water after a frightening experience.

For example, someone who was caught in a rip current and struggled to stay afloat may develop a more severe fear of the ocean or open water, while someone who had a bad experience in a swimming pool may avoid any body of water altogether. In addition, if someone has a fear of sharks, for example, they may also develop a fear of the ocean, since that is where sharks typically live.

Learned Behavior

Another common cause of aquaphobia is learned behavior. This occurs when we learn to associate water with danger or fear because of something we’ve seen or heard. For example, if a parent or family member was afraid of water and expressed this fear in front of us, we may internalize this fear and develop a phobia ourselves. Similarly, if we witness a traumatic event involving water, such as a near-drowning or a fatal accident, we may develop a fear of water as a result.

Genetics and Biology

While traumatic experiences and learned behavior are two of the most common causes of aquaphobia, there may also be a genetic or biological component to this fear. Studies have suggested that some people may be more predisposed to anxiety and phobias due to genetic factors, and this could also be true of aquaphobia.

Additionally, some researchers believe that certain biological factors, such as differences in brain structure or chemistry, may contribute to the development of specific phobias themselves.

Symptoms of Aquaphobia

Aquaphobia, also known as hydrophobia, is a real and serious condition that affects many people worldwide. It is characterized by an intense and irrational fear of water, which can make it difficult or even impossible for sufferers to engage in water-related activities.

In this section, we’ll be discussing some of the common symptoms of aquaphobia, including how they manifest and how they can impact the day-to-day lives of those affected.

Physical Symptoms

When faced with water, people with aquaphobia often experience a range of physical symptoms that can be very distressing. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Severe cases of sweating
  • Chest pain
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Hyperventilating, shallow breathing, rapid breathing
  • Nausea or vomiting with an upset stomach
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

These more severe symptoms can manifest even when the person is not in the water but simply thinking about it or seeing a body of water in real life or in media. The physical symptoms can be just as severe whether the water is running from a tap, in a pool, or in the ocean.

Psychological Symptoms

Aquaphobia can also cause a range of psychological symptoms that can have a significant impact on a person’s many other common mental disorders and health conditions. Some of the most common psychological symptoms include:

  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Intense fear or dread
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Avoidance of any water-related activities.
  • Nightmares or intrusive thoughts about water

These symptoms can be so severe that they can interfere with daily activities and social interactions. For example, a person with aquaphobia may refuse to attend pool parties or beach vacations, which can impact their social life. They may also avoid taking showers or baths, causing them to have hygiene issues.

Symptoms Experienced at Different Ages

The symptoms experienced in aquaphobia vary in different age groups. For children, the fear of water can be characterized by crying, tantrums, and clinging behavior when facing the situation. Some children may even display the symptoms of selective mutism, where they cannot speak in the presence of water, resulting in an inability to ask for help or say their own name.

In contrast, older individuals may become acutely aware of their mortality and feel a sense of detachment or depersonalization when they are near water. This detachment is usually a form of dissociation, where the mind can become disconnected from the body in extreme anxiety-inducing situations.

Managing Fears Related to Aquaphobia

Aquaphobia, the fear of water, is a common phobia that affects millions of people around the world. For some, the thought of being near water can bring about an anxiety response with a range of physical symptoms such as sweating, shaking, and extreme anxiety. However, there are unique ways to manage your fear and start enjoying water-related activities without the burden of overwhelming fear.

Education and Information

Education and information are powerful tools that can help you understand your fears and overcome them. Learning everything you can about water safety, swimming techniques and equipment can help ease your worry and make water-related activities more enjoyable. Acquiring knowledge can help you feel more in control, and awareness of safety guidelines can help reduce your anxiety.

Exposure Therapy

One way to manage aquaphobia is through exposure therapy for phobias. This form of therapy involves gradually exposing yourself to your fear until it no longer invokes anxiety symptoms.

You could start by just dipping your toes in the water, then gradually progress to standing in shallow water and swimming in deep water with support. It is essential to work with a trained therapist for this method to be effective and ensure your safety from this specific fear.


Another way to manage aquaphobia is through hypnotherapy, which uses guided relaxation, talk therapy, and mental imagery to access the subconscious mind. This therapy can help identify the root cause of the intense fear and replace negative thoughts and emotions with positive ones.

A skilled hypnotherapist can work with you to create a personalized relaxation script that will help you feel more comfortable and confident around water.

Floatation Therapy

Floatation therapy has become a popular method for dealing with anxiety-related disorders, including aquaphobia. Floatation therapy involves lying in a sensory deprivation tank filled with water and Epsom salts.

The high salt concentration allows for effortless floating on the surface, which is a natural way to help the body relax and release tension. With privacy and peace, this isolation tank encourages deep breathing and the release of endorphins that leave you feeling calm, centered, and free from anxiety.

Final Thoughts on Living with the Fear of the Water

Living with aquaphobia can be difficult, but there are ways to manage your fear and enjoy activities around water. Education and information can help reduce your anxiety when faced with water situations, and exposure therapy can help you gradually increase your comfort levels.

Hypnotherapy and floatation therapy are also good options to help you relax and cope with the fear. With the right tools, it is possible to enjoy water-related activities without the burden of anxiety.

FAQ – Aquaphobia: Fear of Water

Is aquaphobia a mental disorder?

Yes, aquaphobia is a type of anxiety disorder that can cause extreme fear and a panic attack when exposed to water. It is usually treated with therapy, medication, and relaxation techniques that help the individual manage their fear.

Why do I panic in water?

Panic in water can be a sign of aquaphobia. It is important to talk to your doctor about your concerns so they can help you find the most appropriate treatment plan to manage your fear or panic attacks. With therapy, medication, and relaxation techniques, it is possible to overcome your fear of water.

Why does water trigger symptoms of my anxiety?

Water can trigger your anxiety or other mental health conditions because it is associated with a fear or with past traumatic events you experience. It is important to work with a therapist to identify the root cause and create a plan to help you manage your fear of the water and eventually enjoy activities in water.