For as long as we’ve been going into the ocean, we’ve been afraid of sharks. There’s something about their razor-sharp teeth and cold, dead eyes that just screams “danger.” But why are we so afraid of these creatures? Is it warranted, or is it just a case of selachophobia—the fear of sharks? Let’s take a closer look.
What are Causes of Selachophobia
According to Discovery News, “People tend to be more afraid of things that are large, fast, aggressive and unpredictable.” Sharks tick all of those boxes. They’re also top predators, which can make them seem even more threatening.
Interestingly, our fear of sharks may be hardwired into our DNA. A study published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior found that children as young as three years old showed a preference for images of sharks over other animals.
This suggests that our ancestors who were less afraid of sharks were more likely to survive—and pass on their genes—than those who were scared of them.
Of course, there’s also the fact that sharks have killed humans. In 2021, there were 73 unprovoked shark attacks.
But it’s important to put things into perspective. You’re more likely to be killed by a bee sting than a shark attack. In fact, you’re more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a shark.
There are a number of factors that can contribute to selachophobia, or the fear of sharks. As we mentioned, our hardwired aversion to these creatures may play a role. But other factors, such as a bad experience or witnessing a shark attack, can also contribute to the phobia.
Some people may also be more prone to selachophobia because of other fears or anxiety disorders. For example, people with a fear of water (aquaphobia) or a fear of death (thanatophobia) may be more likely to develop selachophobia.
Symptoms of Selachophobia
People who are afraid of sharks may experience a number of symptoms when they’re around these creatures or even thinking about them. These can include:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
If you’re afraid of sharks, there’s no need to worry. There are plenty of ways to protect yourself from these creatures.
When you’re in the ocean, swim in groups and avoid areas where sharks are known to congregate.
You can also wear a wetsuit or dive skin to make yourself less attractive to sharks. And don’t forget to use common sense—if you see a shark, get out of the water as quickly and calmly as you can.
Treatment for Selachophobia
If your fear of sharks is interfering with your quality of life, you may want to consider seeking treatment. Treatment options can include the following:
CBT is a type of therapy that focuses on changing the way you think about things. For example, if you’re afraid of sharks, CBT can help you to challenge your beliefs about these creatures.
Maybe you believe that all sharks are dangerous, when in fact only a small number of shark species are harmful to humans.
Or perhaps you think that sharks are always looking for a way to attack humans, when in fact they generally avoid us. CBT can help you to question your assumptions and see things in a new light.
In addition to changing the way you think about sharks, CBT can also help you to face your fears head-on. This might involve gradually exposing yourself to situations that make you anxious, such as watching shark documentaries or swimming in areas where there are known to be shark sightings.
With each exposure, you’ll find that your anxiety decreases and your confidence increases.
If you’re ready to take the plunge and conquer your fear of sharks, cognitive-behavior therapy can be an incredibly effective tool.
If you’re one of those people who get anxious at the thought of swimming in the ocean, you may be surprised to learn that meditation can actually help you overcome your fear of sharks.
Meditation is a powerful tool for managing anxiety and stress. By focusing on your breath and letting go of racing thoughts, you can train your mind to stay calm in the face of fear.
And while it may seem counterintuitive, spending time picturing yourself swimming peacefully with sharks can actually help to reduce your fear. This is because when we meditate, we are not only training our minds to be calm, but we are also building up our self-confidence.
So if you’re ready to take the plunge and conquer your fear of sharks, meditation may be just the thing you need.
While there is no cure for selachophobia, medication can help to lessen the symptoms and make it easier to cope with the fear. Commonly prescribed medications include beta-blockers and antidepressants.
Beta-blockers work by reducing the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid heartbeat and shaking. Antidepressants, on the other hand, help to improve mood and reduce feelings of anxiety.
With the help of medication, people with selachophobia can begin to enjoy their life again without fear of sharks.
How To Protect Yourself from Shark Attacks
While the chances of being attacked by a shark are relatively low, there are still some steps you can take to protect yourself.
Swim in Groups
One of the best ways to protect yourself from a shark attack is to swim in groups. Sharks are more likely to attack lone individuals than they are groups.
So if you’re going to be swimming in areas where sharks are known to frequent, make sure you do so with a group of people.
Use Shark Repellent
There are a variety of shark repellents on the market that can help to keep these predators at bay. These repellents work by emitting a sound or scent that sharks find unpleasant.
While they’re not 100% effective, they can still help to reduce the chances of being attacked.
Avoid Swimming at Night
Another way to protect yourself from shark attacks is to avoid swimming at night. Sharks are more active in the evening and early morning hours, so it’s best to stay out of the water during these times.
If you must swim at night, be sure to do so with a group of people and use shark repellent.
Phobias Similar to Selachophobia
Some people who are afraid of sharks may also be afraid of other animals, such as snakes, dogs, or birds. This is known as animal phobia, or zoophobia. Other animal-related phobias include:
- Arachnophobia: The fear of spiders
- Ophidiophobia: The fear of snakes
- Cynophobia: The fear of dogs
- Ornithophobia: The fear of birds
- Ichthyophobia: The fear of fish
- Galeophobia: The fear of great white sharks
- Thalassophobia: The fear of the ocean
So, there you have it. Our fear of sharks may be based on instinct and experience—but it’s definitely not rational. The next time you’re at the beach and you find yourself thinking about Jaws, remember that you’re much more likely to be injured by a sandcastle than a shark!
FAQ – Selachophobia: Fear of Sharks
Is selachophobia the same as fear of fish?
No, selachophobia is the fear of sharks specifically. People who are afraid of fish may have ichthyophobia. Fish are different from sharks in many ways, including their size, appearance, and behavior.
What causes a phobia of sharks?
There is no one specific cause of selachophobia. It may be based on instinct, experience, or even media portrayal of sharks. Some people may be more prone to developing phobias due to genetics or other factors.
How common is selachophobia?
It’s difficult to say how common selachophobia is because many people who have this fear may not seek treatment. A 2014 study found that 8.6% of Americans reported having a specific phobia.
What is the fear of sharks in pools?
There is no specific phobia for the fear of sharks in pools. However, this may be a symptom of selachophobia or another animal animal phobia.
Is galeophobia the same as selachophobia?
No, galeophobia is the fear of great white sharks specifically. Selachophobia is the fear of all sharks.
Can people overcome selachophobia?
Yes, with treatment, people can overcome their fear of sharks. Treatment options can include cognitive-behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and medication.