Thalassophobia: Fear of the Ocean

  • Time to read: 6 min.

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If you have a fear of the ocean, you’re not alone. In fact, you have plenty of company. According to studies, as many as 1 in 6 people suffer from thalassophobia, which is defined as a fear of the ocean or deep bodies of water.

Interestingly, people with a fear of the ocean are not usually afraid of swimming pools or other man-made bodies of water. Nor are they afraid of small bodies of water like lakes or ponds. Instead, their fear is specifically reserved for the ocean. And when you think about it, that makes sense.

After all, the ocean is vast, deep, and mysterious – three things that can be quite scary when you think about them for too long.

What is Thalassophobia?

Thalassophobia is an intense fear of the ocean or deep bodies of water.

This phobia can be triggered by many things, such as seeing a film with sharks or other dangerous sea creatures, hearing about someone who was attacked by a shark or other creature, or even just thinking about being in deep water.

Symptoms of this phobia can include panic attacks, hyperventilating, shaking, sweating, and an overwhelming feeling of dread, like you might die alone in the water. In severe cases, people with this phobia may avoid bodies of water altogether or even leave coastal areas.

What Causes Thalassophobia?

abstract painting of the ocean manifesting the fear of the ocean, or thalassophobia
For more phobia-related art on Instagram:@massivephobia

There are a number of factors that can contribute to thalassophobia. For some people, it may be a fear of sharks or other dangerous sea creatures.

For others, it may be a fear of being unable to see the bottom or feeling like they’re powerless against the forces of nature. And for still others, it may be a combination of these factors or something else entirely. 

In many cases, thalassophobia is thought to be a specific phobia, which is an intense fear of a specific object or situation.

Specific phobias are often the result of a traumatic event or a learned response. For example, if you were attacked by a shark as a child, you may develop thalassophobia.

Of course, it’s also worth noting that this fear can run in families. If you have relatives who are afraid of the ocean, you may be more likely to develop a similar fear yourself.

Additionally, if you had a traumatic experience near water at some point in your life, that could also trigger thalassophobia.

Symptoms of Thalassophobia

abstract painting of a storm on the ocean
For more phobia-related art on Instagram:@massivephobia

People with thalassophobia may experience a variety of symptoms when they’re near the ocean or deep bodies of water.

These symptoms can range from mild to severe and may include:

  • shortness of breath
  • racing heart
  • sweating
  • trembling
  • dizziness

In some cases, people may even experience panic attacks.

If you have thalassophobia, you may go to great lengths to avoid the ocean or any other deep body of water. This can make it difficult to go on vacation or even visit friends or family who live near the coast.

How to Overcome Thalassophobia

If you have thalassophobia and want to overcome your fear, there are a few things you can do. First and foremost, it’s important to understand that your fear is real and that it’s okay to feel scared.

Just know that millions of other people around the world share your fear and that you can get help if you need it.

The first step in overcoming thalassophobia is to identify your triggers. Once you know what sets off your fear, you can begin to work on desensitizing yourself to those triggers.

If you are afraid of sharks, for example, you can start by watching films or documentaries about sharks.

Great White Open Ocean documentary interview

Once you are able to watch those without having a panic attack, you can move on to swimming in pools with sharks (or at least looking at them through a glass wall).

If you are afraid of deep water, you can start by swimming in shallow pools and gradually work your way up to deeper water. This process is sometimes referred to exposure therapy for phobias.

If you feel like you are not making progress on your own, there is no shame in seeking out professional help. A therapist can help you work through your fears and develop a treatment plan that is right for you. 

While thalassophobia can be a debilitating fear, it is important to remember that it is also treatable. With the right help, you can overcome your fear and enjoy the ocean like everyone else. 

Simular Phobias to Thalassophobia

  • Placophobia: This is the fear of tombstones, which can extend to cemeteries as well as holidays like Halloween (the fear of Halloween is called samhainophobia).
  • Scopophobia: This is the fear of being stared at or watched, and it can impair your quality of life by making you feel like you’re constantly being watched.
  • Taphephobia: This is the fear of being buried alive, and it’s often the result of a traumatic event or a near-death experience.

Real Life Experience with Thalassophobia

abstract painting of sharks in the ocean
For more phobia-related art on Instagram:@massivephobia

I have a friend named Johnny. He has galeophobia, or a fear of sharks. No big deal. Lots of people are. However, as he got older, he let his fear of sharks consume him. He started having panic attacks whenever he was in the ocean or even near a pool.

He would have nightmares about being attacked by a shark, and he would wake up in a cold sweat. He even stopped going on vacation because he was afraid of being in the ocean. His fear began to take over his life.

However, Johnny is a fighter. He didn’t want to let his fear control him anymore. So, he started doing research on sharks. He watched documentaries and read books about them. He even went to an aquarium and stood in front of the shark tank.

Slowly but surely, he began to desensitize himself to his fear. Now, he can go swimming in the ocean and he even goes on vacation. He’s not 100% over his fear, but he’s come a long way.

If you’re struggling with thalassophobia, know that you’re not alone. Millions of people around the world share your fear. But, with time and patience, you can overcome it. Just take it one step at a time.


If you suffer from thalassophobia – which is defined as a fear of the ocean – you’re certainly not alone. As many as 1 in 6 people have this phobia, which is more common than you might think.

There are a number of factors that can contribute to thalassophobia including family history, personal experiences, and common fears like those related to sharks or other dangerous sea creatures.

Thankfully, there are also things you can do to overcome your fear or similar anxiety disorders such as understanding that your feelings are real and seeking help from a professional if necessary.

FAQ – Thalassophobia: Fear of the Ocean

Is it possible to overcome thalassophobia?

Yes, it is possible to overcome thalassophobia with the help of a professional therapist and by gradually exposing yourself to your triggers.

How long does thalassophobia last?

There is no set timeline for thalassophobia. For some people, the fear is short-lived and goes away on its own. For others, the fear may be more persistent and last for years or even a lifetime.

What are some common triggers for thalassophobia?

Some common triggers for thalassophobia include sharks, deep water, and the vastness of the ocean (similar to being afraid of large objects).

How do you trigger thalassophobia?

There is no one single trigger for thalassophobia. Instead, it is often a combination of factors including family history, personal experiences, and common fears.

What can thalassophobia cause?

Thalassophobia can cause a variety of symptoms including anxiety, panic attacks, avoidance of trigger areas, and difficulty breathing. In severe cases, it can lead to agoraphobia or claustrophobia, or even a PTSD-type attack.