Thalasophobia, fear of the sea

Thalasophobia, fear of the sea

We are at the beach with friends. One of them shouts: "We go swimming to the furthest buoy!". We start swimming towards the buoy and we realize that we no longer stand. It is getting deeper and darker. Fruit of the passion of the moment we have accepted to swim towards a place far from the shore, but when we are aware that we do not know what we have underneath, we begin to get nervous. We arrive at the buoy and remain with the companions in the water, without standing up while we observe that the bottom is dark. Anxiety and discomfort is increasing more and more. If this happens to us, we may suffer from thalasophobia.


  • 1 Thalasophobia
  • 2 Symptoms of thalasophobia
  • 3 What is the reason?
  • 4 Treatment


Thalasophobia represents an intense fear of the sea. "Thalassa", comes from the Greek and means sea; and "phobos," fear. It has different degrees of intensity and exposure. We may love to go by boat but we are terrified of swimming where we don't see the bottom. We may also like the beach, but viewing images like propellers of large underwater boats can cause us discomfort. In another degree, the simple mental image of the sea depths can also awaken us discomfort. It is possible that the fear is so great that we are not even able to set foot in the water.

This phobia can also cover part of two other phobias: batophobia and hydrophobia. The first involves fear of depth; The second, to the water. Batophobia does not necessarily have to occur in the sea, it can appear in long corridors, in deep pools or before a large vertical hole. Thalasophobia can appear at different times and circumstances and, above all, it depends on each person.

Symptoms of Thalasophobia

Like the vast majority of phobias, the main emotional symptom of thalasophobia is intense fear. A fear that may be accompanied by different physical symptoms:

  • Sweats
  • Palpitations
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Agitated breathing

TO cognitive and behavioral level Different symptoms may also appear:

  • Difficulty thinking
  • Anxiety.
  • Catastrophic thoughts.
  • Avoid the dreaded stimulus.
  • Escape the situation

For what is this?

The reasons for this phobia can be multiple and varied. On the one hand, it can arise from the collective imaginary about the popular belief that when we don't see the background any kind of strange creature can appear. Perhaps it is a belief induced by many films. Recall that the film "Shark" by Steven Spielberg, generated fear of the beach in many bathers. Legends like Kraken's may also have influenced this type of fear.

The fear of the unknown also becomes important. Not knowing what we have under our feet can generate intense anxiety. The sea and the ocean are still great strangers, so we can develop fear towards what we ignore. Nevertheless, This phobia can extend to not wanting to bathe on the beach or not wanting to ride a boat. In the first case, it could be a more acute case of fear of what the sea may hold; In the second case, it could be the fear of an accident happening and we end up in the water.

Traumatic experiences at sea can also be related. If we have ever experienced any kind of adverse event related to the sea or the ocean, it may have conditioned us. For example, having been about to drown, having seen others in danger, someone in our family died at sea, having witnessed an accident ... Each of us lives and interprets the same situation differently, so this type of event can affect us in one way or another.


The treatment of this phobia could be done through cognitive behavioral therapy, specifically with a technique known as Systematic Desensitization. It is based on reciprocal inhibition. Consists in cause phobic symptoms gradually while creating states of relaxation. Vallejo-Slocker and Vallejo (2016), state that "According to this principle, psychologically and biologically relaxation competes with anxiety responses because they are physiologically opposite responses".

Working in imagination can also be an effective technique.. In systematic desensitization you can work with the imagination. It is about exposing ourselves through imagination to the feared situation. It depends on the degree of aversion generated by the sea, we start with one type of visualization or another. We can start imagining the sea, or we can also imagine bathing where we don't stand. After an initial interview we will know the point where the person is face.


Vallejo-Slocker, L. and Vallejo, M. (2016). On systematic desensitization. A surpassed or renowned technique. Psychological action, 13 (2), 157-163.

American Psychiatric Association. (2018).Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th Edition). Madrid: Pan American Medical Editorial.