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Aquaphobia (Fear of Water) : Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

Last Updated: Dec 26, 2020

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What is Aquaphobia?

Aquaphobia is considered as an anxiety condition because of its symptoms that appear when the person comes into contact with a phobia. It also includes behavioural changes: avoidance tactics and escape tactics.

The person will always try to avoid coming in contact with water every time as water will increase the level of anxiety.The adults who live with the fear of water believe that the aquaphobia develops in the earlier stages of life.

It is normal for one to fear the water up to some extent. You can always drown in it. Extremely cold or hot water can harm you or you can be drenched in water and catch a cold.

Most of us get over it as we come in contact with it daily while maintaining some rational fears. But people with aquaphobia live a persistent and abnormal life with their irrational fears as they get near the water.

There are a few people who mistakenly believe that aquaphobia and hydrophobia are the same. Although they both are types of water phobias they both have different causes. Hydrophobia is a fear of water that is developed in the later stages of rabies.

Symptoms of Aquaphobia

The person with aquaphobia is usually triggered by the presence of water, let us make it clear here, that amount of water does not play a role here. People with aquaphobia can feel the fear with the water in the ocean as well as the water in the sink. The water here is the main cause of the trigger.

  1. Physical symptoms: When the sufferer comes into contact with water, they may experience a series of symptoms. These symptoms may cause changes in the functioning of a person. The central nervous system’s activity increases.

    Some of the most common symptoms of Aquaphobia can be:

    • Intense fear of water
    • Being anxious around water or thinking about water
    • Panicking
    • Urge to avoid the water at all cost
    • Sweating
    • Rapid Heartbeat
    • Nausea
    • Dizziness
    • Tight chest and muscles
    • Difficulty breathing
  2. Cognitive symptoms:The physical symptoms that appear when the person suffering come in contact with water are not temporary. The physical symptoms are accompanied by a series of changes. These cognitive changes generate the negative thoughts when they are near or around the water.

    The cognitive symptoms include catastrophic thoughts about what will happen when the person will be faced with water. The person often has doubts about their ability to confront their fear.

  3. Behavioural symptoms: Aquaphobia or fear of water may noticeably affect the behaviour of the sufferer. The two main behaviours that are seen in hydrophobic are avoidance and escape.

    Avoidance behaviour refers to the behaviour the individual develops in their daily life to avoid the contact with water. It may be extreme and so can noticeably affect the individual functioning.

    Escape behaviour refers to the behaviour that sufferer is unable to avoid their stimulus. In these cases, they will try to escape the situation as soon as possible. Behaviour of individuals has a direct relationship with the intensity of fear.

Causes of Aquaphobia

Although specific phobias are widely recognized, it is not yet clear what causes it. However, researchers believe that phobias can be inherited genetically from either of your parents. So, if one of your family members has some mental health issues like any sort of phobia or anxiety, you’re likely to inherit it from them.

Apart from that, a traumatic experience related to the past that occurred in or around water can be a possible cause of the aquaphobia. There are chances some minor but bad experiences during childhood that place in or around water caused it.

How is Aquaphobia Diagnosed?

Aquaphobia is officially recognised phobia, by the mental health organisations around the world as one of the anxiety disorders. Your doctor might use the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to diagnose your mental health.

DSM-5 does not have specific guidelines to determine the aquaphobia, but aquaphobia falls under the specific phobias. Your doctor will use the same guidelines and will compare to your description of the phobia. It is advised to give every detail of whatever you feel to your doctor, it’ll help them get a better insight on your condition.

Based on your explanations, if you feel the above-mentioned symptoms for more than 6 months now, then your doctor is inclined to conclude that you’ve in fact the phobia after clearing all the other possibilities.


Aquaphobia Treatment Plan

Since aquaphobia is one of the specific phobias, it is treated using the methods that they use to treat the other specific phobias. The two forms of psychotherapy that are used - Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Exposure Therapy.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has been proven very effective for the treatment of phobias. In CBT, your therapist tries to suppress negative thoughts and try to modify your thinking mechanism by surfacing the positive thoughts of the mind. In this therapy method, your health expert will eliminate the irrational thoughts that you have when you think about water. It does not completely help with the situation but it helps with the symptoms.

Exposure Therapy is also a type of CBT, where the patient is let to face the fears head-on. This therapy is performed in a controlled and safe environment. Exposure therapy in a combination with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help you get over any type of specific phobia.

In some extreme cases, your doctor might prescribe you a few medications for the symptoms during the trigger. The medications are only to help with the symptoms, they’re never a solution to the problem.

How to Overcome from Fear of Water?

The treatment with the psychotherapy methods and support of the people around you can do the magic. It might be hard, living with aquaphobia but with a little effort, it is not hard to get over it.

If you suspect that you have aquaphobia, we would suggest you take an appointment with your doctor, they’ll find the best treatment that will work the best with you. Apart from that, you can try these things to diminish the symptoms:

  • Have some water-based fun game (if the fear is not extreme)
  • Try meditation and exercising daily
  • You can have a sponge bath if you have fear of more amount of water
  • Talk to people around you and try to explain to them your situation
  • Have the courage to seek medical help when required

Additional Information on Aquaphobia

Aquaphobia, not to be confused with hydrophobia (phobia of water in rabies) or hydrophobic (the tendency of some molecules to repel the water molecules), is an irrational fear of water. It is a type of specific phobia.

If you’re one of the people with aquaphobia, chances are that you start sweating near the water or feel extreme fear. The sources of water include bathtub, swimming pool, ocean, pond or in extreme cases it could be a shower tap.

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I am very much scaring to face the situation an...


Dr. Prakhar Singh

General Physician

You may have Aquaphobia. It is a specific phobia. This is an irrational fear of something that do...

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Written ByDrx Hina FirdousPhD (Pharmacology) Pursuing, M.Pharma (Pharmacology), B.Pharma - Certificate in Nutrition and Child CarePharmacology
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Reviewed ByDr. Bhupindera Jaswant SinghMD - Consultant PhysicianGeneral Physician
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