Bathophobia means the fear of depths. It is fear or anxiety associated with the sea or water bodies of various types, though; many Bathophobic individuals are also known to fear tunnels, mountain valleys or caves.
The word Bathophobia originates from Greek word bathios which means “deep or depth” and phobos meaning “aversion, dread or fear”. People living with this phobia try to avoid lakes, swimming pools, seas, hallways, wells, mountain valleys, tunnels or all other things that have depth associated with them. When they do encounter these, they tend to experience apprehension or have a full blown panic attack. They often realize that their fear is irrational however they are unable to overcome it. In some extreme cases, their fear may even interfere with their daily lives.
What are the causes of Bathophobia?
Like many specific phobias, the causes of Bathophobia are often unknown; however, most experts believe that they stem from negative or traumatic events in the individual’s early life. Thus, having witnessed a loved one drown, or even watching an older adult/caregiver/parent show a fear of depths can trigger Bathophobia. One Bathophobe recalls having been asked by his teacher to plunge his hand inside a 5 gallon jar for removing dead creatures that their class was studying in Biology. He recalls experiencing a “shiver and feeling of great apprehension” at the thought of encountering “the unexpected”. This incident led him to fear depths of all kinds even into his adulthood.
Anxiety and phobias related to deep water bodies such as seas, rivers etc can be precipitated by number of stressors and are often evolutionary. The ocean has, right since times unknown, embodied extreme fears of mankind. These include falling headlong into an abyss, being attacked by dangerous sea predators, fearing overhead environments etc.
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Media, TV and movies, news reports of accidents related to depths can also instill such fear in high strung or anxious individuals.
Many medical conditions are also known stressors that lead to anxiety and phobias: diabetes, menopause, PMS, certain cardiac conditions, thyroid or parathyroid related illnesses combined with daily environmental stress can be deadly combinations that could trigger the fear of depths.
Symptoms of fear of depths
The symptoms of fear of depths phobia vary from person to person and situation to situation. Like in all other specific phobias, the symptoms of Bathophobia include:
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- Feeling nauseated
- Experiencing hot and cold flashes
- Shivering, trembling, trying to flee from the place
- Hysterical response like crying, screaming
- Feeling dizzy, having an elevated heart rate, breathing in rapid and deep manner
- Feeling total loss of control, feeling ‘unreal’.
- Having thoughts of death or dying.
- Feeling trapped or unable to escape
- Avoidance behavior: avoiding the beach and other water bodies or excursions that involve valleys and mountains or traveling through tunnels, etc.
Whatever its symptoms; Bathophobia can cause great emotional turmoil that might interfere with one’s ability to function normally and might completely disrupt the phobic’s day to day life.
Overcoming the fear and anxiety associated with depths
Psychological techniques to overcome Bathophobia
Many people wish to scuba dive. They might have seen pictures and videos of people diving and having a good time. However, their fear of depths prevents them from enjoying activities related to the sea. The use of medications in such individuals has shown favorable results in overcoming stress and anxiety associated with diving. Some examples of medicines are imipramine (Tofranil), propranalol (Inderal) or alprazolam (Xanax). However, doctors often hesitate to prescribe these as they are known to cause extreme drowsiness that can impair a diver’s ability to focus and concentrate.
Non-pharmalogical techniques are the best bet to overcome fear of depths phobia. To name a few: Hypnosis, systematic desensitization, CBT or cognitive behavior therapy, Implosion therapies etc have all been known to successfully help people overcome Bathophobia.
A series of mental exercises such as imagining oneself approaching a valley or deep water body, or stepping into the water body or wearing the scuba diving/paragliding equipment and actually diving are known methods of overcoming one’s anxiety response. Some other methods include in-vivo exercises such as actually standing in waist deep water or walking in the pool etc.
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These are a few proven methods of overcoming Bathophobia once and for all.