Fear of depth: causes and methods of getting rid of it

Bathophobia is the name given to an irresistible fear of depth. This is not just fear, it is a fear of bodies of water and deep pools. A person can easily wash their hands, drink tea and bottled water. Feel free to step into a puddle. But the sight of a lake, river or sea takes his breath away. A bath with water is also not credible. She prefers the shower. Why bathophobia appears, how it manifests itself and whether it is possible to get rid of it, read this article.


Destructive bathophobia or fear of water is the most complex case. It is associated with vivid fantasy and mental disorders. A man at sea does not enjoy beauty, but imagines sea monsters, situations in which he could drown. These are fantasies based on films and fairy tales.

Destructive bathophobia occurs in nervous people, as a rule, with a fine mental organization and wild imagination. Against the backdrop of one’s own fantasies, one may feel as if one hears the voices of mermaids, sees a shark’s fin above the water, or feels the depths draw in.

All three forms of bathophobia are reversible. For each of them, psychologists will select individual therapy.

Physical manifestations of the disorder

If there is a fear of water depths, a person exhibits specific symptoms at the physiological level:

  • increased heart rate;
  • dryness in the mouth;
  • development of nausea, vomiting;
  • pounding in the temples, dizziness, loss of balance and orientation in space, headaches;
  • muscle numbness, tingling in the body;
  • fever, chills;
  • a feeling of increasing suffocation, intermittent breathing.

Reasons for the development of fear of depth

Bathophobia is caused by various events from childhood or adulthood.

  • Fear of a child choking in the bathtub.
  • Water has flowed into your ears or nose, causing pain.
  • Someone close or familiar drowned or almost drowned.
  • A man witnessed someone drowning.
  • The child listened to or watched fairy tales/films where sea monsters dragged ships to the bottom and mermaids killed sailors.
  • Films about shipwrecks.
  • Fear of getting tangled in seaweed or a fishing net.
  • Myths, legends told to an impressionable person.

Any traumatic events associated with water can trigger the development of bathophobia or fear of depth.

Behavior of a person suffering from a fear of depth

People with bathophobia diligently avoid situations where they will have to face their fear:

  • Going to the beach.
  • Walk along the embankment.
  • Swimming in the pool.
  • Swimming in open waters.
  • Many people are afraid to even take a bath. Most often these are children, but this phobia also occurs in adults. They prefer showers.
  • Watching films about water, monsters, sea adventures.

Many people are afraid not of the depth itself, but of getting entangled in algae. Fear arises from the inability to swim out. This happens if there have already been similar cases.

At the root of bathophobia, like many other fears, is the fear of death. A strong instinct of self-preservation dictates to beware of dangerous situations. But the problem is what is considered a dangerous situation:

  • Is it dangerous for a child to bathe in the bathtub under adult supervision?
  • Is it dangerous to sail a boat on a river if you know how to swim?
  • Is it dangerous to swim in the sea with thousands of other beachgoers?
  • Is it dangerous to swim in a pool under the supervision of a professional instructor?

No. And the psyche passes off such and other similar situations as danger. The threat is false. But the body’s reaction is real and so is bathophobia.

People who conquered the depths

The relatively shallow depth is not as hostile as it may seem to a person suffering from a phobia, and is even capable of submitting to people. For example, on September 18, 2014, Egyptian diving instructor Ahmad Gabr made the deepest scuba trip in open water. He managed to descend to a depth of 332 meters.

In July 2021, the longest stay under water was recorded. A Turkish diver (Cem Karabay) was able to survive in the water for 142 hours, 42 minutes, 42 seconds. The record holder among women is Australian Christy Quill. Her record was 51 hours and 25 minutes.

Among representatives of the scientific field, Fabien Cousteau, the grandson of the world famous scientist Jacques-Yves Cousteau, became famous for his longest stay in the marine environment. The researcher and his team spent 31 days in an underwater research laboratory located at a depth of 18 meters.

Symptoms of bathophobia

  • Uncontrollable fear when bathing, swimming.
  • Anxiety if you need to go to a potentially dangerous area (to the sea, to a river, to cross a body of water by boat).
  • Weakness in arms and legs.
  • Dizziness.
  • Nausea, feeling hungry, or complete lack of appetite.
  • Lump in the throat.
  • Feeling of derealization (as if everything is unreal).
  • The desire to go further from the water.
  • Increased pulse, palpitations.
  • Increased pressure.

These and other physiological signs confirm the presence of a phobia or fear of depth and water.

How does bathophobia manifest (signs)

Symptoms of fear of water are divided into anxious and phobic. Anxious symptoms occur when a person has no contact with water, and phobic symptoms occur when there is direct contact.

Bathophobia is a severe psychological disorder that is accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • attacks of chills or fever
  • extreme thirst and dry mouth
  • numbness of limbs, cold
  • high blood pressure and rapid heartbeat
  • nausea and dizziness
  • panic attacks
  • strong psychological arousal, the person suffocates, the heart begins to beat faster
  • loss of control over body and emotions
  • a person experiences anxiety from thoughts about depth
  • imagination draws terrible pictures of death

The fear of depth manifests itself not only when a person is directly near the water, but panic begins even at the sight of pictures, photos and videos of deep bodies of water . Even excellent swimmers suffer from this phobia, who, unexpectedly in an instant, can experience panic at the sight of the depths beneath them. In such situations, it is very difficult to pull yourself together, cope with your fear and take control of your body. At such moments, the instinct of self-preservation must work; a person needs to abstract from thoughts about the depth and save his life.

The emergence of a huge number of symptoms and causes gives impetus to the fact that a person refuses to swim in bodies of water of any size. When such a disorder occurs, it is necessary to look for ways to help overcome fear.

Treatment of bathophobia

Bathophobia or fear of depth can be treated with the right approach.

What are the advantages of treatment with a psychotherapist?

  • He will make the correct diagnosis.
  • Reveals the type of fear.
  • Find the cause of the fear of depth.
  • Prescribe the right sedatives to relieve anxiety.
  • Eliminates associated disorders.

Fear of depth can be confused with fear of water. A person cannot independently diagnose himself. It happens that there was no traumatic situation related to water at all. He’s just an impressionable person, he’s seen enough films. Or has irrational beliefs about water and depth.


There are several types of bathophobia:

  1. Objective – the individual feels fear due to the presence of a real potential danger to health and life. For example, a person susceptible to manifestations of bathophobia may not be able to dive and rise to the surface independently.
  2. Destructive – fear of the ocean, of depth, the root of which lies in negative irrational thoughts and expectations regarding the upcoming stay in the water.

What can you do about bathophobia yourself?

  • Create positive associations with water. Watch positive films about fish, beautiful photographs of the depths of the sea.
  • Slowly force yourself to go into the water. First, just wet your feet. Then - knee-deep. And so gradually. You can do this in the pool.
  • Remember all possible traumatic situations that contributed to the development of bathophobia. Take them apart. Develop the correct reaction.
  • Eliminate fear from the subconscious, replace it with positive feelings. Every time you feel fear, replace it, for example, with sympathy for sea creatures. Admiration for sailors and surfers.

The list is small. Psychotherapy is an ever-evolving industry. And this is the best solution for everyone who suffers from one form or another of bathophobia. Psychologists see more than a person can understand on their own. In some cases, psychologists suggest using hypnosis. In a state of hypnosis, the doctor works directly with the subconscious. This way you can not only find a forgotten memory from childhood, but also change negative associations. This is an impact directly on the cause of the problem.

After treatment with a psychotherapist, the fear of depth disappears. There are no more negative associations with water. A person does not feel in danger while on the coast or in his own bathroom.

How to help your child overcome his fear of depth

Children's fears are more complex and deeper than those of adults. It is better to take a child suffering from bathophobia to a psychotherapist. You can only do things on your own that you know won’t do any harm. You can watch documentaries about the inhabitants of the sea. Show the sea from the good side. You can fill the bath with some water and let your baby play. Be sure to wear sleeves to completely prevent water from getting into his nose. Children don't like this.

You can watch other children swim in the pool. With your child's permission, you can try to teach him to swim. But this is done very carefully so as not to provoke a panic attack.

If a child is afraid, you should not drag him into the water. Often scars on the psyche are left by the good old method of parents. This is how many people used to be taught to swim: father and son swim on a log to the middle of the river, and there the father pulls the log out from under his son. Where to go? Instinct makes the child swim.

Such methods leave scars on the human psyche. As a result, bathophobia then appears. You can't do this to a child. There are many other methods to teach a child to swim. But they all need to be used carefully. Especially if there is a fear of depth or water.

What is claustrophobia?

Claustrophobia is a psychopathological syndrome, the main manifestation of which is the fear of closed and/or cramped spaces. Among all phobias, it occupies a leading position. The name itself consists of the Latin “claustrum”, which means closed room, and the Greek “phobia”, which translates as fear.

Clinically, claustrophobia is accompanied by anxiety and fear when the patient enters a closed room, especially a cramped one, without windows or from which exit is difficult. Some people with this disorder cannot sit in an elevator, train compartment, car or airplane. In addition, panic can occur not only indoors, but also in any circumstances that restrict movement, for example, in a crowd, crowded transport, large crowds of people at the entrance or exit, queues, etc. Moreover, the forms of manifestation of a phobia can be of very different strength - from slight discomfort to panic attacks.

Many people don't even realize that they suffer from claustrophobia. For example, people usually explain the desire to always keep the door of their room open, the inability to sleep peacefully in a completely closed bedroom by the fact that it is difficult for them to breathe in a closed room. But in fact, a person lacks air precisely because of the unconscious fear of a closed space and the breathing disorder it causes. If the process does not progress, then this condition does not affect the quality of life in any way, but with increasing symptoms and the addition of new places and reasons for the occurrence of attacks of claustrophobia (elevator, car, etc.) it leads to significant restrictions on a person’s freedom of movement and communication. Sometimes the suffering becomes so severe that a person cannot enter a utility room or closet without locking the door in the open position, and he gets to work on foot, avoiding any transport. He cannot enter the subway, attend public events, etc. In this state, a person prefers to stay at home and do remote work. Constantly making sure to avoid closed, cramped or isolated rooms and places has a devastating effect on the psyche and can lead to severe depression. A person is almost always in tension and reacts in panic to any spatial restrictions. At the same time, he perfectly understands that the threat to his life and health is practically minimal, but he cannot cope with the fear that arises.

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