the popular fear of summer that could ruin your beach vacation

A small coastal town in the Eastern United States. A shark attacks several people, but the mayor refuses to close the beaches for what it could mean for the local coffers. This only increases the death toll, while the neighbors continue to search for the scrawny.

Today, the special effects of the film by Steven Spielberg, SharkThey are not so impressive anymore. But at the time of its premiere, in 1975, sowed mental chaos in the spectators and created a real panic about what the oceans could contain. It is what is known as the thalassophobia.

Frame from the movie 'Jaws'.

Frame from the movie ‘Jaws’.

Universal Pictures

For most people, going to the coast in summer is a real joy. Bathe in the best coves and snorkel to see the wonders that the sea contains. Nevertheless, for a part of the population, the open sea can become a hell blue.

According to the American medical journal healthline, the thalassophobia is a “intense phobia or fear of large bodies of water”, such as the ocean, the sea and the great lakes. The word comes from the Greek Thalassa (sea) and phobos (fear).

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What can trigger it

In general, phobias, according to Dr. Vanessa Fernandezpsychologist and professor at the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM), “they can appear because of what is called classical conditioning. That is to say, that the person has had an experience in which he has had a bad time”.

Another main reason is because observational learning or transmission of information. That is, events that “have not happened to you personally, but you know that there have been people who have suffered them.” The example Fernández sets is that of people who are afraid of flying: “Most have not had a plane crash, but know its consequences”.

So, “deep waters or heights are situations where it is very likely that human beings will have problems,” says Fernández. And he explains: “We have saved a survival instinct in the genes which tells us: hey! If possible, try to avoid these circumstances”. That makes some types of phobias much easier to develop.

What are your symptoms

Thalassophobia shares certain symptoms with other specific phobias, such as claustrophobia – fear of small spaces. Its defining characteristic is that triggered by exposure to or thoughts about deep water.

Therefore, people may experience thalassophobia in a different way. Some can enter panic when swimming in deep water, are in a boat or when they cannot touch the bottom of the pool with their feet. Others even experience a irrational fear just thinking about the ocean or looking at pictures deep water

File image of a man lost in the sea surrounded by sharks.

File image of a man lost in the sea surrounded by sharks.


Maria Hergueras It is one of the many cases of thalassophobia, and he says that he developed it gradually. “This problem has not always been, but arose as a result of having to do competitions in the sea for a triathlon. The first year I had no problems, but little by little I began to develop fear and every time I entered the sea I felt anxiety“, Explain.

His fear is developed mainly by what may be under the waters. “give me panic what may be under the water. What happens in my mind is that I feel that there is something inside the sea, that the bugs are going to come for me.”

But not only that, but nor can you see photos or videos of the seabed. “It gives me a lot of anxiety,” he admits. For Hergueras, it is somewhat frustrating because she loves to swim, but she is not able to be anywhere where she cannot see the bottom.

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what solutions are there

For Dr. Fernández, the most effective treatment for such a phobia is cognitive behavioral therapywhich consists of a combination of relaxation, cognitive control and exposure techniques.

Is about “teach tools the patient to manage their fear through relaxation techniques, control of their thoughts and the self-instructions that are given in the situation”. Also through a “programmed and hierarchical exposure (from less to more) to situations that scares them.”

The latter, for Fernández, is perhaps the most important to resolve this type of phobia. In any case, it is always It is advisable to go to a professional to diagnose the problem and indicate the guidelines to solve the appearance of a problem such as thalassophobia.

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