Does the vastness of the ocean freak you out? Does the prospect of deep sea diving send a shiver down your spine? If so, you’re not alone. It’s called thalassophobia, which is a fear of open water. The word comes from the Greek word “Thalassa,” which means sea or ocean.
A friendly warning: This story contains images that may be upsetting to people who suffer from this phobia.
If you’ve never experienced this particular fear, I suggest you watch the movie “Open Water” and get back to me. The disaster film explores the greatest fear of those who suffer from thalassophobia, when a couple on a group scuba diving expedition gets left behind, leaving them stranded in the middle of the ocean, with only their life jackets to protect them.
When you think about it, a fear of open water is not irrational. After all, the ocean is filled with dangerous wildlife, like sharks.
Then there’s the possibility of drowning. Even if you’re a strong swimmer, rip currents are unpredictable. It’s actually part of our survival instinct to fear these dangers, but thalassophobia can become excessive and put a damper on potentially enjoyable activities, like a day at the beach or a snorkeling trip.
If you suffer from this phobia, facing your fear can be key to overcoming it. Also, looking at images that depict the situations you’re scared of can actually be beneficial. It’s a form of exposure therapy, a common treatment for phobias and anxieties, which aims to desensitize the sufferer through repeated exposure to the very thing they fear. According to the American Psychological Association, exposure therapy has been scientifically proven to be an effective treatment for phobias and several anxiety disorders.
In fact, there are threads on Reddit dedicated to posting images related to specific phobias, including thalassophobia. Experts say that looking at these images can be an important step in helping people overcome their phobia. Here’s an example of the types of images posted to the r/thalassophobia Reddit page.
“When progressing from something that elicits a milder version of your fear to the most feared/avoided situation on your hierarchy, with respect to your phobia, I think there’s a place for images and videos, when people aren’t ready to approach the real thing,” Dr. Leorra Newman, a psychologist at CBT Associates in Toronto, explained to Vice.
What’s more, people can find support in other members who suffer from their same phobia in these forums. Would you dare to browse through a thread that featured images of things you are scared of?