You probably know that humans have only explored about 5% of the world’s oceans. But did you know that the number of viruses in the ocean outnumbers the amount of stars in the Milky Way? Or how about the fact that the deepest part of the ocean stretches down about 36,200 feet? How much do you know about hydrothermal vents? As it turns out, these deep sea vents can reach temperatures of up to 700 degrees Fahrenheit. But don’t worry, if you ever made it that far down, you’d likely be crushed by the water pressure before you were melted.
Are these facts starting to make you sweat? If so, you just might have thalassophobia, or the intense fear of large bodies of water. While many of us love a trip to the beach or going swimming in a warm lake in the summer, these places serve as other people’s worst nightmares. And if you’re certain that you’re purely a land creature, you might want to avoid this list. But if you’re interested in exploring the depths of the ocean and the insane amounts of power that water has, you’re in for a real treat.
We’ve gathered some of our favorite posts from the Thalassophobia subreddit down below to captivate, and possibly terrify, you pandas. Be sure to upvote the pics that you find most fascinating (or unsettling), and let us know in the comments how you feel about vast bodies of water. Then, if you can handle even more of these scary photos, you can check out Bored Panda’s last article on thalassophobia right here! Now, cue the Jaws theme song!
The Thalassophobia subreddit has been around since 2013, and it’s become an incredibly popular place since then. It currently has 1.2 million members, and it is home to countless posts featuring how frightening and amazing the world’s bodies of water can be. From photos of creatures that look like they’re from another planet to gigantic waves that could take out entire towns, this online community certainly makes it clear how one could be scared of vast bodies of water. Personally, I’ve always loved swimming in the ocean and taking a trip to a lake, but it only takes one close encounter with drowning to remind you just how powerful water is.
If you’ve never heard of thalassophobia, let’s break down exactly what it is and how it typically manifests itself. Similar to any other specific phobia, Healthline explains that thalassophobia can include symptoms such as restlessness, feeling on edge or worried, being unable to concentrate, irritability, muscle tension, sweating or looking flushed, increased heart rate, trembling, chest pain or discomfort, a feeling of impending doom, a sense of loss of control, upset stomach, chills or hot flashes, and trouble sleeping. In short, it can certainly negatively impact a person’s quality of life.
If you start to feel like you’re experiencing any of those symptoms just by viewing the pics on this list, feel free to swim away as fast as you can. These photos can be extremely triggering. But if you want to combat your thalassophobia head on, exposure therapy is one possible form of treatment. Betterhelp recommends finding a fitting method to expose yourself to what exactly is causing your fear of bodies of water. “If your fear stems from an inability to swim in deep water, you may take a swimming class,” they explain on their site.
“If you’re worried about sea creatures, you may try visiting them at an aquarium. If you’re able to look directly at your fears, you may be surprised by how quickly you’re able to move past them.” It is best to do this with the help of a professional, so today, viewing this list on your own might be a bit too overwhelming. But if you are experiencing discomfort, anxiety or fear around topics such as this, know that you’re not alone.
It’s actually quite common to have some sort of fear revolving around bodies of water. According to the Cleveland Clinic, about 3% of Americans have aquaphobia, and many people have other water-related phobias including ablutophobia (fear of bathing), cymophobia (fear of waves), megalohydrothalassophobia (fear of underwater creatures or objects), submechanophobia (fear of submerged objects), and thalassophobia. These phobias often stem from past traumatic events involving water, negative stories about water, their family history or being exposed to someone else with the same fears.
But aside from people who have a phobia associated with water, plenty of other people are simply scared in deep water. According to Cision, 46% of American adults are afraid when in a pool where the water goes over their heads, and 64% of American adults are scared in deep, open water. This is a perfectly normal reaction; technically, there is possible danger present when we’re surrounded by water so we should be aware of it. It’s important to stay safe and avoid being alone in deep water because you never know what will happen. And if your fear comes from being unable to swim, don’t be afraid to do something about it! It’s never too late to learn how to swim and feel more confident in water. (Not to mention how much fun swimming is!)
M. Ellen Dash, founder and CEO of Miracle Swimming for Adults in Sarasota, Florida, told Cision, “People want to know how to swim. Those who learn to swim welcome summertime. But many fail swimming lessons. Unbeknownst to most instructors, the failure is often due to panic during lessons,” she explained. “Many people consider panic a normal step of learning. However, students will only endure this emotional pain to a point, after which they quit. If they return to traditional lessons years later determined to learn, they are often met with the same system that is blind to the harm done by panic. The cycle continues.”
“It’s okay to be afraid in water,” Dash says. “No one is afraid for a silly reason. Yet everyone needs to know how to swim. Find a program that will work for you.”
If the idea of getting in the ocean is just too much for you, perhaps we can assuage some of your fears. I consulted this list from Parade that explains why we have no need to hold some of the most common fears associated with the world’s oceans. For example, if you’re scared of sharks, it might be helpful to know that it’s extremely unlikely to be bitten by one. While hundreds of millions of people take a dip in the ocean every single year, only between 70-100 of them worldwide will have a bite taken out of them by a shark. “Sharks’ senses are legendary so this isn’t because sharks don’t know we’re there, it’s because we’re just not on the menu,” says marine biologist David Shiffman. Just so you know, more people are killed by vending machines than sharks.
Are stingrays another sea creature that makes you uneasy? Rest assured, their stings are rarely fatal. Shiffman explained to Parade that stingrays are not even capable of stinging us unless we step on them, so if you’re in an area that’s known to house them, try walking using the “stingray shuffle”. Basically, this just means to drag your feet across the sea floor rather than picking up your feet with every step. This way, you’re much more likely to just scare them away than to accidentally end up with a sting.
If fear of drowning is what triggers your thalassophobia the most, understand that it is a reasonable fear to have, but there are also plenty of precautions that can be taken to ensure your safety in water. First, it’s important to have protection. Wear a life jacket, and make sure you have friends or family members nearby in case anything goes wrong. Learn basic swimming skills, and don’t take risks by venturing out into deep or unpredictable water. And always be prepared for an emergency. Learn CPR, and swim somewhere that has a lifeguard on duty. By taking a few extra steps and safety precautions, you can have a great time enjoying the ocean. (And if you’re really too nervous, feel free to stay on the sand building castles and searching for seashells!)
I hope this article has not given you a new phobia to discuss with your therapist this week. The ocean is an incredible place, and while we may know little about it, we do know that plenty of people (myself included!) have made countless, wonderful memories by visiting it. It’s good to be cautious, but don’t let fear keep you from enjoying your life. Keep upvoting the photos that you find particularly haunting or captivating, and let us know in the comments whether or not you have thalassophobia. Then, if you’d like to dive even deeper into the world of being frightened by huge bodies of water, you can find our last article on the same topic right here!