Aquaphobia is defined as the persistent, illogical and irrational fear of water. This fear although not common is widespread throughout the world.
Antecedent to further studies in aquaphobia, it is paramount to address the misconception between the following terms; Hydrophobia and Aquaphobia. Both these conditions are not the same: Hydrophobia is used to refer to the fear of water developed in last stage of Rabies. While Aquaphobia is a social phobia that is defined as the persistent, illogical and irrational fear of water.
Phobics are known to evoke in their minds – images of dying in water, drowning, gasping for breath, or encountering ghouls, unseen things such as snakes or sharks in the water.
Most often, victims of Aquaphobia are non swimmers and people who have had traumatic experiences in water.
Some phobics do not only fear and avoid large water bodies such as lakes, ponds or rivers, many even fear running water or water being poured onto their heads.
Although the fear of drowning is a rational and logical fear experienced by many who cannot swim most aquaphobic individuals experience bouts of anxiety attacks around all kinds of water bodies ranging from large rivers and lakes down to small pools and puddles.
Other phobics cannot even look at an image of the ocean or rivers without experiencing chills.
A few are aware that they will not drown in a bathtub; but they are unable to control thoughts of death and Thanatophobic thoughts that conjure up in their minds.
CAUSES OF AQUAPHOBIA:
Studies have shown that about 19.2 million Americans are victims of different specific phobias including Aquaphobia.
The common causes of aquaphobia include;
* The origin of this phobia can be linked to prior traumatic incidents with water. Here, one might have experienced drowning firsthand by being pushed into a water body as a prank, or fallen off a boat or deck into a large waterbody. One might also have witnessed a traumatic event such as the drowning or death of a loved one in water.
* The fear of water can sometimes be learned from caregivers or parents: these adults might have given too many cautionary warnings to the child about going into or near the water. Media, Stories, movies, incidents or news reports about drowning etc can also instill a deep sense of fear of water.
* People who are not familiar with water, such as individuals who have grew up in sandy desert areas are more likely to develop Aquaphobia.
Generally as well people who are very anxious or uptight most of the time are more likely to develop Aquaphobia in opposition to those who have normal social habits.
SYMPTOMS OF FEAR OF WATER:
Physical and physiological symptoms of aquaphobia include;
* Deep fright and aversion of water at all costs.
* Anxiety or panic attacks at the thought of facing water.
* Victims of Aquaphobia often have poor physical hygiene as they avoid taking baths for long periods of time at a stretch.
* At the sight of water, they start to hyperventilate; have higher blood pressure and increased heart rate or shallow breathing.
* They might pass out or faint if they see any sight of water
* shaking, Sweating, trembling, crying and other signs of loss of control.
The symptoms of aquaphobics differ with varying degrees and extents of the phobia. Some patients are not even aware of their phobia and their mind subconsciously comes up with creative ways of averting contact water rather than facing embarrassment or experiencing emotional distress.
TREATMENT AND OVERCOMING AQUAPHOBIA:
Popular to most cases of Aquaphobia, the victims do not seek treatment since their daily life is not affected as a result of the phobia.
However, if the fear of water is overriding or debilitating one’s social, familial and recreational activities then one must seek out ways to reduce distress and achieve control over the fear of water.
Many methods have been shown to treat aquaphobia, the most popular being a combination therapy approach using medication, meditation and group counselling therapy. It has shown to produce results with fast rates of success.
Prior to treatment, a medical consultant must be involved to properly diagnose the presence of the social phobia in the affected individual.
Other methods include;
* Exposure therapy is the first line of treatment for treating aquaphobia. There are two basic types: in-vivo or virtual exposure. In either case, the individual is exposed to the fearful stimulus( large or small waterbody) and is conditioned to unlearn his fear of water.
* In combination with exposure therapy, doctors often prescribe certain medications that can help the phobic relearn how to react to fears and also help reduce the effects of the panic attacks. For example, SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) can reduce panic attacks. Keep in mind that these drugs do not have long-lasting effects and might cause withdrawal in the phobics ingesting it. Therefore, proper prescription and utmost care must be observed to prevent addiction and prolonged usage.
Many ways have been studied and many methods of overcoming aquaphobia will still emerge within the next decade. It is best to know which methods suits well and is easily adaptable to which phobic, as phobics vary from one another.