What Really Causes A Fear Of The Ocean

The ocean can be a scary place. Especially when a person's fear of it is exaggerated by sensational movies like Steven Spielberg's 1975 classic thriller Jaws. The New York Post reports that the movie has instilled such strong fear of the ocean in people that even some phobia experts admit that it keeps them out of the water, despite empirically knowing that the chances of a shark attack are super rare.

According to Healthline, a fear of the ocean is called thalassophobia, and it can be so strong in some people that even walking on a beach or driving by the ocean can trigger panic attacks. In extreme cases, people may not even be able to look at a photograph of the ocean or hear the word spoken aloud without feeling anxiety. But why are some people so frightened of the ocean? What causes this fear, and what can you do if you're too scared to take a dip in the big briny blue?

A range of factors, including genetics, can cause a fear of the ocean

According to Verywell Mind, a variety of factors other than watching Jaws (and being a cat) can cause an unhealthy fear of the ocean. The phobia could be passed down through your genetics. Let's face it: the ocean is a dangerous place, and staying out of it is a good way to ensure you don't die, so you may have inherited this survival gene if you suffer from thalassophobia.

If you're scared of the ocean because of a bad experience around water, then it probably isn't hard to pinpoint where your fear comes from. Having a close call while swimming will obviously affect how you look at large bodies of water in the future.

Lastly, like so many other habits, a fear of the ocean might be learned from those around us as we grow up. You might have a family member who has a fear of the ocean and passed it on to you, intentionally or not. Hearing people's horror stories — or watching scary movies — about the ocean can also cause it.

Various behavioral therapies, like exposure-based treatments, can help if you have an irrational fear of the ocean. Even if you never want to get in it, you might have a fear of even flying over it, so this and other treatments, like cognitive behavioral therapies and systematic desensitization, may be able to help.