Aquaphobia is a fear of water. People with this specific phobia feel anxious when they think about or see water. They may avoid baths, showers, pools and bodies of water. Many people with aquaphobia have had traumatic experiences with water. You can overcome a phobia of water with exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and medication.
People with aquaphobia have a fear of water. The word “aqua” is Latin for water, and “phobos” is Greek for fear.
Someone with aquaphobia may have extreme fear or anxiety when thinking about or seeing water. They may avoid going places near water, such as swimming pools or lakes. In severe cases, people may stop showering, bathing or using water from the sink to wash their face or brush their teeth.
Phobias are a kind of anxiety disorder. They involve extreme fear of an event or situation that isn’t necessarily harmful in reality.
Aquaphobia is a type of specific phobia disorder. A particular object (water) leads to a fearful response.
Someone with aquaphobia may be afraid of:
You may be more likely to develop aquaphobia or a different type of specific phobia disorder if you already have:
Other phobias linked to aquaphobia include:
Hydrophobia is a fear of water related to a late-stage rabies infection. People with hydrophobia have muscle spasms when they hear, see or taste water.
Aquaphobia is an extreme fear of water not related to a physical condition or illness.
Between 2% and 3% of Americans have aquaphobia. This disorder affects children more than adults.
Possible causes of aquaphobia include:
Aquaphobia symptoms can range from mild to extreme. The most common symptoms are extreme anxiety when around water and when thinking about water. Other symptoms include:
Anything related to water may bring on aquaphobia. Aquaphobia triggers include seeing or thinking about water in:
If aquaphobia disrupts your life, your healthcare provider may recommend seeing a mental health professional like a psychologist.
You may have a specific phobic disorder if the fear of water:
Exposure therapy is one of the main treatments for aquaphobia. During this therapy, your mental health provider exposes you to circumstances and imagery that may trigger your symptoms. They gradually help you manage your response. As many as 9 in 10 people with specific phobias see their symptoms improve after getting this type of psychotherapy (talk therapy).
During exposure therapy, you progress through these steps:
Other therapies to overcome aquaphobia include:
Severe aquaphobia can impact your quality of life. You may not want to take a bath or shower, which can affect your cleanliness and self-esteem. Your risk of disease may also increase if you don’t keep yourself clean.
The thought of meeting friends or family at a beach or swimming pool can cause extreme anxiety. You may stop wanting to leave your house at all and develop agoraphobia.
Some people with aquaphobia may have panic attacks. These attacks can lead to:
Constant worries about having panic attacks can lead to panic disorder. This condition may require long-term use of anti-anxiety medications.
You can take care of yourself with aquaphobia by continuing with any treatments that help control your symptoms.
You should see your healthcare provider if you have:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Aquaphobia is a fear of water. People with aquaphobia have severe fear when they see or think about water. They may be afraid of baths or showers, drinking water, large bodies of water or swimming pools. Aquaphobia treatments include exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnotherapy and medications. These treatments can help you feel better about being in contact with water in your daily life.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/28/2022.
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