Aquaphobia (Fear of Water)

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.


What is aquaphobia?

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.


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What is a phobia?

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.

What does a person with aquaphobia fear?

Someone with aquaphobia may be afraid of:

  • Baths or showers.
  • Being sprayed or splashed by water.
  • Drinking water.
  • Lakes, oceans, rivers and other bodies of water.
  • Water from the tap.


Who is at risk for aquaphobia?

You may be more likely to develop aquaphobia or a different type of specific phobia disorder if you already have:

What other phobias are associated with aquaphobia?

Other phobias linked to aquaphobia include:

  • Ablutophobia, fear of bathing.
  • Cymophobia, fear of waves.
  • Megalohydrothalassophobia, fear of underwater creatures or objects.
  • Thalassophobia, fear of large bodies of water.


What is the difference between aquaphobia and hydrophobia?

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.

How common is aquaphobia?

Between 2% and 3% of Americans have aquaphobia. This disorder affects children more than adults.

Symptoms and Causes

What are aquaphobia causes?

Possible causes of aquaphobia include:

  • Past traumatic events: People who’ve had a traumatic experience related to water may develop aquaphobia. For example, you or someone else may have had a near-drowning experience.
  • Negative stories about water: Some people heard scary stories about water, drowning or shipwrecks during childhood. Others watched movies about frightening incidents in the water, such as the shark in the 1975 film, “Jaws.”
  • Family history: Your risk of aquaphobia increases if one of your parents or close relatives has a phobic disorder or anxiety disorder. And you may be more anxious than other people if you have a certain gene mutation (change).
  • Modeling: Seeing a person with aquaphobia or hearing someone talk about their fear of water may lead you to develop the same phobia.

What are aquaphobia symptoms?

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:

What are aquaphobia triggers?

Anything related to water may bring on aquaphobia. Aquaphobia triggers include seeing or thinking about water in:

  • Bathtubs, showers or sinks.
  • Bodies of water such as lakes, oceans or rivers.
  • Drinks.
  • Fountains in gardens, malls or parks.
  • Movies or TV shows.
  • Swimming pools.

Diagnosis and Tests

How is aquaphobia diagnosed?

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:

  • Causes extreme anxiety.
  • Goes on for at least six months.
  • Leads you to avoid situations such as going to parks, swimming pools or picnics at a lake where water is present.
  • Is significantly disruptive to your life.
  • Triggers symptoms of anxiety or fear that don’t match the actual danger.
  • If contact with water usually or typically produces this extreme anxiety.

Management and Treatment

How is aquaphobia treated?

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:

  1. Learn breathing and relaxation techniques to use before and during an exposure.
  2. View images or videos of water.
  3. Gradually progress to seeing water in a bathtub, glass or sink.
  4. Touch running water.
  5. Look at or walk near a body of water or swimming pool.
  6. Finally, go inside a body of water or swimming pool.

What other therapies may be used to treat aquaphobia?

Other therapies to overcome aquaphobia include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT helps you learn to change how you see and respond to situations and objects that trigger symptoms. Many healthcare providers use CBT along with exposure therapy or hypnotherapy.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): This modified form of CBT teaches people how to live in the moment. It can help you cope with distress, maintain relationships with others and regulate emotions. You might have DBT in a group setting or one-on-one with a therapist.
  • Hypnotherapy: Healthcare providers use guided relaxation techniques and focused attention to help alter how you look at water. They may also use hypnotherapy to find the underlying event that led to the development of your water anxiety.
  • Medications: Anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants may help reduce aquaphobia symptoms. Healthcare providers often prescribe these medications along with CBT. If aquaphobia causes fear at night that affects your sleep, your healthcare provider may recommend sleep aids.
  • Yoga, mindfulness and meditation: A regular yoga practice can help you relax and reduce your stress. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) teaches you to relieve anxiety in the moment. Meditation can help you focus on your breathing to prevent panic attacks.

What are the complications of aquaphobia?

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.

Living With

How do I take care of myself with aquaphobia?

You can take care of yourself with aquaphobia by continuing with any treatments that help control your symptoms.

When should I see my healthcare provider?

You should see your healthcare provider if you have:

  • Panic attacks.
  • Persistent anxiety about water that causes problems with daily life or sleeping.

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.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 04/28/2022.

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