Fear of Depth

“Just plunge your hand in and grab whatever you find.” These were the words of my science instructor in 7th grade. I looked at the five gallon bucket that appeared to hold milk. I couldn’t see beyond the surface. My instructor gave me a list of creatures I would find in the mixture. Of course all of them were dead, waiting to be dissected, but the fact that I couldn’t see what I was reaching for left me with a fear I hadn’t experienced before. Therapists refer to those who have a profound fear of depths as suffering from Bathophobia. I had a sense of that fear in 7th grade.

Some people will not swim in the ocean because they can’t see below them. Some feel that any depth is a potential point of suffocation. The indecision and fear can be frustrating.

What Causes Bathophobia?

Many fears begin as obsessive/compulsive tendencies and this is a prime candidate for that designation. When you see the ocean for example you may feel a sense of awe at its size and power. You may wonder at the great swimming beasts that live in the water and you may wonder at not being able to see them from the shore. The more time you spend concentrating on the lack of what is known the greater the potential for long-term phobic responses to the ocean depths.

On the heels of this personal response to depths can be a response that is a direct result of behavior observed in someone else you trust and respect. Often we can gain a sense of initial awe followed by common fear and finally compounded in a phobic response, which is why fears are not only common, but must be dealt with as soon as possible.

Symptoms of Bathophobia

This primary fear should be easy enough to understand. A person who fears depths would not cliff dive into the ocean below, the would stay away from the deep end of the pool and they would never reach into anything if they couldn’t clearly see the bottom.

Other symptoms may also include…

  • Dizziness
  • Air hunger
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Feelings of suffocation
  • Trembling
  • Feelings of control loss
  • Avoidance
  • Screaming
  • Crying
  • Self-loathing or feeling of personal inadequacy

Most symptoms of any phobic response are based on the feeling that the individual has just encountered something they cannot control and may pose a physical danger to them. When you understand that you can begin to see why it really is a big deal to the one suffering from the phobia.

How to Overcome Bathophobia

While a support group can help it may be best to seek therapy first. Once therapy is underway a support group will likely provide more meaning than if you simply use the group as a starting point.

A person struggling with fear typically has more than one fear they entertain, which is why phobias are best treated under the guidance of a therapist.

The fear of depth is also referred to as:

  • Depth fear
  • Bathophobia
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