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What is Bathophobia?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 24 October 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Bathophobia is a fear of depths. This can include things like deep wells, lakes, and pools, along with long dark hallways and other types of depths. Generally, in a situation where the bottom or end of something cannot be seen due to its depth or darkness, someone with bathophobia will experience distress and anxiety. Bathophobic individuals have some treatment options they can explore if their phobia causes personal or social hardship.

The origins of phobias can sometimes be difficult to determine. Someone who fears depths may have had a traumatic experience such as nearly drowning in deep water or being frightened in a long dark hallway. In other cases, people develop phobias due to exposure to frightening stories and news reports. This can include books, films, and audio reports such as stories on the radio.

Someone with bathophobia can start to experience physical symptoms of anxiety and distress around depths, or when depths are described or shown in an image. These symptoms can include sweating, an elevated heart rate, high blood pressure, trembling, and nausea. The patient usually feels better when the source of the stress is removed. Depending on the intensity of the phobia, someone can experience symptoms simply thinking about depths, while in other cases it is necessary to be physically confronted with the object of the phobia for the patient to react.

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Fearing depth is not unreasonable. Most people have a natural caution of water which is so deep that the bottom cannot be discerned, or of environments like hallways in which the end cannot be seen. For people with bathophobia, this entirely normal caution around depths has been replaced with an intense fear. The patient often fears falling and may feel dizzy or disoriented even when the situation is actually very safe.

Treatment for bathophobia generally includes psychotherapy to explore the origins of the phobia and to try to break the fear down. A psychotherapist may use systematic desensitization to get the patient feeling comfortable around depths, and may also offer medications to treat anxiety while the phobia is brought under control. Every patient is different, and treatment approaches may need to be adjusted to find the method which works most effectively for a given individual. People who do not experience immediate success with bathophobia treatment should not despair, as they may simply need more time or a different therapist. A good therapist will refer a patient if she or he feels that the patient would be better served by a different practitioner.

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