Overcoming a fear of water can be a lengthy process, and it usually needs to be supervised by a mental health professional. There are a number of approaches to handling phobias like a fear of water, and patients can meet with different health care providers to develop the most appropriate treatment plan. Patients, friends, and family need to be aware that pushing during phobia therapy can result in the creation of a setback, making it harder for the patient to conquer fears.
Determining the origins of a fear of water can be an important part of treatment. A doctor can work with a patient to explore the patient's emotions around water and to identify key experiences, like witnessing a drowning, that might explain why the patient is terrified of water. Processing these experiences may be helpful for patients who want to address their fears. It can also help prevent retraumatization by addressing the origins of the phobia and helping the patient come to terms with them.
One common approach to phobia treatment is a method called systematic desensitization, where the patient is gradually exposed to the object of the fear in a controlled setting. This may start with conversations about water, progressing to looking at images and videos of water, and finally interacting directly with it. This is supervised by a therapist who can stop or adjust sessions as needed if the patient becomes agitated or upset. The goal is to slowly reintroduce the patient to the source of the phobia to make it less frightening.
Some people working on a fear of water find that anti-anxiety medications, acupuncture, and other measures to relieve stress and anxiety are helpful in treatment. These may help patients overcome the initial severe fears associated with addressing the phobia. Depending on how the patient wants to control stress and anxiety, a doctor, alternative medical provider, or psychotherapist may be involved in this aspect of treatment for the fear of water.
For a person who wants to overcome a fear of water, things like tossing the person into a body of water, forcing the person to come into contact with water, or otherwise pushing the patient can be very harmful. They can create a secondary trauma where the phobia is reinforced by the unpleasant experience. While patients, friends, and family may be frustrated by the role a phobia plays in someone's life, it is important to take phobia therapy slowly.