There are so many fears in people’s lives. People are afraid of so many things. For instance, we have a fear of insects, the fear of heights, the fear of water(known as aquaphobia), but one fear that is not so common around us here is the fear of sharks, otherwise known as Selachophobia.
Selachophobia can simply be defined as the fear of sharks. Another name for Selachophobia is Galeophobia. People who have this phobia are terrified of sharks, especially the great white shark.
This phobia became very common after the movie Jaws‘ airing, which was a 1975 classic movie directed by Steven Spielberg.
Famous shark films include Jaws, which was aired in 1975, dark tides, aired in 2011; and Deep Blue Sea, aired in 1999.
Selachophobia can be considered to be one of the many specific phobias that we have. Selachophobia can also be related to other phobias, such as Icythophobia, which is the fear of fishes.
Unlike other phobias such as pupahobia, which is the fear of puppets, or sesquipedalophobia, which is the irrational fear of long words, Selachophobia can’t entirely be classified as an irrational fear.
This is because this fear is based on the fact that sharks are actually dangerous creatures. In the United States of America, there are numerous records of injuries and deaths that have been recorded as a result of attacks of sharks on humans.
Although sharks can be considered o be dangerous animals, however, Selachophobia can become irrational when the patients begin to get scared from the mere thoughts of sharks.
Galeophobia was gotten from two Greek words; “Galeos,” meaning “dogfish or small sharks,” and “Phobos,” which means deep fear or dread.
Patients who have this phobia are extremely scared of going to places with water or areas where sharks may be found. Some of these places include lakes, oceans, or rivers.
Often these people are also scared of going on certain vehicles such as ships and boats.
Most Galeophobics are often scared of going to certain places such as aquariums or zoos despite the fact that the sharks seen in these places are locked in securely.
In some cases, someone who has this phobia might begin to scream, have nightmares, or even faint at the mere mention of the word sharks.
Causes of Selachophobia
Just like other specific phobias, the actual cause of Selachophobia is not known. However, some of the factors which have been seen to contribute to the development of Selachophobia include; Environmental and genetic factors.
Suppose you have a family member who was once diagnosed with having any mental illness or have developed other phobias. In that case, you are likely to develop any phobia as well, including Selachophobia.
However, it is important to note that having a family member who developed a type of specific phobia would mean you are developing that exact type of phobia or anxiety disorder.
For example, a person who has a family member or family of people with schizophrenia doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she would develop schizophrenia as he or she grows.
Sometimes, the person may go on to develop other phobias or anxiety disorders such as aquaphobia, thanatophobia, or even Selachophobia.
Although genetics play a huge role in determining what happens to a person and what a person goes on to develop, genetics may not be involved in the case of selachophobics.
According to research, about 80% of people who have developed this phobia did not have the genetic predisposition of developing any phobia or anxiety attacks.
Further research shows that most people who developed Selachophobia had a previous traumatizing experience with a shark and, as such, developed Selachophobia.
Most people who have developed Selachophobia have either realized that while swimming in the ocean, they found out that there were many large sharks swimming close to them, had a traumatizing unpleasant experience with sharks such as a shark attack or any other traumatizing events.
Experiences such as this are often enough for a person to develop enough phobia and anxiety when it comes to sharks. However, many people tend to perceive danger differently. In other words, what a person decided as danger may lose little or no threat to another individual.
For some people, what they watch is enough to trigger their sense of fear, and as such, they may develop Selachophobia. For instance, some people were seen to have developed Selachophobia after they saw the movie Jaws in 1975.
However, this doesn’t mean that movies generally can cause Selachophobia. The movie “Jaws” only happened to trigger the already dominant gene in the patient and, as such, cause the development of Selachophobia.
Symptoms of Selachophobia
Just like any other phobia, anyone who suffers from Selachophobia may often find it difficult to go near any large body of water such as lakes, pools, or even the ocean.
In most cases, their fear of sharks tends to influence most of their major life decisions. For example, it may affect the decision of where they should live.
They would rather stay in the urban areas than remain in the countryside or on the island. People suffering from Selachophobia often display several signs of uneasy feeling and discomforts when having to travel on water.
Most selachophobics tend to be sea-sick and have stomach discomforts when on a boat or cruise ship.
Generally, anyone who suffers from the fear of sharks and is placed close to his/her trigger would experience the following;
- A defined increase in heart rates
- Chest angina(pains) with shortness of breaths
- Tremors or trembling
- Profuse sweating
- Tendencies of feeling nauseated
- Vomiting may occur in some instances
- Deep mental troubles and disturbances
- Dizziness or fainting
- Intense screaming, especially when watching movies that have the presence of sharks or underwater scenes in them
- Avoidance behaviors. Such a patient would be seen to run away from anything that remotely includes seeing sharks or anything related to them.
- Some patients may want to avoid anything related to the presence of a large body of water (such as the pool or the beachside) even if there are no sharks to be seen therein.
Treatment of Selachophobia
Like other phobias, there is no particular way or method that has been seen to treat Selachophobia completely. However, when combined, there are many treatment methods that have been seen to help in the treatment of Selachophobia.
Some of these treatments used include Talk therapy(also known as therapy) and Exposure therapy. Often, talk therapy comes first before trying to expose the patient to their fears.
Talking with a seasoned psychologist has been seen to help the patient understand why his/her anxiety can be considered irrational.
Talk therapy includes;
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a form of therapy where the patient and the doctor tries to figure out the reason(s) for their fear and behavior. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps the patient understand why they think, act, and behave the way they do.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps the patient see that his or her fears are not really there. CBT also helps the patient figure out why he or she began experiencing Selachophobia and their triggers.
Once the person understands his/her triggers, it is easy for the therapist to help the patient develop certain coping skills.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy also helps the patient acquire certain skills which can form the patient’s coping mechanism. Once the patient develops these skills, it becomes easier for the patient to adapt to his/her fears.
Exposure therapy is a process by which the person is exposed to their fears in a controlled environment. This process has been seen to be very helpful in helping the patient adapt and even overcome his/her fears.
Exposure therapy also helps the patient to put the coping skills that he/she has learned in CBT to use. In exposure therapy, some patients may be exposed to the pictures of sharks or videos that contain sharks.
However, in some patients, the therapist may begin with telling the patient stories about the seas and sharks based on the extent of their phobia.
The use of medications
The use of certain drugs such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications has been seen to help patients who have different phobias, including Selachophobia.
However, it should be noted that these drugs must be used upon prescription from a certified psychiatrist or psychologist.
It should also be noted that the use of these drugs doesn’t exactly treat your phobia. Instead, these drugs are used to relieve some of the symptoms that you may be experiencing as a result of Selachophobia.
In conclusion, Selachophobia is one of the various phobias that we have. Patients who have this condition often find it challenging to go near a large body of water or to watch certain movies.
If you think that you have developed Selachophobia, it is vital that you speak to your psychologist about your fears.
Also, before you begin to take any drug or medication, it is essential that you speak with your physician. After appropriate tests have been carried out, your doctor can give you the right diagnosis and also prescribe proper drugs to help you feel better.