Cymophobia (fear of sea waves): symptoms, causes and treatment

There are as many phobias as objects or situations in the world . There are more common phobias than others, and some that are really strange. In this article we bring you the cymophobia, which consists of intense and irrational fear of the waves of the sea.

Water phobia is quite common, since, although it is an element that can be harmless, it can also cause damages (accidents, drowning, etc.). In this article we tell you what is the cymophobia and what are its symptoms, causes and treatments.

  • Recommended article: “Types of phobias: exploring fear disorders”

Cymophobia: the irrational fear of waves

Cymophobia is a specific phobia, that is, an anxiety disorder. It is characterized by an intense, disproportionate and irrational fear of sea waves and undulating movements.

Cymophobia is related to other similar types of phobia, such as aquaphobia (fear of water), bathophobia (fear of depths), thalasophobia (fear of large bodies of water) and ablutophobia (intense fear of water of daily cleaning).

While it is true that water phobia is a fairly frequent phobia (especially in childhood), wave phobia is less common. You could say that cymophobia is a variant of water phobia .

This fear of the waves of the sea can be explained by the fear, even more internal, of being devoured by one of them (for example surfing, or in “normal” situations of bathing in the sea).

The fear of water

As we said, water phobia is a fairly common phobia, especially among children. Actually, it is not so “strange” to suffer from water phobia, since it is a stimulus that can become threatening, or that can cause damage (think of drowning, for example).

In addition, in the news it is very frequent to hear news of people drowned in beaches and swimming pool (especially young children).

In the case of cymophobia, fear occurs in water as an environmental element (that is, seawater, for example). Specifically, fear occurs before the waves of the sea. It is curious because water is an element that can arouse both fascination, curiosity and admiration, as fear.


The symptoms of cymophobia are the same as those of a specific phobia. The ones we propose are in the DSM-5 (in the diagnostic criteria of a specific phobia). Let’s see them in detail.

1. Fear of the waves

The main symptom is an intense fear, anxiety or fear of the possibility of seeing or “touching” waves . The waves and their undulating movements arouse this fear, which also translates into physical symptoms (tachycardia, sweating, tension, dizziness, nausea, hyperactivation, etc.). and psychological (irrational ideas associated with waves).

2. Interference

In order to diagnose a cymophobia as such, this fear associated with the phobia must interfere in the life of the individual. That is, the day to day of the person is affected by such fear. This translates, for example, to stop making plans that involve seeing waves of the sea (avoidance) .

3. Avoidance

Thus, in the cymophobia the person avoids the triggering stimulus of his anxiety: the waves . This implies that you stop going to the beach even if you may feel like it, and that if you have to expose yourself to the stimulus yes or yes, resist it with high anxiety.

4. Duration of 6 months

In order to diagnose cymophobia, as in all specific phobias, the duration of symptoms is required to last at least 6 months .


The causes of cymophobia can be diverse. We will see the most frequent ones below.

1. Traumatic experiences with the waves

One of the most likely causes of cymophobia is the fact of having experienced a traumatic situation with the waves , such as: hurting with a wave (surfing, for example), drowning with one of them, having been about to die etc.

2. Vicar conditioning

The vicarious conditioning involves seeing other people getting certain consequences (generally negative) as a result of their actions. In the case of cymophobia, we could think of a lifeguard who sees people who are about to die drowned by the waves every day, or who simply hurt themselves with one of them.

Obviously, it is not necessary to be a lifeguard to “learn” this phobia through vicarious conditioning ; people who simply see other people hurting themselves with them, can also develop cymophobia.

This includes watching news of people drowning (even without waves); in the end they are fears related to water (especially sea water), and the sea itself is feared, or the water itself, and as an extension, the waves.

3. Personal vulnerability

Vulnerability to certain mental disorders has been studied extensively. This has also been done with anxiety disorders, finding that there are people who show some individual vulnerability to suffer from an anxiety disorder ; This can be extrapolated to specific phobias, in this case the cymophobia.

Thus, there are people who, due to their personal, genetic, endocrine, etc. characteristics, are more likely to develop such a disorder. If we also have first-degree relatives with cymophobia, it could be that our probability of having it also increases (although a priori there are no studies that determine it).


What treatment / s exists for this phobia? As in all specific phobias, in psychotherapy we can talk about two main treatments (and first choice).

1. Cognitive therapy

Cognitive therapy allows the patient to adjust their catastrophic thoughts to reality. These thoughts in the cymophobia are usually of the type: “I will hurt myself,” “this wave will make me drown,” “the sea is not a safe place,” etc.

With cognitive therapy (through cognitive restructuring techniques) you can work with this type of thoughts, so that the patient has more adaptive, realistic and reliable thoughts. Although water can cause tragedies, it is about the patient understanding that this is not always the case.

Through cognitive therapy (along with behavior therapy), the patient is also expected to acquire coping strategies to cope with the high anxiety situations caused by waves. This is also done through the following treatment (exposure techniques).

2. Exhibition

In exposure therapy , the patient with cymophobia is gradually exposed to the feared stimulus, that is, to the waves (through a hierarchy of items ordered from least to greatest anxiety they generate).

The first items may involve seeing seawater from afar, and progressively including and addressing items that involve more interaction with the feared stimulus.

by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

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