What is Cymophobia? An In-Depth Look at the Phobia

We have all experienced fear at some point in our lives, but when these fears begin to control us they can take over aspects of our lives and eventually turn into phobias. One such phobia is Cymophobia.

Cymophobia is a fear of waves or wave-like motions which is closely related to Aquaphobia which is the fear of water.

Below we are going to take a deeper look into Cymophobia, its symptoms, causes, and what you could do to combat this irrational fear.

What Is a Phobia?

According to the Harvard Heal Publishing by Harvard Medical School, a phobia is a “persistent, excessive, unrealistic fear of an object, person, animal, activity or situation”.

A person with a phobia will go through life either painfully enduring the anxiety and distress that the phobia causes or doing what they can to avoid the triggering situation as much as possible.

Phobias are very specific and can cause different levels of distress throughout an individual’s daily life.

For example, a person with Cymophobia could live relatively anxiety-free if they live inland and away from large water bodies or rivers.

On the other hand, a person suffering from Aquaphobia will go through their life with constant anxiety and distress as water is unavoidable.

What Causes Phobias?

Both genetic and environmental factors are believed to contribute to the start of a phobia, according to John Hopkins Medicine.

In some cases, phobias can be linked to traumatic or extremely negative first experiences with an object or situation, however, mental health experts can’t confirm whether the first encounter is necessary, or if phobias could be triggered simply because the person is prone to them.

What Is Cymophobia?

As mentioned above, Cymophobia is the abnormal, irrational fear of waves, swell, and other wave-like motions.

The level of anxiety caused by this fear will differ from person to person.

For example, individuals suffering from a traumatic tsunami experience may only fear movement in the ocean and not waves caused in a swimming pool.

On the other hand, if you suffer from a deep-rooted childhood trauma related to waves in a controlled environment such as a pool, you will likely fear the ocean as well.

It should be noted, however, that Cymophobia and the exaggerated fear of waves shouldn’t be confused with a natural fear and caution experienced when surfing some of the world’s biggest waves.

In short, fear is natural, but it is the panic that arises with fear that changes health caution into a dangerous anxiety-filled phobia.

What Are the Symptoms of Cymophobia?

what is cymophobia

As specific phobias are considered anxiety disorders, the main symptoms that can be expected are much the same as that of an anxiety attack.

These symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Feeling nervous, restless, or tense.
  • Having a sense of impending danger or panic.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Hyperventilation (rapid breathing).
  • Sweating.
  • Trembling and shaking.
  • Feeling weak or tired.

Individuals experiencing an attack of Cymophobia will likely feel some or all of the above sensations.

In some cases, a person with Cymophobia could go into a panic attack if their phobia is triggered and they are not able to escape the situation.

Apart from the anxiety symptoms above, a person facing an attack of Cymophobia could face vertigo, dizziness, and nausea

It’s common for a person with cymophobia to make a huge effort to avoid contact with areas that may trigger a response.

This, in the case of cymophobia, could be simply living away from large bodies of water.

What Are the Causes of Cymophobia?

The cause of a specific phobia will differ between each individual, but it is believed that a traumatic experience or even a strongly uncomfortable first encounter could trigger a phobia.

In the case of cymophobia, this could be a near-drowning experience, getting caught in a rip current and panicking, being dumped by a wave much larger than you can handle, or simply from paddling out in waves too large and triggering your fear from what you see in front of you.

Although there is no concrete evidence for how phobias such as cymophobia occur, it is a common belief that both a genetic background of mental illness and traumatic environmental stimuli (such as a tsunami) play a strong role.

How Can I Treat Cymophobia?

What is cymophobia

There is no specific treatment for cymophobia, however, there are different forms of treating specific phobias and anxiety as a whole.

These treatments, when implemented over time, can help reduce the symptoms of cymophobia, and in some cases, overcome it altogether.

*Please note that none of the following is medical advice. If you are concerned about your mental or physical health you should seek out an authorized medical practitioner.

Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy is one of the most common forms of treatment for people suffering from phobias.

In theory, the more a person is exposed to a situation or object they fear, the less they will be affected by it over time.

In the case of cymophobia, a therapist might begin by showing you pictures of waves, progressing to the sound of waves, then to videos of waves, and eventually looking at the ocean from a distance while over time slowly moving closer.

There is no guarantee that exposure therapy alone will help with the phobia, but it will aid in desensitizing you from your fear as you go through other necessary treatments such as breath control and relaxation techniques.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is another common form of treatment for those suffering from anxiety.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, in short, is a treatment that helps people to identify and change their destructive or disturbing thought patterns.

These thought patterns often have a negative impact on the patient’s life, such as living by the coast and being in constant fear of a tsunami, even if the chances are 1 million to 1.

By identifying these thought patterns, one can begin to find the route of their fears.

Meditation and Mindfulness Practices 

Meditation has long held the claim to be the path to a quiet, calm, and non-reactive mind.

Through meditation and mindfulness practices, you will begin to pay closer attention to the feelings and emotions that arise during different situations.

This practice works perfectly with CBT as you will be more aware of your emotions, and where or what triggers them.

Although meditation is often seen as a spiritual practice, modern medicine agrees that there could be a strong correlation between meditation and a reduction in depression and anxiety.

One medical practice that is used in such a way is Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR).

Studies have shown that individuals who have gone through MBSR treatment not only show reduced levels of stress, anxiety, and panic but also continue to show these reduced levels after the study has been completed.

Yoga and Breathwork

Yoga and breathwork are other simple yet effective ways to combat the symptoms of cymophobia.

Through yoga practice, you will have the opportunity to learn how to control your breath while in difficult or stressful situations.

This practice is key for overcoming anxiety attacks as through meditation you will notice your heart rate increasing, and from your yoga practice, you will have control over your breath.

This can create an opportunity to prevent yourself from hyperventilating and going into a panic.

Cardiovascular Exercises

Exercise, cardiovascular in particular, has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety.

Similar to yoga, performing an aerobic exercise can help reduce your daily stress levels by exposing you to a stressful situation while simultaneously releasing “feel good” hormones.

A calmer, more peaceful mind is likely to deal with a phobia trigger better than someone who is already feeling stressed.

Other Treatment Options

Although the above may be the most successful when treating anxiety-based mental conditions, there are an abundance of other methods and treatments you could use alone or in combination.

  • Reduce caffeine intake: Caffeine raises our heart rate, and it is no secret that too much caffeine can lead to anxiety.

Carefully monitoring your caffeine intake could reduce the symptoms or likeliness of a cymophobia attack.

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT is a very specific treatment for people struggling with emotion regulation, and is used for treating people with a borderline personality disorder.

That being said, DBT has been useful for those suffering from anxiety problems because of the large array of coping mechanisms that are taught during the treatment.

  • Psychiatric Medication: When all else fails, there is medication on the market that could be prescribed to help reduce the effects of your phobia.

    Anti-anxiety meds help to prevent panic attacks while antidepressant drugs can further reduce an individual’s anxiety levels.

    That being said, you should never take drugs without first consulting your doctor, and if possible, pharmaceuticals should be your last option.

How Do I Know if I Suffer From Cymophobia?

If you think you may be suffering from cymophobia (or a similar phobia) your best choice is to consult a medical professional.

That being said, seeing a doctor is expensive, and many of us can’t afford to throw money at something we are not sure about.

If you would like to do some of your own research, the DSM-5 is the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental professionals in the United States.

The DSM-5 creates criteria for the diagnosis of a specific phobia:

  • Unreasonable and excessive fear.
  • Immediate anxiety response.
  • Avoidance or extreme distress.
  • Life-Limiting.
  • Six-month duration of symptoms from trigger exposure.
  • Not caused by another disorder.

If you feel as though you meet the above criteria you may be suffering from a specific phobia, and it is best to seek out medical help and not self-diagnose yourself.

If you do not meet the above criteria your fear is likely more rational, which is a more natural state.

Will I Ever Be Able to Surf With Cymophobia?

If you suffer from cymophobia you not only will not be able to surf, nor will you want to. A person with cymophobia will likely feel uncomfortable simply reading this article or thinking about surfing.

That being said, it is possible, through constant, and long-term treatment, for a person to completely overcome their phobia.

If this is the case for a person suffering from cymophobia they could learn to surf as the final step in conquering their fear.


Cymophobia is a specific phobia related to ocean waves, swell, and other wave-like motions.

Suffering from cymophobia, although irrational, can have a huge impact on an individual’s life if they live near the ocean or large water bodies.

Although possible to overcome this, and other phobias, it’s no easy task and will take dedication and a large amount of bravery to face your fear.

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