Aquaphobia—Fear of the Water

Getting Help When You're Afraid of Swimming

Aquaphobia or waterfright is a fear of water. It's an unwanted reaction and prevents the swimmer from learning a water skill or freely entering a water environment such as a swimming pool, sea, lake, ocean, or river. Learn how it can develop and how mild and chronic cases are treated.

Water Phobia Origins

Fear of water can be acquired as a result of different kinds of experiences, including those that are subconscious:

  • Direct Learning Experience: Your fear is rooted in a personal, physical experience.
  • Indirect Learning Experiences: Your fear stems from witnessing an incident or seeing a video, news report, or film.
  • Auditory Modality Origin: Your fear comes through reading, talking about it, hearing (music from "Jaws"), or story telling.
  • Subconscious Learning: Fear of the water environment developed subconsciously through negative early childhood experiences, dreams, secondary gains, or positive protective intentions.

Effective Treatment and Interventions

Fear of water can be of mild intensity (lacking confidence), or it could manifest itself as a crippling and very intense negative state and condition (chronic water phobia). After establishing the possible origins of a person's aquaphobia, and modeling and constructing the structure (components) of their fearful behavior (the internal representation), a trained Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner can facilitate for the aquaphobia to be permanently dissolved quickly. NLP techniques can effect behavior change.

The expressed fear is acknowledged to be true and that it is your mind's natural defensive mechanism. The positive intentions are to protect yourself against experiencing and reliving again the unwanted past negative events (phobia experience) which created the fear of water.

Treating Minor Aquaphobia

In light aquaphobia cases, you lack water confidence. Behavioral change can take place by being empowered with the necessary knowledge, facts, and scientific information. You receive explanations and active demonstrations.

Empowering Through Knowledge and Information

The therapist can use these facts and techniques:

  • Inform client that human beings are naturally born floaters due to natural buoyancy, density approximating that of the water and the presence of cavities in the bones, air sacks in the lungs, the sinuses, the fat tissues throughout the body, etc.
  • Demonstrate how, when you relax, and go completely still for a few seconds, holding your breath, slumped face down and with arms hanging by side, feet/legs dangling down, you will always end up in a floating and suspended position, near the water surface (buoyancy law).
  • Archimedes Principle: Eureka!, Eureka! For an object to float in a liquid medium (water), the weight of the displaced volume of the water must be equal to the weight of the object.
  • Reinforce and demonstrate again, when you jump in or drop yourself into the water (intentionally or accidentally), water will always push and lift you upward toward the surface, provided you stay relaxed and perform lazy and gentle limb movements.
  • Explain and demonstrate that it is impossible to remain under the water (buoyancy law) unless your feet are tied to a concrete block.
  • Explain and comfort the learner about the fact that, human beings; when they are in a totally relaxed state, can stay underwater without taking any breath for approximately 160 to 180 seconds. Holding the breath while face down or head under the water for five to10 seconds will be easy.

Deep-End Practices

After empowering the learner with the necessary facts and the specific knowledge, now it is time to take the aquaphobic person for some deep-end practices.

Starting with relaxed, lazy and gentle movements, while the learner is holding on with one hand or finger only, very lightly, onto the rail or the pool edge. When the learner is ready, he takes his hand off the rail and starts experiencing floating freely and confidently and gently moving around in the water.

Treating Chronic Aquaphobia

People suffering from a chronic aquaphobia will require cognitive interventions prior to putting them through the method used for light aquaphobia. One of the quickest and most effective way to facilitate a permanent change is the method and techniques offered by the Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) interventions.

There are several very effective and well tried and tested NLP techniques, depending on the severity of the aquaphobia condition. Among the most effective and widely used interventions and behavior change facilitating techniques are:

  • Fast Phobia Cure
  • Sub Modality Restructuring
  • Swish Pattern
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Time Line Therapy

With these very powerful NLP behavior change techniques, a client might have improvement in 30 to 60 minutes. How does it work?

All our past learning, experiences, and memories, are internally stored and encoded through our internal sensory representational systems (modalities). These include visual, auditory, kinesthetic, smell, and taste.

A trained and qualified NLP practitioner has the ability to decode, detect, and construct a model of the structure of that past learning, experience, and the memory. Once the client's model-structure of his aquaphobia is known, then the practitioner uses NLP techniques to help the client acquire, access, add, and utilize his own existing resources from within. This directs the patient toward a permanent and more resourceful change process.


The Magic in Action; NLP Change Technologies; Richard Bandler, John Grinder, Milton H Erickson M.D, Robert Dilts - USA.