Aquaphobia is a fear of water. This can range from a mild uneasiness of visiting lakes, canals or the sea to a terror of anything to do with water, even turning on a tap or stepping over a puddle. Frequently patients suffering from Aquaphobia will have a history of some trauma involving water. For instance they could have experienced a situation in which they felt they might be drowning. The trauma of the incident is transferred into a fear of water, and an avoidance of all situations involving water is built up. The fear and avoidance both have to be tackled in the context of the treatment.
After an initial history taking it is important that the therapist outlines the strategy and the rationally of the treatment.
Hypnotherapy is the treatment of choice in the first instance, and the fear of water can be counteracted by using the technique of the “special place” interspersed with a series of increasingly difficult situations involving water.
The first step in this programme is for the patient to learn to be comfortable turning on a tap/faucet, and then to being able to use a shower. Later in the therapy the patient will be encouraged to encounter more difficult situations, first in hypnosis and then in real life. Eventually a stage will be reached when they are able to visit a swimming pool and enter the water at the shallow end. It is very helpful for the patient if they are accompanied by a competent swimmer. Non-swimmers may get to the stage of actually learning to swim with the help of a qualified swimming coach.
As the treatment progresses it is frequently found that the patient wishes to raise other issues which are important to them. The psychotherapy aspect of the treatment enables the patient to see how these other concerns are connected with the original problem. The patient and therapist work together over a period of time and with this combined treatment approach the patient can expect to make an excellent recovery.