Thalassophobia: what is this disorder that everyone remembered after the tragedy with the Titan bathyscaphe

Yulia PoteriankoLife
Evolution has taught us to stay away from moths by giving us a sense of fear of them

The story of the Titan bathyscaphe, which crashed while diving into the wreck of the Titanic, has made people experience an attack of thalassophobia. This is an irrational fear of large and deep bodies of water.

Scientists argue that this may be an evolutionary adaptation that programs us to avoid environments where we will not last long, no matter how well we can swim. The Big Think publication told us more about this disorder, its causes, benefits, dangers, and harms.

How thalassophobia has united the world

Compared to the war in Ukraine, natural disasters and other catastrophes, the loss of the Titan is a tragedy, no matter how cynical it may sound, of a very small scale. There were only five people on board. All of them have now been declared dead.

However, the whole world has been watching the search for their submersible since it was reported missing on Sunday, 18 June. The submersible, which was supposed to dive into the Atlantic Ocean to a depth of 4 km, immediately made headlines around the world and captured the attention of people around the world.

One of the potential reasons why this episode has become so publicised is that most of humanity probably suffers from a mild form of thalassophobia. The second nightmare that haunted the witnesses of the tragedy was claustrophobia, the fear of being locked in a confined space.

What is thalassophobia?

Although no scientific studies have ever been conducted to assess the prevalence of this disorder, popular culture suggests that thalassophobia is far from uncommon. And it seems to have deep roots. Many people are frightened by the very thought of the deep sea.

For example, earlier this year, the developers of the popular video game Horizon Forbidden West introduced a "thalassophobia mode". This was probably at the request of players. Now they can tickle their nerves by exploring the depths of the sea in some parts of the story, having unlimited breathing and additional lighting.

In addition, many books and films play on fears of the ocean depths, including Jules Verne's novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and the thrillers The Abyss (directed by James Cameron) and The Deep Blue Sea (directed by Renny Garlin). Even earlier, people imagined real monsters hiding in the water. It could be the ancient Water Man, or the more recent Loch Ness Monster, Godzilla and Cthulhu.

Why we suffer from thalassophobia

"From an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense that humans would develop a tendency to fear and avoid deep water because of all the risks involved," said Dr Martin Anthony, a professor of psychology at Ryerson University in Toronto. According to him, evolution has programmed us to be afraid of some potentially dangerous situations.

Just as evolution has taught us to avoid spiders and snakes, even though they rarely pose a danger to anyone in the modern world. Probably, the reason for the emergence of thalassophobia was similar. A person cannot successfully survive among the waves of the sea without having reliable shelter and supplies. So we may have developed this fear to keep ourselves on safer land.

Why thalassophobia has a negative impact on science

Scientists suggest that fear of the deep sea is weakening public interest in the ocean depths, despite the fact that the depths play a vital role in the global ecosystem and may have even given rise to all life. "The deep sea will forever remain out of sight, out of mind, and out of public consciousness," said a group of researchers who published an article in December 2020 entitled "Fear and Hatred of the Deep Sea: Why Do People Not Care About the Deep Sea?"

How to overcome thalassophobia

To alleviate the attack of fear that occurs in a person at the mere thought of a deep body of water, the authors of the article suggested a simple exercise. Its meaning is to transfer the distance to a horizontal plane.

"At 11 kilometres deep, the Mariana Trench is often described as an all-consuming abyss at the bottom of the sea, but if we consider the same 11 kilometres on land and expressed horizontally, it suddenly doesn't seem so unattainable," the article says. The authors note that a marathon runner will cover this distance in about 30 minutes. By this measure, the distance will no longer seem so daunting.

Earlier, OBOZREVATEL told why the bodies of the Titanic victims will never be raised to the surface.

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