The Sum of All Fears: A short list of open water swimming fears

(Edit: I re-posting this post from 2012 as the recent theme change completely mangled the content and after a couple of hours trying to fix it, I realised I had to rewrite it. So I’ve updated it with a few more relevant terms).

I had been thinking about the fears that sometimes hinder open water swimmers or potential open water swimmers. It always surprises me how many non-swimmers (or even swimmers) have a visceral fear of even the idea of swimming over deep water, swimming in the dark or imagining themselves over a deep section of sea with potential movement under them. Here’s a provisional list of relevant fears. The image below was created a couple of years after the original post, to illustrate and (hopefully, I have to admit) initiate those terrors. It has been reasonably successful at so doing. Best seen on large.

The Sum of All Fears

The Sum of All Fears

Ablutophobia: Fear of bathing, washing or being clean.

Aichmophobia: Fear of sharp objects. I think barnacles will be used as surgical scalpels in the future.

Anglophobia: Fear of England. (It’s another of my many excuse why I didn’t from France back to England).

Autophobia is a fear of being alone. (One of the aspects of open water swimming I most love is being alone, away from people and even from land).

Bathophobia is a fear of depths or deep things, (for swimmers who dislike swimming over deep water).

Chlorophobia: Fear of the colour green. The most common colour in the sea.

Cryophobia (or Frigophobia or Cheimatophobia) is a fear of cold, cold weather or cold things. Also known as Psychophobia. I think there’s a biological component to this, as most people unacclimatised to really cold water will have physical fear (flight-or-fight) response in anticipation.

Cnidophobia is a fear of stings. Surprisingly, there is no specific clinical phobia of jellyfish.

Dishabiliophobia is fear of undressing in front of someone. Probably relevant when you changing to swim, by the side of the road in Ireland, in winter.

Eleutherophobia is a fear of freedom. Seriously, are we ever as free as when we are open water swimming.

Eosophobia is fear of dawn or daylight. A bit difficult for an overnight swim should you suffer from this.

Fykiaphobia is a fear of seaweed, a common open water fear. By common I mean Finbarr Hedderman suffers from it.

Lone Swimming

California’s La Jolla Cove and the Copper Coast’s Gararrus are thick with kelp and impenetrable in some place, while only a tiny portion is visible above water.

Francophobia or Gallophobia is a fear of France or French things. That’s the English Channel out then for those sufferers. fear of engliand

Galeophobia or Selachophobia is a fear of sharks.

Gephyrophobia: Fear of bridges. Do not apply for David Barra’s 8 Bridges!

Gymnophobia – fear of nudity. My advise if you suffer this is to not join or swim at Sandycove Island Swim Club due to a certain member’s penchant for nude swimming.

Ichthyophobia is a fear of fish.

Kymophobia or Cymophobia is a fear of waves.

Limnophobia is a fear of lakes.

Megalophobia is a fear of large things.

Mycrophobia is a fear of small things. Both are prevalent in the sea.

Myctophobia / Nyctophobia / Scotophobia / Achluophobia / Lygophobia: Fear of the dark or darkness. That’s a whole lot of fear right there.

Ostraconophobia is a fear of shellfish.

Ornithophobia is a fear of birds.

Osmophobia is a fear of smells or odours.

Thalassophobia is a fear of the sea. Or a fear of being in the sea.

I’ve seen Megalohydrothalassophobia proposed as a fear of the unknown and-or large creatures underwater, a useful word for many people, but unlike the others not a medically recognised phobia. Yet. Though I think the past few years use on LoneSwimmer will have helped its case.

12 thoughts on “The Sum of All Fears: A short list of open water swimming fears

  1. Fear of having your clothes/wallet/phone/car keys nicked while you’re in the water;
    fear of having genitals bitten off by a pike/other toothed fish (I’m an inveterate skinny-dipper);
    fear of lampreys;
    fear of leeches;
    fear of ticks;
    fear of sewage;
    fear of agricultural chemicals contaminating the water;
    fear of cows.


  2. I’m late to this post I know but I don’t have a fear of depth or darkness I love the dark and I love deep water but only if I can see whats below me but if its murky and hard to see and I can’t see the bottom or at least a little bit around me I get very anxious


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    • I agree, all the leisurely cruising around, not having to worry about what you are going to have to kill next. I recently discovered Killer Whales are dived into two groups: Residents & Transients. Residents stay in the same location and don’t kill large mammals, whereas Transients range around and are the more dangerous.


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