Sharks are one of the most feared creatures on the planet. For decades, they have been portrayed as vicious predators in movies and TV shows, causing many to develop a phobia of shark attacks. However, the truth is that sharks are essential to the ocean’s ecosystem, and attacks on humans are rare. If you suffer from a fear of shark bites, there are various methods that you can use to overcome your Phobia, and hypnotherapy is one of them.

What is the name of the fear of sharks?

Shark phobia, also known as galeophobia, comes from the Greek word “galeo”, meaning “shark,” and the word “phobia”, which means “fear.” So, galeophobia means “fear of sharks”. It’s a common phobia that affects millions of people worldwide, and it can have a significant impact on their daily lives. For example, some people may avoid going to the beach, swimming in the ocean, or watching shark-related movies or documentaries.

What causes the fear of sharks?

The cause of shark phobia is poorly understood, but it’s believed to be a combination of mental health, genetics, past experiences, and cultural influences.

Some people may have developed the Phobia after witnessing a shark attack or hearing about shark encounters in the news. Others may have inherited the fear from their parents or developed it after watching the shark-related media depict people being eaten alive by these cold-blooded killers in popular culture (who remembers the iconic shark fin emerging from the murky water in the film Jaws or, more recently the man-eating shark in Deep Blue Sea?)

If you asked a shark expert, they would agree that the fear of sharks is largely irrational. While sharks are powerful predators responsible for some attacks on humans, the risk of being attacked by a shark is extremely rare. You are more likely to be struck by lightning, attacked by a dog, or killed by a falling coconut than you are to be attacked by sharks.
Shark attacks are also largely accidental, with most attacks occurring when a shark mistakes a human for its natural prey, such as a seal or fish.

Sharks are not naturally aggressive towards humans and do not view humans as a source of food. Most shark encounters are peaceful and non-threatening, with sharks swimming away or simply passing by.

How rare are shark attacks?

The reality is that these marine mammals rarely attack humans, but when it does happen, it is widely reported in the news to exploit people’s natural mild fear of sharks. There are hundreds of species of sharks, but only a tiny portion of those, such as bull sharks or the great white shark, are seen as aggressive.

While they can look pretty scary, many species of shark safely co-exist with other marine life and do not seek human prey. A shark attack is often a case of mistaken identity, and the danger humans pose to sharks is far greater (humans kill around 100 million sharks yearly).

Signs and symptoms of galeophobia and its impact on daily life

How galeophobia manifests can vary from person to person. Still, they may include intense anxiety, panic attacks, avoidance behaviours, and physical symptoms such as sweating, rapid heart rate, and trembling.

The fear of sharks can significantly impact an individual’s daily life, leading to social isolation, avoidance of certain activities or places, and decreased quality of life. It is essential to seek help if galeophobia interferes with daily functioning or causes distress.

Is shark phobia dangerous?

Extreme fear of sharks is an irrational phobia that can manifest as panic attacks and even chest pain, often affecting people in their day-to-day activities. Some people may avoid swimming pools or visiting the local aquarium. This intense fear can culminate in extreme anxiety disorders and deep mental anguish for many.

Overcoming the Phobia of Sharks

Regardless of the cause, the good news is that you can treat any phobia. You can use various methods to overcome your fear, including exposure therapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy, and hypnotherapy.

Exposure therapy

This form of therapy involves gradually exposing the individual to their fear in a safe and controlled environment. For example, a therapist may start by showing the person pictures of sharks and progressively work up to watching videos of sharks or even swimming with small sharks alongside an expert, i.e. cage diving.

The fight or flight response is a physiological response to a perceived threat or danger. It is a natural response that prepares the body to either fight the threat, flee from it or sometimes freeze (such as a panic attack). This response involves the release of adrenaline and other stress hormones, which increase heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate, and cause other physical changes.

Exposure therapy gradually exposes individuals to the feared object or situation in a controlled environment. This allows them to confront their fears in a safe and supportive setting and learn that the feared object or situation is not actually dangerous. By repeatedly exposing themselves to the feared object or situation, individuals can gradually reduce their anxiety and overcome their phobia.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) can also be used to treat phobias. It focuses on changing how a person thinks and behaves in response to their fear. A therapist may help people identify and challenge their negative thoughts about sharks and teach them coping mechanisms to manage their anxiety.

Hypnotherapy for overcoming the fear of sharks

Hypnotherapy has been shown to be effective in treating a variety of phobias, including galeophobia. While there is limited research on the specific use of hypnotherapy for treating galeophobia, many therapists and individuals report positive results.

Some studies suggest that hypnotherapy can effectively reduce anxiety and promote relaxation, which may be beneficial for people with galeophobia. Hypnotherapy can also help individuals reframe their thoughts and emotions about sharks, promoting a more positive and accepting attitude.

In addition, hypnotherapy can be used alongside other therapies, such as exposure therapy or cognitive-behavioural therapy, to enhance their effectiveness. Combining hypnotherapy with other forms of therapy may provide a more comprehensive and practical treatment approach for individuals with galeophobia.

While hypnotherapy is generally safe, working with a qualified, experienced therapist who can guide and support you throughout the process is important. People with certain mental health conditions or medical concerns may not be suitable candidates for hypnotherapy, and discussing any concerns with a healthcare professional before starting treatment is important.

Practical tips for managing the fear of sharks

There are several practical tips that individuals can use to manage their fear of sharks in everyday life. These may include:

  • Taking a friend or family member along for support when going to the beach or swimming in the ocean
  • Choosing less crowded beaches or swimming pools to help reduce anxiety
  • Avoiding media that sensationalizes shark attacks and promotes fear
  • Learning more about sharks and their importance in the ocean’s ecosystem
  • Seeking professional help, such as hypnotherapy or cognitive-behavioural therapy, to work through the phobia in a safe and supportive environment

Considering hypnotherapy to help take back control?

If you’re struggling with overcoming a fear or phobia, and would like to speak to someone about how hypnotherapy can help, please call 07966 464 005 or via this contact form.