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Ichthyophobia (fish phobia): symptoms, causes and treatment

Ichthyophobia (fish phobia): symptoms, causes and treatment

July 18, 2024

The fear of certain animals is an adaptive and relatively normal fear, as long as it is proportionate and in harmony with the real danger of the animal in question. However, when this fear dominates us and conditions our behavior we can talk about phobias.

One of these phobias related to marine fauna is ichthyophobia . In this article we will see what this disorder is about, as well as its causes, symptoms and possible treatments.

  • Related article: "Types of phobias: exploring the disorders of fear"

What is ichthyophobia?

Ichthyophobia belongs to the specific group of anxiety disorders or specific phobias, in which the person experiences an exacerbated, irrational and uncontrolled fear of the fish. This phobia is encompassed within zoophobia or phobias specific to animals . However, it should not be confused with selacophobia, in which the object of fear is based only on sharks.


In ichthyophobia, the person experiences an exaggerated fear of any fish, regardless of its dangerousness or size. Those who suffer from this condition usually manifest a great repulsion towards everything related to fish , including fish as food.

As in most phobias, ichthyophobia may be slightly different in each person who experiences it, due to the individual variability in thought patterns associated with fish.

Unlike the animosity that each person may feel when encountering some type of fish in natural circumstances, such as bathing on the beach, in ichthyophobia the person is able to come to recognize that the animal does not have to represent a threat . However, despite this, the patient is completely incapable of resisting the great fear that it provokes.


In any of the cases, when the phobic stimulus appears, the person with ichthyophobia will experience a series of emotions and physical manifestations typical of a state of extremely high anxiety .

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Symptoms of this phobia

Since ichthyophobia is a condition specific to specific anxiety disorders, it shares a large number of symptoms with other specific phobias. This symptomatology includes three large sets of symptoms: physical, cognitive and behavioral.

It is necessary to specify that, although most people experience the same symptoms, both the intensity of the symptoms of ichthyophobia and its incidence may vary from one person to another.

1. Physical symptoms

The appearance or coincidence of the person with the phobic stimulus, in this case the fish, triggers an overactivity of the autonomic nervous system, which generates an immense amount of changes and alterations in the organism. Within these changes we find:


  • Increase in the cardiac rate
  • Dizziness and tremors .
  • Feeling short of breath
  • Increased sweating .
  • Sensation of pressure in the chest.
  • Sickness.
  • Gastro-intestinal alterations.
  • Confusion.
  • Fainting .

2. Cognitive symptoms

Reactions of fear and anxiety reactive to the appearance of the feared stimulus are due to a prior association of this stimulus with irrational ideas and beliefs. These altered ideas of reality stimulate the development of the phobia, and are characterized by the fact that the person holds a series of unfounded thoughts about fish, as well as their attributes and qualities.

These thoughts can be reflected as follows:

  • Intrusive, involuntary thoughts and totally uncontrollable about the fish.
  • Obsessive speculations with these animals.
  • Mental images of a catastrophic nature .
  • Feeling of unreality
  • Fear of losing control and not being able to manage the situation satisfactorily.

3. Behavioral symptoms

Like any phobia or specific anxiety disorder, ichthyophobia is accompanied by a series of symptoms or behavioral manifestations that originate in response to the emergence of the aversive stimulus .

The aim of these behaviors is either to directly avoid the feared situation, or to escape after the appearance of said stimulus or situation. These behaviors are known as escape or avoidance behaviors.

The avoidance behaviors are executed with the intention of avoiding encounters with any type of fish. In them the person carries out all kinds of behaviors to avoid the possibility of encountering the stimulus object of the phobia. In this way it is sought to avoid experimenting feelings of anguish and anxiety generated by these animals.

Some behaviors that serve as an example are those of avoid bathing in rivers, lakes or beaches ; as well as in any context or medium in which any type of fish could appear.

On the other hand, the escape behaviors appear when the person has not been able to avoid encountering the phobic stimulus, so he will carry out all kinds of behaviors that allow him to escape from the current situation as quickly and quickly as possible.

What causes does it have?

Like many other phobias, it is virtually impossible to determine with total accuracy what is the origin or cause of this irrational fear. However, in the same way as ichthyophobia shares symptoms with other anxiety disorders , they also share the same basis or foundation.

A person with a genetic predisposition, which conditions her in a neurobiological way to suffer more from the ravages or psychological effects of stress, and who has also faced at some point in her life a highly traumatic experience or with a very high emotional load , in which the aversive stimulus played an important role; will be much more likely to develop any type of phobia.

Both the ichthyophobia and any anxiety disorder is usually acquired after the person has experienced an unpleasant experience with the phobic stimulus or the thought of it. In most cases these phobias are developed during childhood, since children are much more susceptible to any stressful event.

Some events that can trigger this excessive fear of fish they can be attacks, bites or bites while the person bathes; or after reading certain information about some fish or watching certain movies, documentaries or television programs.

Is there a treatment?

Although in many occasions ichthyophobia is not incapacitating, that is, it does not usually interfere in the life of the patient except on rare occasions, a diagnosis and adequate treatment can reduce, and even eliminate, the stress response associated with the stimulus.

Due to its high effectiveness in these cases, the intervention through cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy is the most commonly used when it comes to treating a phobia. However, there are a large number of interventions and therapies that, when performed correctly and always by an expert, can also offer satisfactory results.

This type of treatments combine the techniques of live exposure or systematic desensitization with training in relaxation techniques and cognitive restructuring, in this way the person can get to master their phobic fear and perform all kinds of activities without fearing the appearance of these animals .


Fish Phobia (Ichthyophobia) How To Cure (July 2024).


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