Ichthyophobia, The fear of fish


Ichthyophobia is a mental health condition defined as the fear of fish or anything that resembles a fish. We are not aware of any clinical studies to confirm the existence or prevalence of this particular phobia, although it is commonly found in people who have other fears related to animals and water (e.g., aquaphobia). In general, when set in an aquatic environment such as rivers and lakes, ichthyophobics may feel uncomfortable.

Fish are often perceived as imminent threats to people. For instance, people who swim in the water must be aware of possible dangers lurking beneath the surface. Ichthyophobia is not a condition that can be developed at any age.

It tends to surface in childhood, and it may worsen as the individual gets older. The most common effect of this condition is anxiety. Many children who suffer from ichthyophobia develop a fear of water, and they refuse to go near it. Although their fears are, in many cases, irrational – water is usually not inhabited by sharks and other dangerous creatures – they do suffer from the condition.

It’s easy to speculate as to other causes of ichthyophobia, as it’s causes are not clear-cut. Perhaps there is some evolutionary basis for this phobia (e.g., fear of fish and water was useful hundreds or thousands of years ago when humans lived near lakes and rivers). Knowing that people generally fear things they don’t understand, we might look at the fish and the water.

People don’t know what is in the depths of a body of water (e.g., predators), but for some reason are more comfortable near land. Perhaps knowing how to swim, or not being able to navigate on dry land were evolutionary advantages. Some people argue that fish are completely different from other living things, and hence our treatment of them should be very different.

Again, this is mostly conjecture. It would be interesting to conduct a survey of people with ichthyophobia and ask them what specific aspect of fish or water they fear. There is no cure for this condition, but it can be treated in some of the same ways other phobias.