Is the Fear of Deep Water Holding You Back?

Is your fear of deep water, also known as 'aquaphobia', preventing you from learning to swim or holding back your swimming strokes? Maybe swimming in deep water suddenly has you grabbing for the side?

Well, you have come to the right place.

Overcome your fear of deep water

Why do we have a fear of deep water?

The most common reason for having any anxiety when it comes to swimming could be a bad experience in the past, such as a terrifying swimming lesson, an accidental fall into deep water or even a near drowning.

When you go near water or a swimming pool, your body's self-defence systems kick in and raise your heart rate, tighten your muscles, and accelerate your breathing. These are all your body's way of saying 'don't go there'!

You might not have quite such a fear of deep water. Instead, you could be one of those swimmers who swim happily around until suddenly, out of nowhere, you feel like you're going to sink. You are swimming in deep water, thinking it will pull you down, and you instantly find yourself scrambling for the side to hold on to.

Check Out This Simple Test:

One crucial point you must understand here is that the buoyancy of the human body is the same in deep water as in shallow water. In other words, your ability to remain at the surface is the same regardless of the depth of the water.

The first important point to consider when you fear swimming is how to enter the water. Safely is the obvious answer, but how to is another matter.

 Click here to discover the safest ways to enter the pool. 

Put yourself to the test: 

Swim away from the poolside for a 5 to 10-metre distance, but to an area of the pool where the water is within your standing depth. Then change direction and swim back to the poolside you came from, WITHOUT touching the pool floor with your feet.

If you can complete this without any problems, you have just proved that you can change direction in the water and return to the poolside at any depth. The fact that you managed this without putting your feet on the bottom of the pool means that the depth of the water is irrelevant.

Practising this could be the key to overcoming your fear, but for some, it will not be as simple as that. There are many psychological barriers to overcome.

Learning how to tread water will help massively with conquering your fear.

 Click here to learn how to tread water. 

Conquer Your Fear Of Swimming In Deep Water

How do you conquer your fear of deep water? The short answer is slowly and gradually, step by step.

The slightly longer answer: it is a case of learning how to control the water instead of allowing the water to control your thoughts and movements. Learn to relax as you swim and move around the pool, keep your breathing steady and take your time.

The main barriers to conquer are:

1. Learn how to breathe. Take deep breaths and breathe out underwater in a slow and controlled way. Don't blow out to complete exhaustion; do it comfortably, staying relaxed and controlling any anxieties.

2. Practice gliding across the water. Push off from the poolside and get a feel for your efficiency through the water. Experience the feeling of slowing down and slowly sinking, and then use gentle arm and leg movements to slow down or prevent sinking. It is essential to move relaxed and controlled, without panic. Learn how to glide when swimming here.

3. Learn how to submerge. Discover how your body moves when submerged underwater and get used to the feeling of the water allowing you to move rather than resisting your movements. Learn how to submerge underwater here.

4. Learn how to float. We all know that some of us float well and some do not - but we can all remain at the water surface one way or another. Be it naturally floating or swimming to stay there, feeling your way through the water and not fighting it is the essential mindset here.  Learn more about how to float here.

learn to submerge and conquer fear of swimming in deep water

Time To Overcome Your Fear Of Deep Water

My best-selling book 'The Complete Beginners Guide to Swimming' contains help with all aspects of learning to swim and conquering your fear of deep water, including:

  • floating in water 
  • relaxing and gliding
  • going underwater
  • standing up mid-swim

Plus, tons of exercises to learn how to swim the four basic strokes.  

Click below to download it to your computer, tablet or mobile device.  Or, click here for more details.


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Conquering your fear of deep water involves understanding how your body behaves in the water and then learning to take control of the thoughts and feelings associated with various states your body can find itself in when in the water.

Try this test.

Happy swimming! 

Mark Young swimming teacher

Happy swimming! 

Mark Young swimming teacher

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I am experiencing fear when learning to dive. How can I remove my fear when I dive? 'The fear associated with diving usually comes from the fact that you are attempting to enter the water head first from a physically higher position.'

I would like to learn to swim but am concerned about the impact after swimming, particularly the effects of swimming on the skin. 'I would be lying if I said that swimming had no effects on the body in terms of damage due to the water. However, let us put some things into perspective here.'

Do you have any useful tips for conquering my fear of deep water? 'If you can swim without letting your feet touch the pool floor, then you can swim in deep water.'

I get scared swimming in deep water. I’m a beginner, and I know how to swim breaststroke. 'When swimming in deep water, it is important to understand that the buoyancy of the human body remains the same in all depths of water.'

I have confidence in the water but am still struggling with my deep water fear and get anxious swimming to the deep end. 'First of all, congratulations on learning to swim. You have achieved something that many adults wish they could but dare not try.'

I get very tense swimming in the deep end. 'The best way to conquer your fear of swimming in deep water is firstly to master swimming in water of your depth.'

I'm determined to conquer my fear and learn to swim. I am having a TERRIBLE problem with the kicking! I don't get anywhere, even using a kickboard. 'The problem you are experiencing is a very common one. Believe it or not, kicking with a kickboard is hard work, even for the most established swimmers.'

I seem to have hit a plateau with my arm movements when standing from freestyle. 'This problem is not uncommon, and there is a couple of ways to approach resolving it and gaining confidence standing from swimming freestyle.'

I am terrified of swimming because I am scared to lift my feet off the pool floor. 'This is a very common feeling, and you are not alone. Please do not compare yourself with the others in your class.'

How can I overcome my fear of swimming in deep water? 'You can practice a few exercises in the pool that will get you used to deeper water and help you conquer your fear of swimming in deep water.'

I can float, but after a few seconds, I panic and try to get up abruptly. This is affecting my glide as well. 'Do not stress at this stage about floating and gliding. The panic you are experiencing is very common. A combination of things can cause it.'

I am not able to inhale as I swim. 'It is quite probable that you are not turning your head enough for your mouth to clear the water surface, and your attempts to inhale result in water flowing into your mouth.'

I can swim on my back, but I cannot swim on my front. 'First of all, congratulations on conquering your fear of the pool. You prove that it can be done and that age means nothing when learning to swim!'

My fear of drowning is holding me back. I am having swimming classes in school, but I'm getting anxious. 'I have worked with people like you many times over the years, and your fears and anxieties are not uncommon.'

Every time I go to a swimming pool, I always feel nervous, and I freak out when I can't touch the bottom. 'Sounds like you are trying to run before you can walk, so to speak! You need to go back to basics and spend some time in the pool learning to appreciate the water and how your body behaves.'

I desperately want to learn how to swim, but I get very scared because I cannot touch the bottom of the pool. What can I do to overcome this? 'Learn to swim within your depth first. Learn to become comfortable in the water, and learn how to stop and stand up whilst moving without your feet on the pool floor.'

As a child, I had a scary experience in the water and am trying to overcome my fear and I get terrified heading into the deep end. 'Swimming in the deep end can be daunting, especially if you have had a bad childhood experience.'

I enjoy swimming much and would love to swim the full 25 meters length, but my confidence holds me back. 'A very simple thing to try is starting your swim from the pool's deep end. That way, when you reach 20 meters and begin to get tired or think you will sink, you will be in water of standing depth anyway.'

I'm worried that when I learn to swim with floats, I won't be able to get my feet off the floor. 'As for getting your feet off the floor, believe it or not, that is not the scary part. The scary part is getting them back down and safely onto the pool floor again.'

I am 64 and have always been scared of water and swimming. I have taken 15 lessons but nothing. 'Thanks for contacting me and asking for some advice. It sounds like you are determined to learn how to swim, but your fear is holding you back.'

I have a fear of swimming without holding my nose! I have tried swimming without holding my nose before, but I choked. 'Forgive me if you think I might be stating the obvious. It would help if you practice holding your breath underwater.'

I'm really finding it frustrating and a struggle. Still, bits of fear creep in. I've been desperately trying to find answers on how to go about things a different way. 'Firstly congratulations on getting into the pool and taking some steps to overcome your fear of water. You’ve done something many adults wouldn’t dare do.'

I feel as though I'm going to sink every time until I get my kick going. 'You are right, it is mostly psychological, but there are a couple of things you can do that might help.'

I’ve been teaching myself to swim. When I was about ten years old my cousins and I went swimming in the local baths. It was a packed and pretty noisy place, with lots of swirling of water and close contact with strangers.

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