Submechanophobia: How to Overcome the Fear of Shipwrecks



Do you feel uneasy catching sight of an abandoned shipwreck, submerged in the ocean or a lake? Do you feel squeamish seeing statues under the sea?

Does viewing this photograph make you feel afraid?

Shipwreck underwater on the seabed

These may seem like silly questions to some, but to others, they are very real and can be extremely distressing.

The very thought of witnessing a man-made object underwater, either partially or completely, can cause some people to feel intense emotions of terror.

In fact, there is a word for this phobia: submechanophobia.

In this article, we will be delving deeper – no pun intended – into this phobia, looking at what causes it, and why the idea of a half-sunken, or fully-sunken object can cause some people to feel afraid.

So, let’s get into it.

What Is Submechanophobia?

Submechanophobia is the fear of partially or fully submerged man-made structures and objects.

The name is taken from the Latin word ‘sub’, which means ‘under’, and the Ancient Greek terms, ‘μηχανή’ and ‘φόβος’, which translate to ‘machine’ and ‘fear’, respectively. When placed together, these words translate to the term, ‘fear of machines under [water]’.

It is worth noting that this phobia isn’t always linked solely to water. Just because someone has submechanophobia, it does not mean that they are afraid of swimming, or jumping into the ocean. It isn’t a fear of the water called aquaphobia, aquatic wildlife or the deep, darkness of the sea.

If you do feel afraid of the aforementioned subjects, you may suffer from thalassophobia instead.

Submechanophobia is the fear of man-made structures that, by all means, do not belong in the ocean. Some of these structures include sunken ships, abandoned submarines, and/or statues that were built or have fallen, into the ocean.

This is an irrational fear, but one that affects many people around the world.

In fact, according to research done by the University of California, San Diego, over 20% of Americans reported having experienced submechanophobia. This number rises to nearly 40% when considering those who live near bodies of water.

Fears Involved In Submechanophobia

Statue underwater covered with marine growth

To further understand this phobia, and why so many people suffer from it, we need to look closer at the fears involved.

When thinking about the topic of submechanophobia, most people think of a specific type of fear: the fear of drowning. This may be due to the fact that the feared objects in question have sunken into the ocean, and this may subconsciously connect to the person’s fear of drowning.

However, this is only part of the story. There are other fears associated with this phobia, and below, we will talk through each aspect and factor that comes into play when a person suffers from submechanophobia.

Fear Of Hazards

When a person sees a shipwreck or any abandoned vehicle in the sea, their first thoughts may go straight to wondering what happened to have caused the object to become submerged.

When we look back at footage of deep-sea divers exploring the remains of the Titanic, many of us experience feelings of terror and sadness. This is because we know how the ship came to be there.

We know that hundreds of people – children and adults alike – either drowned or froze to death as the ship sank back in 1912.

Fear Of Hazards underwater experience submechanophobia

This is, sometimes, a reason that people experience submechanophobia. We, as humans, are curious creatures, questioning everything that we see: when we see a sunken ship, we immediately wonder how it got there.

When we see any major man-made structure under the ocean, we wonder how it got there.

This is because we know that it shouldn’t be there.

Fear Of Ships

In addition to having submechanophobia, a person may also suffer from naviphobia, a fear of boats, large ships, and cruises.

While these phobias are different, and many people will suffer from one without the other, they can sometimes be connected. Sometimes, the fear of seeing a sunken ship may stem from the ship itself, along with the fact that it is submerged in water.

Shipwreck of the schooner

One of the biggest triggers for those with submechanophobia is submarines, whether they have been abandoned or not.

The idea of being trapped inside a metal box underwater is enough to cause some people to feel anxious, but for those with submechanophobia, it can cause emotions of pure terror.

Fear Of Germs

The fear of germs, often known as mysophobia, is a fairly common phobia that is sometimes linked to the fear of submerged items. Toxins, germs, and parasites can all be found in some bodies of water, posing a threat.

Unknown bodies of water, where the hazards are undetermined, might readily elicit a scared response from someone who has submechanophobia and/or mysophobia.

If an object has been underwater for a long time, it may become the home of underwater creatures. The thoughts of animals eating, defecating, and urinating inside an abandoned entity could be enough to strike fear into someone suffering from either of the aforementioned phobias.

Fear Of The Unknown

Fearing the unknown in a new place is a fundamental responsibility that we, as humans, have experienced since the dawn of time. It is a survival instinct that has kept us, and our ancestors, safe for many, many years.

Even in modern times, it is advisable to use caution when near bodies of water since they may include concealed risks, industrial pollution, as well as other hazards.

To people who are unfamiliar with a body of water, the prospect of potential dangers lying beneath its surface would be enough to arouse a phobia of the unknown.

How To Cope With Submechanophobia

Since most people do not live in or near the ocean, the fear of submerged things provides minimal difficulties in day-to-day activities for most people. This makes diagnosing the fear as a phobia challenging.

Some people may discover that they have submechanophobia while visiting an aquarium, or even watching a movie about the sea. Unless you are a professional deep-sea diver, the likelihood of you ever witnessing a sunken ship with your own eyes is fairly slim.

However, despite this phobia being an irrational one, it does not mean that your fear is invalid.

If you find yourself experiencing this type of anxiety, seek professional help. There are several treatments available, including medication, therapy, and behavioral modification that can help you overcome your fears.

Final Thoughts

While there are no real statistics on how many people suffer from submechanophobia, the number is likely higher than most realize.

If you are feeling any kind of apprehension around bodies of water, especially if you have never visited them before, you may be suffering from submechanophobia.

Luckily, unless you live close to the ocean, or work at an aquarium, you won’t have to deal with these feelings very often.

However, if you find yourself becoming increasingly stressed about these scenarios on a daily basis, e.g., seeing submerged objects in a movie, then you should consider speaking to your doctor.

That was our short summary of submechanophobia. We hope that you found this article useful. If you would like to find out more, we recommend that you keep going with your research, perhaps speaking to a professional in this field.

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Dmitry S

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