What is hydrophobia? symptoms, causes and treatments

The hydrophobicity or water phobia is a psychological disorder that is characterized by an irrational, excessive and unwarranted fear in água.Normalmente, this type of phobia is usually related to fear of beaches or pools due to the large amount of water present in these places.

However, rabies is not limited to being afraid of entering the water, swimming or bathing. A person with this disorder may fear any situation in which they come into contact with water, including water that comes out of the tap, shower, and so on.

Water is one of the most essential elements for the life of living beings, therefore, not contacting it regularly is complex. For this reason, hydrophobia can seriously affect a person’s life, as it can react with intense fear on a recurring basis. in your day to day.

The purpose of this article is to review the current literature on this disorder. Discuss the characteristics of rabies and explain what its causes and treatments might be.

Hydrophobicity Characteristics

Hydrophobia is cataloged according to the statistical and diagnostic manual (DSM-V) as an anxiety disorder. Specifically, it refers to one of the many types of specific phobia that have been described today.

Specific phobias are disorders that are characterized by having an irrational and excessive fear (a phobic fear) in relation to a specific element.

In the case of hydrophobia, the dreaded element is water. Therefore, the person with this change will experience high feelings of fear when exposed to these elements.

Hydrophobia is considered an anxiety disorder because of the response caused by the person coming into contact with its dreaded stimulus. In this alteration, when the individual is exposed to water, he presents a marked anxiety response.

Likewise, hydrophobia is characterized by escape and escape behaviors. The subject of this psychopathology will constantly try to avoid contact with water.

This fact can be reflected in specific situations. For example, a person with rabies never goes to the beach on a hot summer day or approaches a river while hiking in the mountains.

However, rabies prevention may not stay there and further aggravate the disorder. An individual with this alteration can avoid contact with water in normal, everyday situations, such as using wash water, turning on the shower faucet, or using a hose to water the plants.

How can you determine if you have rabies?

In general, humans, like many other animals, have a good predisposition for water.

This element generally does not pose harmful and dangerous attributions directly to people. Likewise, it is considered a vital substance for the life of the planet and the beings that inhabit it.

However, not all people are equally happy with water. There are those who can adore it and enjoy spaces such as beaches, rivers, lakes, swimming pools or showers. But there are also those who may have some dislike for these situations.

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For example, a person who does not know how to swim may be a little afraid of situations where water is plentiful. You might even get a little nervous when stepping onto a beach or deep pool.

This fact alone does not determine the presence of hydrophobia. In other words, hydrophobia does not consist in showing a certain rejection or aversion to water, it goes much further.

Thus, to determine whether or not rabies is suffered, it is essential to analyze the type of fear a person has in relation to water. In general, the phobic fear of hydrophobia is characterized by being:

1- Excessive

The fear of water related to rabies is highly excessive in response to the demands of the situation.

For example, an individual with this disorder may have extremely high fear in seemingly safe situations, such as being in a hot tub or taking a shower.

Thus, the presence of rabies in people who have a justified and reasonable fear of water is excluded.

For example, a person who cannot swim may have a certainly adaptive (rather than phobic) fear of water when in situations where knowledge of swimming may be needed at some point.

2- Irrational

The exaggerated intensity of fear of water related to hydrophobia is accompanied by a high irrational component.

That is, the person suffering from rabies is not able to rationally justify why he or she fears water. He also cannot expose what are the elements that make him experience such heightened feelings of fear.

The individual with rabies is very afraid of water, unable to reason and explain the reasons for his fear.

3- Uncontrollable

On the other hand, the subject with rabies is totally unable to control his feelings and experiences of fear.

When they appear, they completely take over their thinking and behavior, without the person being able to modulate the fear of water.

In this way, the individual experiences fear irrationally but is unable to avoid the appearance of fear.

4- Leads to evasion

Fear of water related to rabies is so high that it causes marked avoidance behavior in the person.

The individual with this disorder will try to avoid exposure to water by all means. Although this behavior can affect you negatively or decrease your quality of life.

For the person with hydrophobia, the most important thing is to avoid the distressing sensations they experience when they come into contact with water.

5- Persistent

Hydrophobia is a persistent disorder. That is, fear of water does not appear at specific stages or times.

People with this disorder are invariably afraid of water whenever they come into contact with it. Likewise, if not treated properly, it will have the change throughout your life.


Hydrophobia is an anxiety disorder; therefore, the main symptoms of psychopathology are anxious manifestations.

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The anxiety disorder caused by the phobic fear of water is serious. Affecting the physical level and the cognitive and behavioral level of the person. However, it rarely ends up producing an anxiety attack.

1- physical plane

When a person with rabies comes into contact with his feared element, he has a series of physical symptoms.

These manifestations are characterized by changes in the body’s functioning. Specifically, central nervous system activity is increased in response to fear of water.

The physical symptoms that hydrophobia can cause can vary significantly in each case. However, currently, the group of manifestations that can occur is well described.

Specifically, a person with rabies will have some of the following physical symptoms whenever they come into contact with water.

  1. Increased heart rate.
  2. Increased respiratory rate.
  3. Hyperventilation or choking sensations.
  4. Generalized muscle tension
  5. Excessive sweating all over the body and/or cold sweats.
  6. Stomach and/or headaches.
  7. Feeling of unreality or depersonalization.
  8. pupillary dilation
  9. Dizziness, nausea and vomiting.

2- Cognitive Plan

The physical symptoms that appear when a person with rabies comes into contact with water are not temporary or isolated in nature. This fact is explained mainly because they do not appear alone.

That is, physical manifestations are accompanied by a series of cognitive disorders. In this sense, symptoms related to the cognitive plane refer to all the thoughts that a person develops about water.

Cognitions of fear and fear of water can be varied. All of them are characterized by catastrophic predictions about what can happen when someone comes into contact with this element.

Likewise, a series of thoughts about the personal inability to deal with the dreaded stimulus arises.

These cognitions are fed back with physical sensations in a directional way. Physical symptoms increase negative thoughts about water and increase bodily manifestations of anxiety.

3- Behavioral plan

Finally, as specified in the definition of water phobic fear, hydrophobia significantly affects a person’s behavior.

The two main behaviors caused by fear of water are avoidance and avoidance of the feared stimulus.

Avoidance refers to all the behaviors that a person develops in their daily lives to avoid contact with water. This can be serious and significantly affect the individual’s functionality.

Escape, on the other hand, is the behavior that appears whenever a person with rabies is unable to avoid their dreaded situation. On these occasions, the individual will try to escape contact with water as quickly as possible.

These elements have a direct bearing on the intensity of fear. The high feelings of discomfort caused by exposure to water make the individual try to avoid it whenever possible.

On the other hand, avoiding contact with water contributes to increasing fear in relation to this, being a behavior that prevents the overcoming of fear and disorder.


The causes of specific phobias are well studied and documented today. Thus, there is a high scientific consensus that there is no single factor that can cause hydrophobia.

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Specifically, it has been shown that the element that generates this change is the combination and feedback of different factors.

In each case, they can play a more relevant role, one or the other. Likewise, not all of them appear or are easily identifiable in all individuals with rabies.

The factors that were most related to the disorder are:

1- Classic conditioning

Classical conditioning is the main method by which people develop their feelings of fear and fear.

Thus, the experience of traumatic, dangerous or unpleasant situations with water can be an important factor contributing to the development of hydrophobia.

2- Vicar Conditioning

It is not just through direct experience that fears can develop. They can also be learned by viewing specific images and situations.

In this sense, having seen negative events related to water, such as the death of someone by drowning, images of a tsunami or any other situation in which the water causes significant damage, can contribute to the acquisition of the disturbance.

3- Verbal conditioning

Finally, the other way of obtaining information that we have concerns verbal processes.

Having received educational styles in which special emphasis is placed on the danger of water, or hearing fearful opinions in relation to this element repeatedly can condition fearful experiences.


The best news presented by this psychological disorder is that it currently has truly effective interventions and treatments.

The life of a person with rabies can be markedly limited by their fears of water. However, you can overcome them if you put yourself in the hands of professionals and carry out the appropriate treatments.

In this sense, the intervention that has shown the greatest effectiveness is psychotherapy. Specifically, cognitive behavioral treatment has remarkably high recovery rates and is now regarded as the best intervention to treat rabies.

This treatment is based on the subject’s exposure to its feared elements. The person with rabies is exposed to water in a gradual and controlled way, in order to get used to it and realize that it is not a dangerous element to fear.

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