Do You Have Submechanophobia?

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August 30, 2020

The world is filled with weird and scary things that can cause a person to feel nervous and frightened. While some things that scare people make sense due to the reasonable threat they cause, other things people fear can seem to come from an unreasonable place of fear due to the lack of threat that the things or situations cause. Submechanophobia is a term that has circulated on the internet thanks to message boards like Reddit for some time.

objects submerged under water

Submechanophobia is a fear of man-made objects that are submerged under water. People who report experiencing this state that they are afraid of things like buoys, submarines, sunken ships, and many other things that sink into the ocean.

While this alleged phobia has not been confirmed through research, many people on the Internet claim to have experienced this fear. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 9 percent of U.S. adults are diagnosed with having a phobia of some sort, not all of them falling under the more commonly known fears such as arachnophobia and agoraphobia.

Research has found that women are more prone to phobias than men, and that almost 50% of all phobias in the U.S. are considered mild cases. So, if the thought of sunken ships or buoys make you cringe, chances are that you may experience some mild symptoms of what is being called submechanophobia, but it may not meet full criteria for a specific phobia diagnosis.

Being freaked out by something does not necessarily mean that you have a phobia. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), which is what mental health professionals use to diagnose patients with mental health diagnoses, these are the criteria of a phobia:

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  • Unreasonable and excessive fear – The person’s fear levels must be unreasonable for the situation and it is persistent even though they may recognize that it is excessive (though this is no longer part of the criteria for diagnosis).
  • Immediate anxiety response – When presented with the fearful situation, the person will have an immediate and extreme response appearing to look as if they are in danger when the situation is not dangerous.
  • Avoidance/extreme distress – The person will go to great lengths to avoid their fears, and if they cannot they exhibit symptoms of extreme distress like panic symptoms.
  • Life-limiting – This fear significantly impacts their ability to function in their social, occupational or educational pursuits.
  • 6+Month duration – Symptoms of fear must last for longer than 6 months.
  • Not attributable to another disorder – Symptoms must not also be related to another mental health condition.

If you experience these symptoms when presented with man-made items being submerged in water, you may indeed meet criteria for a specific phobia.

Seeking out help from a mental health professional who specializes in phobias is the best way to treat these symptoms if they are severely affecting your life. In the case of submechanophobia, it is likely that avoidance of these fear triggers is relatively easy, so it may not be something that impacts your normal day to day functioning very much, unless you work on the water.

Either way, if you’re interested in addressing your fears, a trained mental health professional can help you begin to understand the way your fearful thoughts are contributing to your symptoms, and how your feelings are related to your behavior to help you improve your functioning.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used to help someone struggling with phobias develop insight into how they can change the way they think about a situation and how they can use coping skills to regulate their bodies when presented with fearful situations or things. Therapists will also use exposure therapy to help gradually expose someone to their fears to help them decrease their reactivity to it over time. Either way, if submechanophobia symptoms are causing you significant distress, it’s best to find a mental health professional who can help you make sense of these fears.

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Dr. Shannon McHugh is a Licensed Clinical and Forensic Psychologist in Los Angeles, California. She specializes in assessment and treatment of children, adolescents, and adults who have developmental and social delays, behavioral difficulties, and those who have experienced traumatic events