What Is Submechanophobia?

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Updated on May 8, 2024

Submechanophobia is the fear of man-made objects that are submerged underwater. People experiencing this condition are typically afraid of things like buoys, submarines, sunken ships, and other objects that sink into the ocean. Submechanophobia is among the many conditions classified under specific phobias, fears that are irrational, overwhelming, and accompanied by symptoms of severe anxiety that can affect daily functioning when untreated.

objects submerged under water

While this submechanophobia has not been confirmed through research, it has been reported by many people in discussion groups across the web. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 12.5% of U.S. adults experience a specific phobia of some sort, such as gamophobiaastrophobiaautomatonophobia, and others.

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 makes you cringe, chances are that you may experience some mild symptoms of submechanophobia, but it may not meet the full criteria for a specific phobia diagnosis.

Symptoms of Submechanophobia

Symptoms of submechanophobia are similar to other specific phobias. Therefore, when in the presence of a submerged object, those suffering from this condition may experience the following:

  • Panic attacks (shortness of breath, sweating, trembling, etc…)
  • Difficulty functioning
  • Intense fear
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

The intensity of these symptoms varies based on the severity of the phobia and proximity to the object. If you experience these symptoms when presented with man-made items being submerged in water, you may indeed meet the diagnostic criteria for a specific phobia.

Diagnosing Submechanophobia

Being scared of something does not necessarily mean that you have a phobia. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), these are the criteria for a phobia:

  • 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 a 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.

Treating Submechanophobia

If symptoms of submechanophobia are severely affecting your life, a mental health professional specializing in phobias is the best way to treat the condition and learn coping techniques. Avoidance of the fear triggers is likely to be relatively easy, so it may not be something that impacts your normal day-to-day functioning very much unless you work on the water. Even then, you may want to consider speaking with a professional to help you understand the root cause of the issue.

Either way, if you’re interested in addressing your fears, a trained therapist 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 for treating specific phobias. It can help you develop insight into how you can change the way you think about a situation, and how you can use coping skills to regulate your body when presented with situations that normally trigger your fear. Many mental health providers widely practice CBT, so finding an experienced practitioner should be relatively easy.

Some therapists also use exposure therapy to help gradually expose you to your fears and minimize their impact on you over time. This therapy modality has proven effective for patients suffering from a variety of specific phobias.

Final Thoughts

If you suffer from symptoms of submechanophobia, you may be among those who choose to ignore them out of shame. However, the symptoms themselves and the disruption they can cause to your life are very real. It’s best to find a mental health professional who can help you overcome your fears and minimize your anxiety.


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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

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