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Fear of Fish (Ichthyophobia)
Ichthyophobia is an abnormal and intense fear of fish
(alive or dead) and/or a fear of eating fish (e.g., due to
possible contaminants such as mercury). As phobias
go, it is relatively uncommon. While some people may
feel uneasy around fish for various reasons (e.g., fear
of being harmed, fear of their appearance when dead
on a plate or in the seafood store), these feelings can
develop into ichthyophobia when it significantly limits
the personís daily functioning and/or causes harm.
 
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An example would be if a person decided to never swim in any type of beach due to a
fear of being near fish. Another example would be if the person needed to avoid social
situations where fish are present (e.g., fishing trips, restaurants and doctor offices with
aquariums, pet stores, movies with fish such as Jaws or Finding Nemo).

A psychological technique that is very helpful in treating ichthyophobia is cognitive
behavioral therapy (CBT) in which people learn to change their thoughts to change their
resulting feelings.

The person learns not to over-estimate the risk of being harmed by the presence of fish
or eating fish. In this way, thoughts become less intrusive and anxiety-provoking. CBT is
the most common form of treatment.
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Another technique is a method known as desensitization in which a
person is taught how to relax when being exposed to situations
(e.g., aquariums, seafood restaurants) where there is increased fish
exposure.  The person is exposed to more intense forms of the
stimulus (e.g., greater numbers of fish) as he/she masters the fear
at the less intense level. Sometimes, the more intense form of the
stimuli is based on the amount of the stimuli whereas in other cases
it may be based on the duration of exposure (e.g., one minute, two
minutes, three minutes, etc, such as the length of time standing in
the water with fish). CBT is often combined with desensitization and
typically works within a few months.
Another treatment technique is a behavioral method known as flooding in which the person is immersed
directly in the feared stimulus (e.g. immersed in a fish tank with a great number of harmless fish) to
demonstrate that the fear is irrational. The fear is replaced by realization of this and the application of
relaxation techniques. Flooding is a faster but more traumatic form of treatment than desensitization. A
more insight-oriented technique involves exploring the original cause of the phobia (e.g., a traumatic
experience with fish) and trying to resolve issues surrounding this. This may involve use of CBT
techniques and/or other counseling methods. Ichthyophobia  can be treated by an anti-anxiety medication
designed to decrease anxiety (e.g., to relax when going to a seaquarium). Sometimes, antidepressant
medications may be used because some anti-depressants are useful for treating anxiety as well as
depression. Yet another form of treatment is hypnotherapy, in which the person imagines eating, seeing,
or thinking about fish without being very anxious.

Of cultural note, the Navajo Indians have been reported to have a mythic or cultural aversion to sea
creatures but they do not all have ichthyophobia. Galeophobia is a specific type of fish phobia (fear of
sharks). Due to the fear of sharks, people may generalize fears to other fish as symbolizing that some
type of danger is imminent. Ichthyophobia comes from the Greek word "ichthys" meaning "fish," and the
Greek word "phobos" meaning "fear. Put the two words together and you have "fear (of) fish."