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How do I Overcome a Fear of Sharks?

By Alex Terris
Updated Feb 24, 2024
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A fear of sharks is a common issue for people who want to swim in oceans. Sometimes this fear is partially justified if an attack has happened in the area recently, but most of the time it is an unsubstantiated one. Overcoming a fear of sharks starts with looking at the facts and figures for attacks as they are extremely uncommon. Learning about the sharks can also help to understand them and reduce anxiety. It’s also important to be aware of the beach protocols in the areas you visit as this can minimize the risk of an attack.

Shark attacks are extremely uncommon. Most beaches in the United States only have a few recorded instances of shark attacks over the last century. Sharks don’t want to attack humans and very rarely do — mainly because the vast majority of sharks don’t swim in shallow waters. Compared to the odds of being involved in a car crash or other serious event, the chances of being attacked by a shark are almost nonexistent.

Another thing to remember when trying to overcome a fear of sharks is that humans are not part of a shark’s diet and they have no need to attack you. This is partly because sharks digest food slowly and have to be careful about the type of meat that they eat. For this reason the few shark attacks that do happen are nearly always cases of mistaken identity and not fatal.

There are also many types of sharks, and most of them aren’t dangerous at all. Only a few species of shark are known to have attacked humans in the past. Examples of these include the great white shark and tiger shark. It is not true that all sharks are dangerous or that the bigger sharks are also the most likely to attack.

Although knowing about sharks, what they are actually like and why they are extremely unlikely to attack is important, it often isn’t enough to solve a fear of sharks. Overcoming a fear can usually only be achieved by slowly and safely facing the activity that causes the problem. For example, a fear of sharks can stop someone from learning to surf and in this case he or she should attempt to learn about sharks before going surfing. It’s important that this is only attempted in the person’s own time and without external pressure.

In more severe cases, it may help to seek professional help. This is especially important to anyone who spends a lot of time in or near an ocean, since the fear of sharks can then start to affect everyday living. A phobia of sharks, or anything for that matter, can often be addressed by talking about the issue with a professional and developing a plan to overcome it.

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Discussion Comments
By Grivusangel — On Feb 11, 2014

I don't live on the coast, so I don't necessarily need to get over my fear of sharks. When I do go to the beach, I'm not in an area where great whites live, and most of the ones that are in the area are usually of the smaller variety. There are exceptions, but it's rare to find a shark along the AL/MS Gulf Coast bigger than three or four feet, and even then, they're usually not as active during the day.

Attacks do happen once in a while, but they're almost always in the dusk to dawn hours when the sharks are more active. I wouldn't go in over my knees at sunset or dawn, and I wouldn't go in over my ankles after dark. It's just not smart.

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