Fear of Drowning is Different than the Fear of Swimming

These two fears are something that must be understood for swim instructors to be able to help a student through either of these fears. And often their differences are muddled, students remain afraid and frustrated and learning to swim never happens.  First of all, people are fearful in water because they’re fearful of drowning.

If someone is afraid of water, simply learning to float, glide, tread and do strokes doesn’t help them. It isn’t true that if this person learns to swim that they will no longer be fearful in water. The fear is often born from frustration, disappointment, embarrassment, isolation and perhaps even anger that was felt when this person may have been “forced” to take swim lessons. This scenario is absolutely backwards because the first fear that must be overcome is the fear of drowning. The swimming part of the equation is never going to happen until this person is comfortable in the water.

So it makes sense that helping someone to overcome being fearful in water and fearful of drowning is completely different than helping someone overcome the fear of learning to swim.  In fact, the only thing that is common to the two is that they take place in the water.

A student will not benefit from traditional swim lessons if they have an unusually strong fear of water or drowning. They may exhibit these behaviors:

  1. They’re unable to stand, unassisted, in shallow water.
  2. They’re unable to submerge their face in shallow water.
  3. They’re unable to perform an assisted front and/or back float in shallow water.
  4. They’re unable to enter deep water with a flotation device.

They must have help developing coping and aquatic skills that will help them understand, manage and overcome their fear of water and drowning.

Read the complete article about Fear vs. Swimming in the April 2015 issue of Aquatics International and learn more about SOAP (Strategies Overcoming Aquatic Phobia) Program and Jeff Krieger (the organization’s founder and director).

Source: Aquatics International Magazine