Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

Cetaphobia: The Fear of Whales This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

Custom User Avatar
More by this author
Everyone has an irrational fear. For some it is the color green; for others it could be the dark. In my case, it's whales. I don't know why everyone finds this so amusing and surprising, considering there are people out there scared of much weirder things, such as marshmallows (no offense if that's you). I mean, I see why fears like heights, snakes, or spiders are far more common and fairly accepted. You can fall, you can be bitten, but what are the chances of a whale swallowing you? I really have no idea. To be honest, my fear seems a little odd even to me, since I can't really give you a good reason. But, that's what makes it an irrational fear.

Every time someone learns about my fear of whales they're so entertained you'd think they'd been told I was scared of something as harmless as a teddy bear. In one class at school we were practicing descriptive writing, and naturally the teacher used a picture of a whale. Even though it was in its natural habitat and a photograph (for ­crying out loud), I could barely look at it without shuddering. So of course my friends told my teacher, who burst out laughing and wouldn't let it go. But cetaphobia is perfectly justifiable. I mean, if you really think about it, a fear of whales is reasonable.

For one thing, a killer whale (great name, huh?) has a dorsal fin six feet in length. And that's just the fin. But the killer whale, also known as orca, is relatively small. Compared to a humpback or a sperm whale, the orca is like a chihuahua next to a Great Dane.

Whales are ginormous. How is that not at least a little scary? Whales are the largest mammals (yes, mammals, complete with hair and the ability to nurse their babies), even dwarfing elephants. Their monstrous size is probably the leading factor in my fear.

Another reason for my fear is that I can't imagine swimming in the ocean with a whale right there beside me. I have reoccurring nightmares that I'm in the ocean, at school, or in some other public place and a whale (or multiple whales) appears and begins circling me and brushing up against me. This is terrifying. If anyone else with cetaphobia is reading this, he'll understand the terror of these dreams. How could any human get that close to a whale without freaking out? I swear you'd have to be a robot or something.

There are plenty of scary facts and explanations for cetaphobia, but I'll limit myself to just two more: their power/strength and their appearance. Considering their size, imagine how strong they must be. I mean, those things can take out great white sharks, a commonly feared ocean predator. Just let that sink in. It perplexes me that anyone would get onto a boat to go whale-watching when for all they know, the whale is right beneath them and might breech at any moment, capsizing the boat.

My parents don't understand my fear because they say “whales are so beautiful.” I'm sorry, but I really don't understand how whales can be considered beautiful. Out of all the creatures in the world, from lions to mice, you're telling me this giant creature covered in barnacles is beautiful? I mean, you could argue that crabs are stunning too.

Hopefully I have helped you understand that cetaphobia is real and perfectly reasonable. Or maybe you have some clarification about my fear of whales. If any part of this article has caused you to become afraid of whales or like them any less, I apologize.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Join the Discussion

This article has 28 comments. Post your own now!

HeraldoThompson said...
today at 10:16 am
There was this amazing study at Emory University where they showed that phobias and irrational fears may be a cause of your ancestors having bad experience with that thing. They found this because they would have mice smell a cherry scent and then give them a small shock each time. The next generation of mice had an irrational fear of the the cherry scent, even though they had never been shocked. They looked deeper and found that the entire region of the brain that deals with scent had been alte... (more »)
emmanew said...
Mar. 3 at 9:06 pm
THANK YOU SO MUCH! I recently realized how scary and terrifying whales are, especially blue whales. My friends typically laugh at me when I freak out when I see a whale, but the struggle is real. I'm glad to see that I am not the only one with this fear. Again, thank you so much!
Bro1991 said...
Feb. 26 at 11:39 pm
Omg I am not alone!! I am totally petrified of orca whales! I used to love free willy as a kid but could never watch the bits where it was filmed under water and they make the whale sounds totally creeps me out!!!
Whales more like no said...
Feb. 16 at 10:51 am
My friends know that I am terrified of whales then they invite me swimming in this really murky lake and once we are in the middle they make whale noises. I have to swim as fast as I can to the dock in the middle of the lake and then I get basically frozen to it and a boat has to come get me. Luckily I can invite my boyfriend and clutch to him the entire time but I pull him down into the lake.
Whaleshowaboutno said...
Feb. 16 at 10:48 am
I am terrified of whales! I shuddered just reading about them! I can't sit in high places without looking down because of the fear a whale will be below me. I can't even shower without very loud pop music playing so I get distracted.
Teenbat said...
Jan. 26 at 5:07 am
I'm terrified of any type of whale, but mostly orca's and *shudder* sperm whales. I often have nightmares of swimming in the ocean, looking into the deep dark, and seeing the outline of one, or worse, having it swimming straight up towards me.
Sentra Sen said...
Dec. 6, 2014 at 12:37 am
I honestly have the exact same fear as you! I dont have a fear of blue whales but just the thought of a killer whale anywhere near me OMG! At school my friend did a project and u had to present it on the smartboard infront of the class and she did a killer whale as her pet and there was a huge picture and i couldnt even look at it, it was so embarrissing like honestly i cant even look at a PICTURE of a killer whale even saying the name. Please reply if u feel the same way x
ChocoCat said...
Nov. 28, 2014 at 1:08 pm
Totally agree: WHALES ARE TERRIFING. Think about it: swimming peacefully, eyeing a coral reef, and suddenly, a GIANT WHALE is coming at you, mouth open, and you can't swim away quite fast enough... and you're lost to the stomach acid of a giant scary thing. (Finding Nemo might've triggered my fear XD) And your out on a little boat, fishing, and then a whale springs out of the water, either landing and crushing your boat or breaching under your boat, flipping it over. Then, if you sur... (more »)
gazeemyth said...
Aug. 16, 2014 at 9:50 pm
Just googled fear of whales, and I have to say, I completely agree with you in regards to reactions. Seriously, I have had a girlfriends go into states of panic when a non-venemous spider that they could easily kill by stepping on is in the same room at them bust up laughing when they find out my number one fear is whales. I have had people trying to fuck with me by sending me pictures of whales. What they don't understand is it's not looking at the whale that freaks me out, its the enti... (more »)
Makmar36 said...
Jun. 18, 2014 at 12:34 am
Wow thank you to all of you out there sharing your fear of whales. I too ran out of the museum crying from the life size on the wall. Everyone laughs, they find it hysterical. Even my 5 year old laughs, she showed me a picture of a cartoon whale on her Red Lobster menu and I broke down crying in the restaurant! My teenagers find it very entertaining and this story really made me feel like other people are out there like this! I grew up scared of ocean and deep water and sharks ect ect and it was... (more »)
natcacThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Sept. 30, 2014 at 7:32 pm
My teacher recently showed a clip of Disney's Fantasia in which large whales, probably humpbacks, obtained the power to fly and rose out of the arctic waters and flew up into the sky.  Naturally I was utterly horrified and disturbed, and wouldn't even look at the screen.  My friends, of course, all watched me the entire time to see my reaction.
Gabby2 replied...
Oct. 19, 2014 at 11:30 pm
YES! I watched that as a child often then all of a sudden I was so terrified of them so recently I tried getting over the fear by watching it again but I legit had a panic attack so I blame my cetaphobia on that film
DobbyIsAlive said...
Jun. 9, 2014 at 10:04 pm
Oh my gosh! I just googled "The fear of whales" to find out what I had and I read your article! I'm so glad there are others that are afraid! I too cannot even look at pictures of whales without feeling as if I'm going to faint! It's so scary! 
SooCalpity said...
Jun. 8, 2014 at 6:00 am
I hate whales and am absolutely terrified of them. I think my fear acctualy comes from pinocchio (the whale part) which is weird as it's a U. Anyway I'm glad to know I'm not the only one as I freak out when I see a picture of one, oh and the same thing happens when I see pictures of dolphins. Thankyou for this article.
Pathy said...
May 29, 2014 at 1:25 am
I feel your pain, I can't even go into that room with the whale suspended on the ceiling in the measeum of natural history, I would faint, or die on the spot. I cried for hours after being forced to walk through there for a school trip as a child.

I'm scared of whales for a variety of reasons. I am afraid that if I were in the water with one it would eat me, it would possibly knock me unconcious to drown in the water with it's tail fin or flippers or they will swim ... (more »)
whalessucck replied...
Sept. 29, 2014 at 10:11 am
i now have a fear of a whale drownng me while swimming above me ...i dont think i would get to the top regardless i wouldnt move if i was in the water with a whale id die
madwegs said...
May 5, 2014 at 11:45 pm
I am terrified of whales, and I live in Illinois. Just thinking about them makes me anxious. I had to step out of biology lecture last year because there was a picture of a whale on the board, and I got so scared that I couldn't breathe. People think it's so cute when I tell them, but really, it's awful. I totally understand you! Also the ocean in general is perplexing.
Never you mind said...
Apr. 29, 2014 at 9:08 pm
I'm petrified of any whale larger than a killer whale. I'm not sure why but I can't even look on the web at a picture. Especially a dead beached whale (or anything dead for that matter, will not even get into that phobia now.). For me it's the sheer size of them. I think I have an issue with trying to wrap my head around their size and the fact that I could probably be swallowed up whole throw their blow hole and the whale most likely wouldn't notice. I don't know but it&... (more »)
valeryv said...
Apr. 22, 2014 at 3:34 pm
I completely understand you! I've been scared of whales since i was 12 or 13. I'm a swimmer and in the pool were i practice (since i was 3) there are dark blue majolica imitating the shape of a whale at the bottom and it just freaks me out. Everytime i look down i see that enormous figure right behind me and i get very anxious, sometimes i have to stop swimming to calm myself down. But that's not all, when im sleeping i have current nightmares about being alone in the ocean surrounde... (more »)
natcacThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Sept. 30, 2014 at 7:28 pm
Personally I believe the best way to avoid a fear is to not avoid it.  Instead, confront it!  As Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."  Obviously I don't mean go swimming with a whale because I wouldn't even put myself through that torture.  Just push yourself to face your fears! 
Site Feedback