The Terrifying Reason Jennifer Aniston Is Still Afraid of Water

Actors spend their lives in front of a camera that it’s hard to imagine them having phobias. At the end of the day, though, stars are just as prone to the same quirks and fears as the rest of us—especially when they result from childhood traumas. That’s the case with Hollywood’s sweetheart Jennifer Aniston. The star has an intense fear of going under the water, and she has a good reason for her paranoia. 

Jennifer Aniston’s childhood began in California 

Jennifer Aniston at a photocall for Netflix's 'Murder Mystery.'
Jennifer Aniston | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Aniston was born in 1969 in Sherman Oaks, California. Acting was in her blood, as both of her parents were in the business. Her father, John Aniston, was a soap opera star. Her mother, Nancy Dow, was also an actor.

Aniston’s childhood, though, was anything but idyllic. Her father abandoned the family when Aniston was just a child, and her mother was left to be a single mom. She has since opened up about her struggles with her mother’s overly critical comments that left her feeling insecure. 

“She was very critical of me. Because she was a model, she was gorgeous, stunning. I wasn’t,” Aniston said. “I never was. I honestly still don’t think of myself in that sort of light, which is fine. She was also very unforgiving. She would hold grudges that I just found so petty.”

The painful relationship would eventually lead to a decades-long estrangement. Her mother was not even invited to her wedding when Aniston married Brad Pitt

A scary childhood accident led to Jennifer Aniston’s fear of water

During her childhood, Aniston was riding a tricycle around the perimeter of a swimming pool. She accidentally rode into the water and was left clinging to the tricycle while her brother tried to pull her from the water. 

“I didn’t let go and my brother tried to [help me]. So, I can’t go underwater and no one will believe me. I honestly can’t,” she explained. 

Aniston’s role in the 2015 film Cake required her to do some scenes under the water, and the actress expressed serious struggles with getting through the filming. 

Childhood traumas can leave lasting impacts

The Mayo Clinic explains that a specific phobia is “an intense, persistent fear of a specific object or situation that’s out of proportion to the actual risk.” Common phobias include a fear of needles or blood, terror at the thought of a specific animal like a spider or dog, or a fear of a specific occurrence like a thunderstorm.

People experiencing a phobia may have physical reactions like sweating, increased heart rate, and difficulty breathing. They may also have trouble functioning normally while having a phobic response. The Mayo Clinic goes on to explain that specific phobias are often triggered by negative past occurrences: Someone who has the experience of being trapped in an elevator may, for instance, develop claustrophobia, which is the fear of enclosed spaces. 

In Aniston’s case, it seems that her traumatic swimming pool experience may have led to aquaphobia — also known as the fear of water. According to Healthline, childhood traumas that result in a near-drowning situation are frequent precursors to aquaphobia. Treatment options to alleviate the symptoms of the phobia are wide ranging and include cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy. Mindfulness activities have also been used to successfully manage the symptoms of the phobia. 

While Aniston may be able to simply turn down roles that would spark her fear of being under the water, if she is suffering from a specific phobia triggered by her early childhood experience, she is not alone. Specific phobias are an incredibly pervasive type of anxiety, and many people seek treatment to help them navigate a world full of experiences that can cause them stress.