Death Anxiety

by admin

Some people are so afraid to die that they never begin to live. 

Henry van Dyke

Death is defined as the state of not-being, the end of biological life. Fear of death is one of the most common fears. It is usually related to four basic aspects: fear of the unknown, fear of losing loved ones, fear the circumstances surrounding death and finally, fear of ceasing to exist.

Almost everyone has, from time to time, fearful thoughts or some anxiety about death, for which humans have created many defense mechanisms. Fear of death is present in everyone, but it is not consciously present, since otherwise we could not function. Fear is a necessary defense mechanism, it is the reason for the existence of anxiety in the first place. But this fear must be controlled to allow us to enjoy life while at the same time accessible enough to enable us to react to any threat.

When fear is out of control and prevents us from doing everyday activities, we can say that it has become a phobia. In the subject of fear of death, there are two main phobias, the fear of dying, which is known as thanatophobia and the fear of all things related to death, called necrophobia. These phobias often have their origins in traumatic events, usually around birth, which is, in itself, a pretty traumatic experience, although, in general, we do not store memories about it.

Thanatophobia is described as a deep and persistent fear when thinking about death, cease to exist or life after death. Necrophobia, in addition to fear of  death itself, is a fear of everything associated with death: coffins, corpses, cemeteries, among others.

While it is natural to fear death, this fear can begin to affect people’s everyday life and relates very closely with other phobias such as agoraphobia or other extreme attitudes as the tendency to hypochondria or even generate psychosomatic illness.

Anxiety has a close relationship with the fear of the unknown and there is nothing more absolutely unknown than death. Those suffering from this type of anxiety, spend much time obsessed with the subject or trying to avoid it to the extreme. Each case is different, however, there are some common behavioral or physical symptoms:

Emotional – Behavioral Symptoms

  • Uncontrolled feelings of anxiety to even the thought of death or when exposed to anything related to death (funerals, wakes, etc.).
  • An urge to do everything possible to avoid death (this leads many to hypochondria).
  • Difficulty functioning normally due to the anxiety.
  • Awareness of the irrationality of this fear, but the feeling that it cannot be controlled.
  • Difficulty thinking about anything else.
  • Mental images related to death.
  • Fear of losing control.

Physical symptoms

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Nausea.
  • Palpitations.
  • Tremors.
  • Chest pain.
  • Sense of unreality.
  • Dizziness.

Death anxiety, as all anxiety disorders, can actually be treated and overcome. There are many anxiety treatment options to deal with this disorders.  The options go from medications, natural treatments to self help therapies or professional cognitive behavioral therapies, however, given my experience, I often recommend Barry McDonagh’s advice in his Panic Away Program. For further information, feel free to check the link on the right  panel as well as some of our recommended sites.

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