We all worry about death – whether it’s your own or that of a loved one. But worrying about it won’t do any good and could make your life miserable.
In fact, it’s essential to understand that death is a natural part of life. Everyone dies, and there’s nothing we can do to change that. So instead of worrying excessively, you can change your daily life by focusing on living life to the fullest.
In this guide, we will discuss thanatophobia, the symptoms, and some ways to help you stop worrying too much and live with a healthier mind.
What is Thanatophobia?
Thanatophobia, also known as fear of death and death anxiety, is defined as an intense, persistent fear of dying or of witnessing a relative passing away. Although it is natural to feel some apprehension about it, thanatophobia goes beyond mere anxiety and can significantly increase the chances of being depressed.
People with this phobia may stop activities that could lead to death, such as driving or flying, and could even avoid talking about death or attending funerals. In severe cases, thanatophobia can lead to panic attacks and agoraphobia (fear of leaving home).
Treatment for thanatophobia typically includes exposure therapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), in which the person gradually confronts their fear under controlled conditions. With treatment, most patients can overcome their fear and live everyday, healthy lives.
Symptoms of Death Anxiety
Thanatophobia is an intense and irrational fear of death or dying. It can cause significant psychological distress and interfere with your quality of life.
According to Medical News Today, people with thanatophobia may experience various symptoms, including anxiety, stomach pains, and rapid heartbeat. But apart from that, other common symptoms include:
- Panic attacks
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Excessive sweating
- Trembling or shaking
- Upset stomach or indigestion
- Lightheadedness and dizziness
Some people may also experience depression and may even tend to isolate themselves socially. If you think you might have thanatophobia and experience one or more symptoms listed above, it’s important to seek professional help.
Treatment for Death Anxiety
Death anxiety is a relatively common phobia that can perturb and obstruct everyday life. While the cause of thanatophobia is not fully understood, it is thought to result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Treatment for thanatophobia typically involves exposure therapy, which gradually exposes the person to situations that trigger their fear. This may be done in a controlled environment, such as with a therapist, or in real-world situations.
Moreover, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is another well-known method to handle treat thanatophobia. According to Psychology Today, CBT can help patients challenge their misbeliefs portraited about death and look at them in a new light.
For instance, they may think that driving a car, taking the train, or even leaving their house may be a risk of death, and this is what CBT can treat.
Last but not least, medication or antidepressants may also be prescribed to help manage anxiety and reduce symptoms. After treatment, patients are typically able to reduce their symptoms and get back to a productive life.
11 Different Ways To Handle The Fear Of Death
Thanatophobia is a human condition that people experience in different ways. Some people may try to avoid thinking about death or simply specific activities.
Others may seek out information about dying to quell their fear. There are other ways to handle this type of anxiety, let’s cover those who can help you the most.
Understand The Origins Of Your Fear Of Death In The Past
When you’re afraid of death, it can be helpful to understand where that fear comes from. For some people, it might be a fear of the unknown. For others, it might be a fear of leaving loved ones behind. If you can pinpoint the source of your anxiety, it might be easier to deal with it.
Common Origins Of Fear Of Death
Naturally, there are endless potential causes of death anxiety, but we can easily spot the most commons ones, which are:
- Panic attacks – Panic attacks can be very frightening and may cause further anxiety. This can lead to avoidance behaviors, which in turn can perpetuate the cycle of panic and fear.
- Severe illness – It is pretty common to feel anxious when you or a relative faces a serious illness. The thought of death can be terrifying, and it’s natural to want to do everything possible to prevent it.
- Advancing years – Many elderly individuals suffer from death anxiety due to the fear of aging. They may be fearful about their health deteriorating, losing their independence, or even dying. This can eventually cause depression, social isolation, and sleep disturbances.
- A friend or relative dying or dead – It can be absolutely devastating when someone close to us dies. The loss of a friend or loved one can trigger all sorts of intense emotions, including grief, sadness, anger, and even guilt. On top of all of that, death anxiety – or the fear of dying – is not uncommon.
Identify What Triggers Your Fear Of Death
When it comes to facing our fears, knowledge is power. So, the first step in overcoming fears is to understand what triggers them. It may be a traumatic event like losing a loved one for some people.
It may be watching someone die on television or in a movie for others. It could also be a result of reading about death in the news or on social media.
Once you know what triggers your fear, you can begin to work on overcoming it. One approach is to slowly expose yourself to things that trigger your anxiety in a safe and controlled environment.
This could mean watching a movie with a friend or family member or reading an article about death with a therapist. Gradually, you can work your way up to facing your fear head-on.
Acknowledge Your Fear of Death
The first step to addressing any fear is acknowledging that it exists. This may seem like a no-brainer, but for many of us, we go through life pretending that our fears don’t exist or trying to push them down. But if you want to address your fear, you need to first be honest with yourself that it’s there.
By doing so, we can create space for our grief and accept that death is natural. Additionally, acknowledging our fear can help us appreciate existence more and be healthier.
Create a New Healthy Routine Around Your Death Anxiety Symptoms
If you’re someone who lives with anxiety, you know that the symptoms can be all-consuming and interfere with your daily life. But what if there were a way to turn your anxiety into something favorable?
Creating a healthy routine is key to being happier, and we recommend incorporating some of the enjoyable habits below in your daily life:
- Practice deep breathing
- Start the day with an optimistic podcast instead of social media
- Workout at the gym with cardio exercises, which are great for mental health
- Reward yourself for small victories such as smiling, being happy, or helping someone
Obviously, there are other habits you can have, such as writing a book, listening to your favorite music, and more, and it all comes down to personal preferences and what works for you.
Schedule Chats with Supportive People
Talking with someone who cares about you can be very helpful when you are struggling. One way to make sure you both have time is to schedule them in advance.
This could mean setting up a weekly phone call or coffee date with a friend, making an appointment with a therapist, or joining a support group. When you plan ahead for these chats, you are more likely to follow through and actually have them.
Clarify your Values and Purpose
It’s easy to let your mental health issue control your life. For this reason, taking the time to clarify your values and purpose can help you weather the storm and come out to the other side stronger than before.
Once you have a clearer sense of what’s important to you, it will be easier to stay on the right track and to think less of your death anxiety trouble.
Avoid Morning Dread by Getting out of Bed Immediately
Like all other anxiety issues, when you first wake up in the morning, you might not get up immediately, and instead of starting the day on the right note, you’d be thinking about death.
Needless to say, this is a massive mistake, and we highly recommend getting up as soon as you wake, having a healthy breakfast, drinking a nutritious smoothy, and practicing your favorite yoga moves. This will eventually distract you from getting more anxious.
Keep Your Worries Under Control
Another great way to prevent your fear of death from overwhelming you is to manage your worries. When you start to feel anxious, try to take a step back and remember that everyone dies eventually.
Of course, worrying is a normal trait of the human character since it’s a defense of automatism, but you should challenge it, not overthink and stressing excessively.
When you overly think about death and have unusual thoughts, try focusing on what’s real and, therefore, not listen nor think that your thoughts reflect reality.
Limit Your Usage of Social Media
When you are on social media, it is easy to get caught up in the negativity and the constant news about death, may it be suicides, car accidents, and more. This can increase your anxiety and make you more fearful of death.
To avoid this, take a break from social media or limit your exposure to it. This will help you focus on other things and give you a break from the continuous reminder of death.
Think About Death Positively
It is interesting to think about death positively to challenge thanatophobia. In fact, most people who experience death anxiety think about it in a tragic way, such as horrible car crashes or explosions.
But death can happen naturally and subtly, and thinking about it in a constructive manner will help feel more optimistic in general.
Naturally, death is still a negative thing. But agonizing about it constantly will only make your life more difficult, and you won’t have much control over death anyway.
When reading obituaries, you might tackle the problem directly from the source and eventually have lower levels of death anxiety.
In addition, the act of reading about other people’s obituaries might help to feel more connected to the community and less alone in their fear of death.
While it might sound odd and scary, it’s actually relatively easy as most obituaries are short, and you can read them in a couple of minutes at most. Moreover, obituaries are typically interesting and recite beautiful moments spent with relatives or close friends.
Last but not least, reading an obituary will help to feel more grateful for what you have and less distressed over death, which is your goal.
How to Help a Child That is Worried About Death?
If your child is worrying about death, there are ways that you can help him. The first step is to understand why your child is in this state of mind. There could be a specific event that has made your child worried, such as a grandparent dying or a family member severely sick.
In addition, listening to your child carefully without interrupting is essential to know what is going on in his mind. This will help you understand where this anxiety might be coming from and how to handle it.
Apart from that, we highly recommend choosing your words wisely when talking to them. Sleeping is a term that should not be used to describe someone who has died. In fact, it gives the impression that the person will awake at some point. Furthermore, it may frighten some children and cause them to avoid going to sleep.
Another example is the statement “this person is no longer with us,” or “We’ve lost Grandma,” which is also unhelpful and unclear. To a kid, these phrases may be taken to imply that death is only temporary, reversible, or that the individual is missing or lost instead of dead.
Above all, it’s important to stay positive and reassuring. Let your child know that it’s normal to feel worried about death but that there are ways to cope with those feelings. Help him find sources of support and encourage him to express his feelings. With time and patience, your child will likely overcome his worries about death.
What Causes Death Anxiety?
While the exact causes of thanatophobia are not known, there are a number of potential triggers. One theory is that thanatophobia is a form of self-preservation. By fearing death, we are motivated to avoid dangerous situations and take care of our bodies.
Another possibility is that thanatophobia is learned. If we witness someone else being afraid of death or dying, we may develop similar fears. Additionally, thanatophobia may be linked to unresolved trauma or grief.
Experiencing the death of a loved one can be deeply upsetting and may lead to feelings of insecurity and anxiety about our own mortality.
How To Overcome The Fear Of Death?
The most efficient ways to overcome death anxiety are treatments, such as exposure therapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy. However, there are ways to naturally overcome the fear. One way is to accept it. Death is inevitable, and everyone dies eventually. Accepting this fact can help to ease the fear.
Another powerful method is to identify what triggers your fear. That could be watching an action movie, scrolling through the news on social media, or even reading a book.
How To Live a Happy Life with the Fear Of Death?
Living with death anxiety can be a challenge, but it is possible to live a happy and fulfilling life. There are a few things that you can do to manage your anxiety and find ways to cope with the challenges that come with it.
First, it is important to understand your anxiety and how it affects you. This can help you to identify triggers and figure out what works for you when you are feeling anxious. Secondly, it is essential to develop healthy coping mechanisms. This might include things like exercise, journaling, or deep breathing exercises.
Lastly, it is essential to build a support system of family and friends who can offer reassuring reinforcement and understanding. By taking these steps, you can learn to live a happy life despite your anxiety.
Is There a Cure for Death Anxiety?
There are indeed treatments available for death anxiety. Cognitive-behavioral (CBT) and exposure therapies have been shown to be effective in reducing anxiety.
Apart from that, medication can also be used to help manage the symptoms and live more healthily. With proper treatment, it is possible to dramatically reduce the impact of death anxiety on your life.
How to Stop Thinking About Death Before Bed
We’ve all been there. Lying in bed, trying to fall asleep, when suddenly our mind starts racing, and we can’t stop thinking about death. Whether it’s worrying about our own mortality or the death of a loved one, these dark thoughts can be overwhelming.
One method is to distract ourselves with positive thoughts. Think about happy memories, things you’re looking forward to, or anything else that makes you feel good. Alternatively, you can try focusing on your breathing. Take slow, deep breaths and focus. If your mind wanders, just gently bring it back to your breath.
With practice, these methods can help you to quiet your mind and get the restful sleep you need.
How to Stop Thinking About Death Of Loved Ones
It’s only natural to think about the death of a loved one from time to time. After all, death is an inevitable part of life, and the loss of a loved one can be extremely difficult to cope with.
But constantly thinking about death can take a toll on your mental and emotional health. If you find yourself obsessing over your loved one passing away, there are a few things you can do.
First, it can be helpful to talk about your feelings with someone you trust. Bottling up your emotions will only make them harder to deal with. Also, accepting the fact that they will one day leave may help comfort you.
Finally, make an effort to live in the present moment as much as possible. Obsessing over death will only make you miss out on all the good things that are happening in your life right now.
Death is a natural process that happens to everyone. It’s something we all have to face, and it’s nothing to be worried about. We panic about death because it’s the unknown, and we’re not sure what will happen after we die.
This was all that you needed to know about death anxiety, how to feel better and get back on track, and the best ways to handle your fear.