Death phobias - and how to deal with them

Death phobias - and how to deal with them

Death phobias refer to abnormal anxieties associated with dying and things related to death. Most people experience some level of anxiety when they think or talk about death and dying. Although it is a totally natural process that we all have to face, many people still experience difficulty in expressing themselves on the subject or thinking deeply about it.

Phobias, however, are an exaggerated fear or obsession. People have phobias about all kinds of things, and death is no exception. Many people learn to live with their phobias, but sometimes a phobia can dominate your life. A severe phobia can disrupt a normal living routine and be stressful for those around you.

What kinds of death phobias exist?
  • Thanatophobia, the fear of death itself
  • Necrophobia, the fear of dead people or sometimes animals
  • Placophobia, the fear of gravestones
  • Coimetrophobia, the fear of cemeteries

One of the most common death phobias is Thanatophobia or "Death Anxiety". People who receive a diagnosis of this condition experience extreme anxiety when they think about their own death or that of a loved one. This can be particularly distressing if they themselves are terminally ill, or someone close to them is. This terror is recurring and affects their daily life.

Thanatophobia is most common among women in their 20s. Younger people tend to worry about death itself, while older people focus more on the actual process of dying. The death of a loved one at an early age may precipitate the condition in later life.

If you, or someone you know, suffer from this condition, they should seek help from a mental health professional. Symptoms of this and other anxiety disorders can include, sweating, hot flushes, chills, and trembling. Some people experience pain in the chest and a rapid heartbeat, others headaches, and some a sensation of butterflies in the stomach and nausea. Others may feel faint, dizzy, or confused, have a dry mouth, ringing in the ears or experience numbness.  People with this condition are often upset by anything related to death, including TV programs or news reports. They can also become obsessed with investigating different illnesses or death risk factors.

Counselling, therapies, or medication can help to alleviate the condition and restore a normal attitude towards death and dying. Many people who have Thanatophobia also experience other anxiety disorders, so treatment can benefit them on many levels. Reducing stress, exercise, eating healthily, and increasing general wellbeing can contribute to the reduction of the symptoms of anxiety. Anxiety disorders are very common so there is no reason to feel embarrassed or ashamed. They also respond well to treatment, so please seek help.