Most people don’t like to think or talk about death. Even though it’s inevitable that every one of us will die, dread, anxiety, and fear still surrounds death — even the word alone. We try to avoid thinking about it. But in doing so, we actually affect our mental and physical health negatively more than we know.
There’s even a term for it: death anxiety. This phrase defines the apprehension people experience when they become aware of death.
Death anxiety can be perfectly normal. The fear of the unknown and what happens afterward is a legitimate concern. But when it starts interfering with how you live your life, it becomes problematic. And for people who don’t find the right coping methods, it’s possible for all that anxiety to cause mental pain and stress.
What Is Thanatophobia?
Thanatophobia is an intense fear of death or dying. It’s a relatively complicated phobia. Many, if not most, people are afraid of dying—some fear being dead while others are afraid of the actual act. However, if the fear is so prevalent as to affect your daily life, then you might have a full-blown phobia.
A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) categorizes phobias into three groups: specific phobias, social phobias, and agoraphobia. Thanatophobia is a specific phobia.
While thanatophobia is not specifically listed in the DSM-5, there are symptoms of a phobia that could be applied in examining whether someone has a typical fear of death or something more.
Namely, it may be a phobia if they:
▪️Have excessive worry or fear of death or dying that gets in the way of their life.
▪️ Actively avoid any situation involving death or dying.
▪️ Experience intense anxiety when encountering or thinking of death or dying.
More specifically, an anxiety disorder could produce the following physical symptoms:
▪️ Shortness of breath.
▪️ Racing heart.
▪️ Fatigue or insomnia.
As there are so many possible causes and complications, it is important that thanatophobia is diagnosed only by a trained mental health professional. They will try to determine if the fear is persistent, lasting more than six months, and how appropriate the fear is considering the circumstances. They can ask guided questions to help figure out exactly what is going on, and they can recognize the symptoms of related disorders and prescribe the appropriate course of treatment.
What are the risk factors?
Some people are more likely to develop a fear of death or experience dread at the thought of dying. These habits, behaviors, or personality factors can increase your risk for developing thanatophobia:
Death anxiety peaks in a person’s 20s. It fades as they get older.
Both men and women experience thanatophobia in their 20s. However, women experience a secondary spike of thanatophobia in their 50s.
3. Parents near end of life.
It’s been suggested that older individuals experience thanatophobia less often than younger people.
However, older people may fear the dying process or failing health. Their children, however, are more likely to fear death. They’re also more likely to say their parents are afraid of dying because of their own feelings.
People who are less humble are more likely to worry about their own death. People with higher levels of humility feel less self-importance and are more willing to accept life’s journey. That means they’re less likely to have death anxiety.
5. Health issues.
Individuals with more physical health problems experience greater fear and anxiety when considering their future.
How is thanatophobia treated?
Treatment for anxiety and phobias like thanatophobia focus on easing the dread and worry associated with this topic. To do this, your doctor may use one or more of these options:
▪️ Talk therapy.
Sharing what you experience with a therapist may help you better cope with your feelings. Your therapist will also help you learn ways to cope when these feelings occur.
▪️ Cognitive behavioral therapy.
This type of treatment focuses on creating practical solutions to problems. The goal is to eventually change your pattern of thinking and put your mind at ease when you face talk of death or dying.
▪️ Relaxation techniques.
Meditation, imagery, and breathing techniques may help reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety when they occur. Over time, these techniques may help you reduce your specific fears in general.
Lisa Fritscher (27-10-2018), “Thanatophobia Diagnosis and Treatment”، very well mind
Everything You Should Know About Thanatophobia/https://www.healthline.com
Why We Need to Talk About Our Fear of Death/https://www.healthline.com