Thanatophobia Or 'Fear Of Death': Fear That Casts Shadow On Our Daily Life

Anxiety regarding death has been associated with a variety of psychological and mental health problems, including mood disorders, Post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.

In ancient Greece, the word 'thanatos' meant 'death' and it came from a far earlier Proto-Indo-European expression that meant 'o vanish or perish.

At some point in our lives, most of us realise that one day we are going to die and that death is inevitable. And so, we begin to live life on a deeper level, as if every single thing that we do matters. But for others, the fear of death becomes a sort of a psychological disorder that prevents them from living life on a deeper level. Having such a profound fear of death can bring with it its own set of mental health challenges.

In psychology, this negative life-prohibiting condition is known as thanatophobia.

What are the symptoms of thanatophobia?

A phobia is an anxiety syndrome that is related to a particular object or situation, according to the DSM-5. Some of the signs that a person might have thanatophobia are:

· Fear comes up almost every other time a person contemplates death

· The fear is non-moving and stays for more than 6 months

· Impairs daily life or relationship

· When a person thinks of death or the cycle of death and gets a rush of anxiety or fear.

Phobias can make an individual feel alone and prevent them from communicating with friends and family for long periods.

Who can experience thanatophobia and what effect does it have on daily life?

Anyone can experience thanatophobia. However, there are some instances in which it can be triggered, and those instances may be different for each person. A terrifying early event involving nearly dying or the loss of a loved one may be a specific cause for thanatophobia.

Gary Sinoff conducted a study in 2017 on thanatophobia, which revealed that while younger generations are afraid of death itself, the older generations fear the process of dying.

According to expert psychologists and psychotherapists, anxiety regarding death has been associated with a variety of psychological and mental health problems, including mood disorders, Post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.

People with thanatophobia face many challenges in their day-to-day life when the phobia kicks in. It's not easy to live with a phobia like thanatophobia. It's not easy to avoid worrying of mortality, and it's much more difficult to stop fearing the uncertain outcome. We would probably have already done so if we knew how to turn fear off in that manner. We always fight to force ourselves to avoid worrying about something, but when that something is an inevitability like death, the struggle becomes much more difficult. This causes us to be hyper-aware and unable to lighten up because we are constantly paranoid.

The constant tension and paranoia that accompany this phobia further add to the mental health challenges and intrusiveness of the situation. People who suffer from thanatophobia are often on high alert, constantly looking for signs of death. This consumes a lot of energy and frequently deprives our bodies of adequate rest from daily stressful situations.

How can one cope and reduce the effects of thanatophobia?

Part of the challenge with phobias, such as thanatophobia, is that they often exist in our mind, and it may be tough to get out of this state of anxiety and concern. Mindfulness is a technique that will assist individuals with letting go of their worries and returning to the current moment.

Psychological distress, fatigue, and anxiety have also been found to be reduced when practising mindfulness. Incorporating a mindful practice into your daily routine can reduce anxiety and depression inducing thoughts regarding death.

If you suffer from thanatophobia, it's also wise to consult a psychologist or psychotherapist to help you get to the root of the problem.

When confronted with the prospect of death, psychologists have discovered that many of us transform to diversion in a remarkably positive way. When we contemplate death, we always want to distract ourselves by doing something that makes us feel alive. You can be rattled after reading of a natural tragedy on the television and plan to go for a run, an exercise that encourages vitality and fitness. If a loved one dies as a result of a health condition, you can become motivated to cook healthy meals for your family or start exercising regularly. When we fill our lives with significance, we continue to use this idea of positive diversion. In this way, living and living well is an alternative to fear of death.

Final Words

During this pandemic period, a lot of us are confronted with the fear of death, however, this may not be thantophobia. Most of us are nervous about catching COVID or our loved ones catching it. Everywhere people are dying and on top of that the media is bombarding us with the daily death figures which is further adding to the woes. Every day we are thinking about death, but in these circumstances these feelings are normal.

If your fear is overtaking your day, please reach out to a counsellor and talk through it.


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