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Thanatophobia: The Death Phobia – What Can I Do When I’m Afraid Of Dying?

death phobiaMost people have a natural fear of death, but when that fear is persistent and causes someone to panic, obsess and act based on that fear, they may have Thanatophobia—the death phobia.

What are Death Phobia Symptoms?

Thanatophobia is considered an anxiety disorder and can cause symptoms such as sweaty palms and shakiness. Severe symptoms are those of a full blown panic attack: racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, impending sense of doom, tightness in the chest area and a feeling of not having control. Negative and worried thoughts about death can prompt the onset of a panic attack.
Having a constant fear of death can ultimately lead to serious health problems if these symptoms occur regularly. Seeking professional help will improve one’s perception of death and the unpleasant symptoms associated with Death Phobia.

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What Causes Death Phobia?

Thanatophobia is a complex disorder and the onset can stem from several factors including cultural upbringing, childhood experiences or the recent death of a loved one. A person can be affected by a trauma associated with death and can feel an overwhelming fear of either their own or a loved one’s death. Death Phobia can be disruptive and affect someone from leading a healthy, normal life.

What Types of Treatment are Available?

A health professional can prescribe medications such as Prozac or Celexa to treat the physical symptoms of anxiety. To help control the sudden onset of a panic attack, there are  anti-anxiety medications such as Diazepam or Alprazolam. For a full recovery, it is best to treat Thanatophobia with medication and therapy.

A patient needs treatment that focuses on helping reduce the negative thoughts and fear about death and the crippling anxiety symptoms that follow. A therapist can educate a patient and show them coping skills for both aspects associated with the phobia.

Treatment with a mental health professional is necessary in order to change a patient’s perception of death. A therapist can use talk therapy or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in order to understand a patient’s fear of death.

How to View Death as Natural and Not Scary

With treatments such as CBT and talk therapy, a patient can learn to view death differently and reduce the fear and panic associated with Thanatophobia.

CBT requires the patient to determine the negative thought associated with death; it can be something like “Death is impending and unpredictable.” Another step would include thinking of a rebuttal to the negative thought such as, “Death is natural and I feel comfortable with it.” The length of treatment depends on how severe the symptoms are and whether the patient is willing to tackle their established belief system surrounding death.

A patient needs time to overcome their fear of death; treating Thanatophobia requires therapy, medication or a combination of both.

For a natural way to cope with full blown anxiety, a mental health professional can help a patient learn skills and techniques on how to cope with death and help them manage anxiety attacks.

death phobia

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