Thanatophobia is a severe phobia of dying or death itself. “Death anxiety” is another name for this condition. You could be concerned about your own death or the death of a loved one. Thanatophobia is a type of anxiety disorder recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, Fifth Edition, as a “specific phobia” (DSM-5).
Fortunately, there are ways to overcome thanatophobia, such as through psychotherapy. To do this, you must first recognize your symptoms before getting a formal diagnosis.
Most people, if not all of them, are worried about dying. However, you might have a diagnosable phobia if the fear is so prevalent that it interferes with your daily activities.
What Is Thanatophobia?
Thanatophobia, also known as the fear of death or having a phobia of death or dying, can have many causes. The majority of us develop a fear or anxiety of death and dying, also known as thanatophobia, when we are still very young. Our friends and family may actively teach us about death, which may cause us to become phobic or afraid; alternatively, we may learn by personally experiencing the death of a loved one when we are still very young.
Inevitably, our beliefs about death that we form as young children stick with us into adulthood. Young children may experience thanatophobia, which happens when healthy adults and children develop an abnormal fear of death and fear death if they are unprepared for the death of a loved one.
Even though thanatophobia isn’t specifically mentioned in the DSM-5, there are phobia symptoms that can be used to determine whether someone is experiencing a regular fear of death or something more severe. It may be a phobia, specifically, if they:
Have an excessive fear of dying or excessive worry about dying that interferes with their life
Avoid situations that involve death or dying outright.
Feel extreme anxiety when thinking about or experiencing death or dying
The physical signs and symptoms listed below could specifically result from an anxiety disorder:
It is very important to get a diagnosis from a trained mental health professional. If you’ve been experiencing specific symptoms listed above, it’s advised to visit a mental health professional to get the right diagnosis. A therapist will assess your situation carefully and ask you guided questions to understand what exactly is the issue and the cause of it. Typically, phobias are not diagnosed until they have existed for longer than six months.
A person may be at risk of developing an anxiety disorder due to a number of factors, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Specifically, having stressful or traumatic life experiences, genetics, shyness traits from childhood, and other physical health issues.
1) Consult a specialist for support
Typically, the first step is to seek the aid of a specialist. Death phobias have physical, mental, and emotional components, so those who suffer from them shouldn’t make the road to recovery alone. It’s always advised to get a consultation from a professional and get started with your therapeutic alliance.
This is significant because, according to the medically reviewed DSM-5 handbook by the American Psychiatric Association, which is used by healthcare professionals, anxiety related to death or dying is not recognised as a separate disorder, so you won’t be given a diagnosis of thanatophobia. A doctor or psychiatrist who can give you more details may give you one for Specific Phobias, which is listed in the DSM-5. You can get medical advice, a diagnosis, or treatment for this from them.
However, as part of the CBT procedure, you will talk about and ultimately confront your fears. You will discuss not only death in general but also locations and circumstances that make people fear death. For instance, you might attend a funeral or a cemetery. These “trigger” locations and situations should be avoided in order to fight negative thought patterns and lessen the fear of dying. To be able to deal with death anxiety should it surface during or after therapy, learning relaxation and breathing techniques is also a crucial component of the CBT process.
Benzodiazepines, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and beta blockers are some of the medications used to treat anxiety. If you are uncertain as to whether medication is the best course of action for your particular circumstance, be sure to consult a healthcare professional. You should always consult a psychiatrist before starting medications.
4) Prioritize wellness
Focusing on the present moment is one last way to get rid of your obsession with death and dying. Some of the habits that come with a fear of dying can be let go of with therapy. After that, you’ll be able to concentrate on what you can do to lead the fullest possible life. You can get rid of your obsession with fear and learn to enjoy the present by eating well, exercising, caring for your mental and physical health, and focusing your attention on things you like.
Making a “bucket list” is one of the best ways to turn this idea into action.
Thanatophobia causes real anxiety and fear in the person who suffers. Thanatophobia is essentially a fear of the unknown, but there are ways to manage it through therapy and support if you have this phobia.
Not all thanatophobia symptoms, treatments, and outcomes may be covered in this article. If you have any worries, make sure to contact a mental health professional.
Seeking help is a sign of courage. Don't let self-limiting beliefs hold you back from a life you deserve. Avail online therapy to become happier and better. Learn how
Disclaimer: Please note that we are not a crisis intervention helpline. Should you have severe symptoms or have thought about harming yourself, please seek immediate medical help or call suicide prevention helplines such as
Aasra 24x7 Helpline: 91-22-27546669