Thanatophobia! The Fear of Dying Young, See How to Overcome it

 

We continue our series on various kinds of phobia which we have tagged ‘Phobiaholic’. So if you are among those who are drunk with fear of what they don’t understand, this column is for you. Whether you are afraid of things or not, this column is essential for you to understand the kinds of phobia that exist and how to overcome them. You could use the knowledge you gained here to be of assistance to some else. You may never know when or where. Just read this.

Today we look at the fear of dying young or dying at all. It is called thanatophobia (fear of death). Intrusive thoughts about dying early or dying at all can be a real pain. Some people have had chronic anxiety for many years which makes them afraid of death even when it looks like there is no need for that.

This does not include the natural fear you have when you sense imminent fatal danger may be due to sickness or other causes. The fact that we know that people die can make us to be afraid of death. But not the habitual fear of dying which is the phobia we are looking at here.

The fear of death is a common cause and effect of anxiety, and even those without anxiety often experience this fear in some ways.

Thanatophobia exists when someone is always gripped with inexplicable fear that he or she might die the next moment even when everyone around him is having fun. Some people who belong to some religious groups get spiritually jittery at the slightest movement. If a friendly-looking lizard stops around them and wastes more than three seconds before nodding and leaving, they begin to cast and bind, insisting that their enemies who want them dead are within reach.

On a more serious note, thanatophobia is an ailment that should be dealt with. Definitely everyone will die one day but being afraid of death every second of your life is something you or your friend should not be experiencing. Read this article on how to overcome the fear of dying young or dying at all.

 

Thanatophobia is a form of death anxiety. It is distinguished from necrophobia, which is a specific fear of dead or dying persons and/or things (i.e. others who are dead or dying, not one’s own death or dying).

Read what calmclini.com has to say about what could lead to fear of death:

Fear of Death as a Symptom or as a Cause

It’s also important to note that there is a significant difference between those whose life is altered by their fear of death, and those that have a fear of death that acts as a symptom of their disorder. Distinguishing between these is very important for treatment. The differences are examined below.

Fear of Death from Anxiety Attacks

Your heartbeat races. You feel sharp pains in your chest. The room appears to be spinning out of control. You don’t know what’s going on, but you know that something bad is happening. It feels like a heart attack, and you feel doom, as though the world is about to end.

You feel like you’re about to die. Then all of the sudden nothing happens, the fear generally starts to fade away (leaving you feeling drained), and you’re left wondering whether something is wrong with your health.

What you may have had was a panic attack, and the fear of death is a symptom of the attack. Here the fear of death is caused by several factors:

Factors that cause fear of Death

Fight or Flight Rush

Anxiety is a poorly performing fight or flight system, which is the system that your body activates when it’s experiencing severe danger. An anxiety attack is essentially the peak of this fear. Your body rushes with an intense amount of adrenaline, and this alters your brain chemistry and thought patterns to tell you that you’re in grave danger. It’s the same way you would feel if you were holding onto a ledge above a 10 story building. Your body is telling you that you need to be very afraid because your life is in danger. Unfortunately, in the case of panic attacks, your body is wrong, and the result is a feeling of death and doom despite no danger present.

Symptoms of Serious Disorders

Panic attack/anxiety attack symptoms are also very similar to other major health problems. Many panic attacks are so severe that they directly resemble heart attacks and heart failure. Thousands of people are hospitalized every year because of their panic attacks, only to find that their heart is in good health. But during a panic attack, it’s very easy to not believe that anxiety can be causing the problem. After all, the pains and sensations are all real, and many people cannot help but fear that they indicate something very serious and that if left untreated, you may be likely to die. It’s a very common problem in those with anxiety, even after doctor’s visits. This is likely to contribute to a long term fear of death, as well as a fear of further panic attacks because of a concern that they’re something other than anxiety.

Hypochondria

Similarly, no matter how hard you try to convince yourself that what you’re experiencing it’s anxiety – and no matter how many doctor’s visits you have – it’s not uncommon to develop hypochondria, which is often directly related to the fear of death. (Hypochondria is excessive worrying about your health, to the point where it causes great distress and affects your everyday lifestyle). Those with panic attacks often convince themselves that they likely have a broad range of health problems including: Multiple Sclerosis, Lyme Disease, Various Cancers, Brain Tumors. Only a doctor can rule these out, of course, but no matter how often you visit your doctor you may find that it becomes nearly impossible to believe that there isn’t something more physical causing your anxiety symptoms, and that can create a fear of diseases that may contribute to an early death.

All of these are reasons that the fear of death is common in those with anxiety attacks. If this sounds like you, don’t forget to take my anxiety test now.

Other types of anxiety are also associated with creating a fear of death, although these may be less common. These include: Generalized Anxiety Disorder Generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, is a disorder where the mind often thinks negative and stressful thoughts. One of those thoughts may be about death and dying, and if you think about this thought too much it may develop into a fear or phobia. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Those with PTSD because of an especially traumatic event may easily develop a fear of death, often related to the event. This may be especially common in those that consider themselves lucky for surviving something, so they start to focus on dangers and fear the results of risks. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder While it may not affect 100% of all of those with OCD, many people develop obsessions about physical danger. For example: “What if I’m hit by a car today?” or “what if these germs kill me?” This may result in a fear of anything that resembles danger, which is very closely related to a fear of death. (calmclini.com).

The insight provided by calmclinic.com equips us with quick facts about what could be the cause of death anxiety. Psychologists say that death anxiety could arise from the fear of being harmed. This is predatory death anxiety which mobilize an individual’s adaptive resources and lead to fight or flight, active efforts to combat the danger or attempts to escape the threatening situation. Well, the most important thing is to know how to overcome the fear of dying young or dying at all. Margaret Manning provides six positive ways to overcome fear of death. Read her contribution below:

 Six Positive Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Death:

Most of us are excited about the many decades of life that we have ahead of us — decades that we want to fill with the passions, people and places that matter to us.

At the same time, as we reach our 50s, it’s common to start worrying about our mortality. Many of us begin to think about the fact that we may have fewer years ahead of us than behind. Some may even come to fear death, no matter how far it is in the future.

Talking with the members of Sixty and Me and Boomerly, I am always amazed how some people are afraid of death, while others find it easy to accept their mortality. So, to help those of you who have a fear of death, I asked them for their advice.

Here are a few tips, based on the advice of other people over 50 who have conquered their fear of dying.

Take Control of Your Life

Spend quality time with the people you enjoy being around. Try new things. Challenge yourself. Most of all, Keep active and engaged with positive activities. If there is something that really rankles you — do something about it! If you have unfinished business — take care of it! If you have someone you need to speak with — make the call!

Don’t keep going to a job that is deeply dissatisfying, or stay in a relationship that makes you unhappy. You have many years to enjoy everything that life has to offer. Who you spend your time with matters!

The fear of death is often the fear of not living on your own terms. You deserve to see your dreams come true. The more you embrace life, the less frightened you will feel about giving it up when the time comes!

Learn to Accept that Death is Natural

It helps to recognize ourselves as part of a great cycle and find comfort in the fact that everyone else must go through the same thresholds: conception, birth and death.

Near-death researcher Norman Van Rooy once said, “Like the child being born, we have no choice but to yield ourselves to the unknown.” You can choose to view your body and your contribution to this world as an honor. We have had the privilege of living; so, let’s be grateful and accept death when it eventually comes.

Read the Available Literature and Self-Help Guides About Death

Many writers have shared their own ruminations and musings on the subject of death. Also, religious leaders, philosophers and mystics have built a magnificent library on the subject of the afterlife. Their works may not tell you, with certainty, what happens after you die. But, they may help you to tackle the equally important questions of why we are here and how we should prepare for the afterlife.

Adopt Rituals and Explore Spirituality

Whether you are religious or not, rituals are important for creating a sense of meaning in life. They also give continuity to our existence.

A ritual can be as simple as taking a walk every afternoon or lighting a candle each morning. You can recognize a seasonal change or something emotional or physical happening in your life. The choice is completely yours.

If you are curious about your family’s religious practices or want to explore new spiritual ideas, now is the time. Don’t be afraid to ask the “tough” questions about the afterlife. These are the only questions with the potential to guide you to a deeper understanding of your faith – or any aspect of your life, for that matter.

Focus on Living Well

There are so many simple things that you can do to live a healthier and more positive life. In fact, sometimes the smallest steps, applied consistently, lead to the biggest changes. Make a commitment to walk every day, rain or shine. Explore your passions. Write a “bucket list” with all of the amazing things that you want to do before you die. If you are busy living, you won’t have time to worry about dying.

Plan for Your Passing

Many of the questions that we have about dying are religious or philosophical in nature. But, what about the practical concerns? Many of us worry about dying because we wonder what will happen to our family after we are gone. Will our grandchildren be happy? Will our spouse be able to recover from our passing? If so, will they have enough money to continue to live the kind of life that they deserve?

These are all valid questions. The good news is that, while we can’t control when or how we leave this world, we can control much of what we leave behind. Many people feel a sense of relief when they get their affairs in order – even if they have many decades of healthy life ahead of them. They know that, should the unexpected happen, their wishes will be clear and their legacy secure.

At the end of the day, the advice from other people over 50 who have conquered their fear of death is simple: focus on living authentically, passionately and well. A fear of death cannot take root in the heart of a person who is truly satisfied with their life.

Are you afraid of death? Why or why not? What advice would you give to a friend who is struggling with a fear of death? Please join the conversation and “like” and share this article to keep the conversation going.

(6 Positive Ways to Overcome your Fear of Death by Margaret Manning)

 

I hope you learnt something new by reading this article. Get on with life and make the most of it. Don’t get drunk with fear anxiety.

 

The Author

Chinenye Nwabueze

Nwabueze is a communication researcher with several years of lecturing experience in Nigerian universities.

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