Thanatophobia is a medical condition whereby an individual experiences an extreme fear /phobia of death, whether or not if it is the idea of themselves dying or the loss of a loved one. Although this may seem common as it is not often we come across a person who embraces the idea of death, Thanatophobia is an extreme and debilitating phobia which can seriously impinge on one’s life satisfaction. It is not uncommon for those with Thanatophobia to avoid any activity considered even slightly dangerous, experience debilitating anxiety regarding the health of those around them, and be unable to attend funerals or burial sites to honour the life of friends and family who have passed away. Commonly those with Thanatophobia develop complex and prolonged grief patterns following bereavement.
What causes Thanatophobia?
Some say that Thanatophobia can be linked to Religious beliefs as many people’s beliefs surrounding death is tied into their religious views, particularly if they happen to be going through a period of questioning. Some believe that the path to salvation is very straight and narrow, and fear that any deviations or mistakes may cause them to be eternally condemned, thus any mistake may create or exacerbate deep fears of what may happen to them in an after-life.
Others argue that the condition is less about death per se, but is more accurately a phobia of the general unknown which becomes highlighted when considering death. What happens after death cannot be unequivocally proven while we are still alive, and therefore the subject will always remain the ultimate unknown.
A further perspective considers Thanatophobia as rooted in a fear of pain, illness or loss of dignity. In this instance the terror of death is again less about death itself, but of the circumstances that may surround it, and is often linked closely with health based anxiety disorders such as hypochondria.
Ultimately the cause of Thanatophobia is unknown and is likely to be a unique set of underlying causes specific to each individual who experiences it.
The treatment of Thanatophobia largely depends on the client’s personal goals for therapy. Is the individual trying to resolve a religious conflict? Do they simply want to be able to attend funerals to honour lost ones without entering panic attacks? The therapist must first determine the client’s expectations before designing a treatment plan.
Depending on the circumstances, a variety of talk therapy solutions may be appropriate, ranging from cognitive-behavioural to psychoanalytic. Supplemental religious counselling, medications and other therapeutic alternatives may also be used in conjunction with therapy.
If You or Someone You Know Has Thanatophobia
If you are concerned about someone who’s fear of death is impinging on their quality of life you may consider speaking to the GP in the first instance and discussing the condition Thanatophobia. A referral for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be made via your GP, or you can arrange a series of sessions of private therapy offering options as to the therapist you see and the frequency and duration.
If you are in the East Midlands area and wish to speak to a therapist in Leicester please contact our practice today on 0116 416 1626.