For Some, The Fear of Death Can Be Paralyzing

When getting older, people are often faced with their own mortality. During youth, many feel invincible. However, as we get older and parts of the body start showing their age, it is common to develop a fear of death. For some, these fears can actually impede their ability to live their lives normally. They may fear that every illness is an incurable disease or that they are going to drop dead at any moment. While this fear is quite common, living with it is unsettling. If you’re combating an intense fear of dying, there are steps you can take to resume your normal life.

Death Anxiety Can Affect Anyone

For humans, death is one experience that is completely unknown. Although everyone eventually dies, there is no way to talk to people who’ve had the experience in order to calm fears and guide others through the process. A paper titled, “Death Anxiety: An Analysis of an Evolving Concept,” co-authored by Rebecca Helen Lehto, PhD, RN, OCN of Michigan State University and Karen Farchaus Stein, PhD, RN, FAAN, of the University of Michigan, offers an in-depth analysis of “death anxiety.” “Important cognitive components of death anxiety include attitudes, conceptual ability to predict and anticipate the future, and awareness of the salience of death. The cognitions include beliefs about death, images and beliefs regarding the death experience, and the self as dead or no longer existing.” Lehto and Farchaus explored the notion that this fear is universal, and can affect anyone, regardless of cultural background. 

Death Anxiety Can Interfere With Your Life

While it’s known that everyone will die eventually, for some people, fear of the unknown aspects that accompany death can impede their ability to live normally. In an article on titled, “Death anxiety and its role in psychopathology: Reviewing the status of a transdiagnostic construct” authors Ross G. Menzies and Rachel E. Menzies state, “In particular, death anxiety appears to be a basic fear at the core of a range of mental disorders, including hypochondriasis, panic disorder, and anxiety and depressive disorders.” The authors theorize that people suffering with death anxiety are affected by feelings of “…powerlessness, separation, loss of control, and meaninglessness.” These feelings can disrupt the ability to live a normal and fulfilling life.  

Treatment Can Help Reduce Your Fears

Like most debilitating anxiety disorders, treatment is useful in managing death anxiety. Treating most phobias involves experiencing your fear and moving through it, but the fear of death is more complicated. While experiential therapy is not feasible, other techniques for treating phobias may be beneficial. According to HelpGuide,org, “Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and muscle relaxation are powerful antidotes to anxiety, panic, and fear. With regular practice, they can improve your ability to control the physical symptoms of anxiety, which will make facing your phobia less intimidating.” Other methods of successfully treating death anxiety include cognitive behavioral therapy and medication. Practicing cognitive behavioral therapy techniques will give you the tools you need to deal with your fear when it becomes crippling, and medication may help reduce the physiological contributors related to anxiety. 

Fear of death is common to most people. From the time we are first made aware that we are going to die, the knowledge manages to creep into our lives periodically. However, if your fear of death is impeding your ability to live a normal, productive life, it may be necessary to seek treatment. With professional help, you can keep your fear of death from hindering your ability to live your life.