thanatophobia

November 2, 2006

Here at the white elephant, we are not afraid to tackle the big issues… It’s almost my bedtime here and I am just scraping in with a post on the second day of NaBloPoMo.

So what is thanatophobia? It’s defined as a fear of one’s own death and is apparently very common. Why is it interesting? Because there are so many layers to it.

Firstly, thanatophobia is a form of anxiety. It’s a phobia, which is classed as anxiety. It comes with physical anxiety symptoms such as shortness of breath, increased heart rate, muscle tension, nausea, dizziness etc etc. It can be associated with panic attacks. It’s a fear of something which is at once inevitable but also quite unlikely at any given moment in time. The person is afraid of something which they know is definitely going to happen, but they have no way of knowing when.

Thanatophobia also has an existential, even theological component. If someone is afraid of death, what do they fear? The actual fear must relate to the person’s beliefs about death. What do they think is going to happen to them when they die and why is it so frightening.

Here’s a range of possible beliefs about death:
– nothing happens, you cease to exist (materialist view)
– you may go to heaven or hell, depending on some kind of judgment of your actions in this life (Judeo-Christian view)
– reincarnation (Hindu, Buddhist)
– some people believe in ghosts, or spirits of the dead who somehow just float around the earthly plane making a nuisance of themselves

For those who believe the first option, a fear of death is not very rational. After all if you don’t exist, what does it matter? You won’t be suffering. For Christians, and similar viewpoints, a fear of death could be related to some kind of guilt. You feel you have done wrong and you are going to hell. In that case all that is required is to repent and you’ll be forgiven – easy.

Those who believe in reincarnation may be afraid of their own karma. They may have done wrong and fear a horrible next life. It’s understandable. It’s also understandable for those who believe in spirits or ghosts to feel afraid. Who would want to be floating around forever, feeling cold and scaring people?

I get the feeling that most people with this fear haven’t quite worked out their own beliefs yet. They may be searching, and the fear could be a healthy sign that they are moving towards some kind of spiritual growth.

Some writers (like Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Victor Frankl and also in the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying) emphasise the need to confront one’s own mortality in order to grow or really be able to live well. Death is a necessary step on the road to rebirth in a number of ways, some of which are symbolic. There’s a cycle.

Fear of death could also be related to other problems. It could be due to narcissism (fear of one’s own nonexistence) or fear of the unknown. It could also be related to a death-wish as sometimes we fear what we really desire.

I don’t have thanatophobia and I’m frankly quite unconcerned about the whole thing. I don’t fear death and I don’t pretend to know what is going to happen to me there. I have some kind of faith that tells me it will be OK. But I find the whole thing very interesting.

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95 Responses to “thanatophobia”

  1. lynda Says:

    Was it Aristotle or JM Barrie who said ‘to die will be an awfully big adventure’?

    I quite like that approach; I don’t want it to happen today, but it’ll be pretty interesting to see what happens. It might be, besides birth, one of the first times in our life we have no idea at all what will happen…

  2. Mit_Moi Says:

    -> -> Fellow NaBloPMo writer here. I saw, I clicked, I read.

    I share your faith and outlook. Thanks for sharing it with the net.

  3. thepickards Says:

    I think you’re missing the point. A thanatophobic isn’t frightened of SUFFERING, they ARE worried about not being there any more. For example, I’m not particularly afraid of dying – with all the accompanying pain and discomfort: I’m afraid of being DEAD. I guess I’d hang on for as long as I could, even if I was in pain.

    If you see the article I wrote on thanatophobia and the comments on it, you’ll see that it’s not suffering that people are scared of so much as just “not being here anymore”, which seems to be what you’re referring to by “narcissism”, but again I think you’re misrepresenting us – we don’t think we’re more important or better than anyone else.

    Have a read of my article and the comments by the other thanatophobics…

  4. Chava Says:

    I agree with thepickards. I have thanatophobia, and right now my beliefs are leaning more towards the “ceasing to exist” side. You said people with this view have nothing to worry about, but in my view, we may have MORE to worry about. At least people with the other views know what will happen to them and have a sence of control over the situation. People who don’t have a religion, etc., to help them feel a lack of control. One day I am not going to exist, and I know that, and I believe that is a very rational thing to be afraid of.

    ps: thepickards, I just recently read your article, and you got everything right. -thanks, I was starting to think there weren’t others who understood my phobia

    • booh01 Says:

      chava, my fear is not knowing what will happen afterwards. but..it a longer sense…one day the world will end..for ppl tht believe in reincarnation, what will happen then? im a coexist. so i have my options open to any belief. but absolutely none of them help me with this godforsaken fear of mine.

      I just looked this fear up tonight, im only in my teens and had no idea there were other people out there that shared my phobia.

  5. mary Says:

    Hi, I’m a journalism student from the University of Wisconsin. I’m writing an article on thanatophobia and was wondering if anyone would be willing to answer a few questions on their experiences with this phobia? Thanks.

    Mary

  6. Melissa Says:

    Mary,
    I’m not sure if it’s too late or anything, but I’d be willing to talk to you about having Thanatophobia. I feel the more it’s out there, maybe the less I’ll hear “but you’re too young to worry about dying!”

    -Melissa
    candycane_faerie@hotmail.com

  7. tony Says:

    I am 36 and have been suffering from severe thanatophobia since my 31 yr old female friend died of a sudden heart attack in 2003.

    I suffer from, but not limited to: severe panic attacks, trembling, nervousness, severe and disabling vertigo, shakiness, PVC’s, racing pulse, sweat palms, chest pain, out of body experience feelings, experience higher blood pressure than average (135/85), lack of attention span, fear of being alone, fear of flying, fear of driving alone.

    I do check my blood pressure constantly, etc. Some days it may be 10-20 times. Some days it is nearly unbearable to live like this….yet all tests have come back “normal” minus some minor pre-hypertension numbers that could be normal if I could ever calm down.

    I have tried many medicines, none have done anything but minimize the symptoms for a few hours. This is for real, just makes me plain miserable. Cannot live life thinking about death, but fear death in the end….

    I fear my own instantaneous death at all times – and do not know why. I fear a heart attack or chest pain. I go to doctor’s office too often, check my BP too often and just when I feel better, I get a dizzy spell and it begins all over again. If there is anyone out there who suffers from this horrible affliction, please write me.

    No doctors please, just someone who feels like I do. Your time would be greatly appreciated.

    • Jim Says:

      Have you tried natural remedies/pills such as Kava, Valerian Root, etc.

      Feel free to email me. I have just began to understand a little more as to my own afflication so have taken to read forums to hopefully understand more, and perhaps get help myself.

  8. Hannah Says:

    There seem to be two distict types of thanatophobia that I have come across in my researching of it. There are people who fear that they will die soon, and fear the actual dying, and poepl who, like me, are terrified of the infinite vastness of the non-existence of death. Thanatophobia is a omplex mix of fearsand emotions and I cannot pretend to understand them all, but I can tell you about my experience. I suffer from panic attacks, insomnia, depression and pysical sickness as a result of severe thanatophobia and find it difficult to lead a normal life as a result. My symptoms are most pronuncedbefore I go to sleep at night, apparently ue to a shift in mental activity. People meet this with disregard usually, telling me I’m too young to think about death or, like the author of this post, assume I do not understand death properly. I am neither afraid of the unknown (it is the certainty of nothingness that i fear) nor do I have any kind of death wish (far from it) and I would hardy describe my fear as narcissism. True, my fear is of my own non-existence, but this is not out of vanity, merely the fact that without existing I cannot experience anything. How can an eternity of nothingness be “interesting”?
    Deathis a huge taboo in our society and it took me almost a year to find the courage to admit my problems. When I did, however, I found that my father suffers from the exact same phobia and has done for many years. While I do not mean to suggest that phobias are heriditary, it seems sensible to assume that more people suffer from thanatophobia than one would assume and from someone who is older and has dealt with this fearfor longerand nearer to their death has been invaluble to me.
    My phobia has, however, had some benifits, as it has, at anearly age, cuased me to reassess my life and value each day.
    I think the choicefor thanatophobics similar to me iseither to decide to ignoredeath; living each day to the full and not dwelling too much on the end of life, or, as I am beginning to do with counselling and support from peopel around me, begin to face that huge nothingness and live with it fully each day I must admit I envy those with a blind faith in god, but i believe my life will be lived better for my phobia once I can deal with it better.
    Lastly, thanatophobia seems to be caused by mortality playing a large role in one’s life. Whether that is the tragic heart attack mentioned above or reaching middle age. For me it was my best friend killing himself.
    I realise that this is probably an over-long post but I always felt lost and confused by the seeming lack of people who feel like I do- so this is for anyone who feels the same way, and for people who think they know everything about other peoples fears to amybe have a more open mind next time, and a little less narcissism themselves. I do not mean to seem rude but thanatophobia cannot be understood until it is felt.

    • Austin Says:

      I guess this response is way past when the post was made, but I can totally understand where Hannah is coming from. I’ve just recently began my struggle with my fear of death and it’s becoming very hard to cope with. Part of it could be the few weeks I’ve been doing nothing really, just lounging around the house and what not, but it is mostly at night. I suffer from my throat swelling, dizziness, and tense chest. I was raised Christian and use to believe, but my faith has dwindled so I’m beginning to feel as if when I die, nothing will exist to me anymore. I’ve contemplated thoughts and ideas of death and rebirth. Somehow, perhaps the same exact molecules could form back together to form me again, but that’s doubtful. The main fear is of the ceasing to exist. Right now it feels much better to talk about it, but I still feel like I needa’ get my life into shape. I still smoke, drink, eat unhealthy, and don’t exercise much at all. I’m wasting away my time it feels like.

    • Jim Says:

      Thank you!

    • Shanna Says:

      I know how you feel. My psychiatrist and I have just now been able to see my collection of issues as a part of thanatophobia. Do you remember the childhood prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the lord my soul to take.” That prayer has haunted me throughout my life. I am sure it was meant to be comforting; it has been anything but! Anyone else have problems with that prayer?

      • Nerevarine Says:

        Since there is *no natural way* to preserve me (my personality, memories, … etc.) when I die, the only hope is that there is *someone* above-natural who cares about preservation of my *soul*. The only *problem* is that I do not really know whether it will work. So I am to believe.

  9. Tony Says:

    Dear Tony;

    When I read your article I was relieved to hear that others suffer from the same condition as my mother. Until today, I had no idea there was an actual name for it.
    For years, she has had symptoms very similiar to yours. severe panic attacks, trembling, nervousness, severe and disabling vertigo, shakiness, PVC’s, racing pulse, sweaty palms, chest pain, out of body experience feelings, experiences higher blood pressure, (she has been to the hospital twice these past 6 months because of tachicardia due to panic attacks)lack of attention span and fear of being alone/dying. She wants help for her symptoms but is unwilling to take the medication the Doctors prescribe. When she finally resolves herself to take it, she ends up with every possible side-effect.
    She has had blood work, MRI’s, scans, has had scopes top to bottom, allergy tested etc. She is 63 and fit as a fiddle according to the many doctors she has attended. She, unlike yourself, does not recognize these symptoms as anything else but medical. “She is dying and nobody believes her or wants to help her.”
    I wish that there was something, or somebody that could help people like yourself and my mom with this affliction. Although, I don’t experience these first hand, I have witnessed how crippling these phobia’s are.
    I wanted to write you, not to offer helpful advise, but to let you know that you are certainly not alone. I care, and my thoughts are with you. Renee

    • Jim Says:

      So to avoid the side effect, has she considered natural remedies such as Kava, Valerian Root, and other natural pills that carry no side effects yet may work for her just as well if not better?

  10. Jackie Says:

    Like all the other articles, I fear my own death too. It is most promineent at night, especailly when i wake during the night. Most of the time it is limited to night time episodes of servere panic and fear, but i take spells for months at a time where it also happens during the day. I have ran to the bath room at relatives homes to splash water on my face and to check my pulse. I don’y know why this helps but it calms me down. I need help for this and am relieved to find out that this is an actual problem for other people also.

  11. Rachael Says:

    Like everyone else my fear of death is getting me down. I suffer from anxiety which only makes it worse. I can’t go to sleep on my own at night, i’m scared of dying in my sleep, and i can’t do anything that’s extreme in case i die doing that.
    I’m glad there are people who feel the same as me, i just would rather no what to do about it.
    I’m sick of everyone saying “You’re being silly” I don’t feel like i am.
    I just feel like everyone else my age thinks i’m stupid and nobody else thinks the same as me.
    Thanks for the article!

  12. Peter Says:

    Rachael I understand you very well, I have the same problem, it actually consumes my life every day, I constantly think about dying, it frightends me so much. I think about the struggle or the loss of control, i will endure, when will it happen, I feel I have to be on my guard all the time, I have had this fear for fifteen years or more, it causes me panic attacks, agoraphobia…yet I still manage to hold down a full time job….I don’t know how. You are not silly far from it, to us it’s a real fear, I am for the first time trying to face this and rid myself of these feelings and thoughts, it has controlled my life to long now, it will be a hard road, but I want to get there. I hope you can face your fears too.

  13. Stephanie Says:

    Tony,

    If you still read I would like to talk to you. I have never met somebody I could empathize with and this has only been going on with me for 7 months – feels like so much longer. Please respond if you can….

  14. andrew Says:

    I am a fellow suffer of this, and currently i am going through a bad patch. I find however it is worse during the twilight hour and just before i goto bed?? Also mainly occurs during the winter months??? I feel better on a sunny day, Coincedence?? or maybe the lack of seretonin being produced (otherwise known as SAD). i dont know just throwing suggestions in the air really.
    Thing is i can go years without thinking about it, or trying to think about it and it not bothering me. Ive even been so low in the past i’ve thought about ending it. That contridicts how i feel also about things. I suppose the only glimmer of light i can throw on this is that everyone has the same fate, and even the solar system and the stars do. Would you like to live forever??? What would that be like???? Thing is its a year since my father passed away, think this is what has set on my current bout, Feels like currently im on autopilot, not myself or anything.

    • Barbara Says:

      To Andrew:
      I know this is three years past the point, but I have had a bad week of this phobia. I have notice that it tends to happen in the winter time and mostly at night, as well. No matter how hard life seems to be, I wish that I could live forever. I have a vast fear of not existing anymore, not being able to have thoughts of my own. I am living, I have a son that I want to see grow up into a man, I want grand and great grandchildren. I enjoy life despite it’s many difficulties. I hate feeling like I am consumed by this fear. Although, it has given me a new outlook in some sense. I have begun to enjoy my son more, and just hope for the best. It can be hard, I sometimes have to keep myself preoccupied in order to not think. I am somewhat glad that I am not the only one, but at the same time sad that others are inflicted with this fear.

  15. Renee' Says:

    I am so relieved to read these posts! I have felt so alone with my fear of dying and I never seem to be able to relate to anyone about it. As a result, the fear itself has become a daily occurrence. Since I was a kid I have had a fear of dying. I was raised with Christian beliefs, and do believe in the afterlife, however the fear remains nonetheless. In college I studied Human Evolution, and as one may guess-my mind raced with thoughts and questions about creation, death and even purpose.

    I often have repetitive thoughts about how it will be to not have my “mind” with me, or physical body. In addition to this, I cannot fathom what any time spent in another life would be like-I fear the unknown. I fear never seeing anyone again, and I fear the fate of my death (how it will happen, when it will happen). This fear often distracts me throughout the day. I find myself being VERY sensitive to anything that will bring the thoughts back in my head, such as movies, funerals, even simple daily tasks such as driving, etc. So many things cause me to go into “deep thinking” mode, and I begin to panic. Going to be at night is usually the worst. I know much of this stems for anxiety issues in general, however this has been a phobia of mine even during my childhood when I feel that I was a relatively “relaxed” child.

    I have found the best way to cope is to pray and read bible passages about death. I have never considered myself to be a real religous or spiritual person, however this phobia naturally has this effect on me. I often feel as though I am being forced to spiritually mature. I feel safest when I read God’s words about the afterlife, and when I consider how complex human life is; because of the complexity-I do not believe that there is nothing after death. Instead, I try to remind myself that we are a complex species, and ultimately have no end. Moreover, I find comfort when reading about incidents of people experiencing the afterlife for a short moment, and then returning. Their description of what they visually saw and felt is perhaps comforting and assuring. Nonetheless-my fear remains.

  16. Candice Clark Says:

    I’m Candice and I’m 21 years old and ever since I can remember I have been afraid of dying and being dead. I have panic attacks and little freak outs when someone mentions death. Sometimes it doesn’t bother me, but sometimes I freak. The unknown and non-existence scares the crud out of me. I had I guess what would be called a panic attack the other day. I was driving to work and it hit me like a ton of bricks “I’m going to die and there’s nothing I can do about it.” I then started thinking about what would happen when I did, and how it would happen and I scared myself even more. I slammed on the brakes, started freaking out, lost breath, I was shaking so bad I nearly fell out of my truck when I opened the door, I was sweating and I started crying like a little girl. I scared my parents one time so bad I crawled from the backseat to the front screaming and clawing at things. I don’t know anyone who has the same fear or to the extent that I do, so I’m kinda alone here..

  17. Kyle Says:

    I’ve have this problem off and on and mabey not as severe as some of you people. But you have to remind yourself that when you die you won’t feel anything anymore so therefore you cannot hurt. I think the main thing people fear is the unknown. Just like people who are afraid of the dark. The reason they are scared is because they cant see what’s there. If you knew what was on the other side – would you still be scared? Now imagine this! What if when people died for a short moment there spirit could tell you how it was and where they we’re going. Whether they said it was painfull,exciting,refreshing,cool,amazing or what not. Wouldnt that be relieving to know what was there? I think that would solve alot of people problems…. or at least mine 🙂

  18. Matt Says:

    I have been dealing with these issues in the past couple of years myself. I am not sure why because no one close to me has ever died. Maybe having no frame of reference is what makes the idea so difficult.

    I think the thing that scares me is not the fear of the unknown, but the knowledge that one day I will just no longer exist. For me, I can handle the concepts of infinity much easier than the concept of nothingness. It’s really weird because I know there is nothing I can do to prevent death, so I do not feel afraid of activities that may put me in danger. Just when I try to wrap my head around the concept of non-existence, my brain feels like it’s going to explode and I panic.

    It amazes me how the mind tries to cope with these concepts. It really makes me understand why people believe in religion and spirituality. I find myself fantasizing at times that there will be some sort of technological breakthrough in my lifetime that will allow me to exist forever. This is completely contradictory to my rational outlook on life, but it is a comforting idea.

    I’m glad I stumbled upon this phobia today, it is also comforting to know that others out there share this viewpoint.

  19. John Says:

    The most common pattern of thanatophobia is the fear of not-existing and being shure that death is the end for you (so it means that in this case you might find hard to believe in another life or in going somewhere after death, somehow a materialist point of view), it has nothing to do with not knowing what is going to come after death because you are sure that death is the end so the fact that you have thanatophobia is mostly based on each individuals believes on death.

  20. DG Says:

    “For those who believe the first option [cease to exist], a fear of death is not very rational. After all if you don’t exist, what does it matter?”

    Well it matters alot! Don’t you like to exist? Isn’t it important to you to exist? For me there’s no dread of death itself, the dread is of not being able to do and experience all the things I want to do and experience.

    “Who would want to be floating around forever, feeling cold and scaring people?”

    To confess, this option greatly attracted me when I was about 9 years old. I distinctly remember thinking that it would be great to never have to worry about eating or going to the bathroom, and be free to just watch things.

  21. GH Says:

    I’m only 14, and I know I have this fear of dying. I notice that when you have a fear of being dead, you are afraid to do everything, such as flying, being away from your home, etc. I am most terrified of instantaneous death. One second you’re alive, breathing, thinking, and the next everything is black, and you’re no longer there. I want to believe that there’s a heaven and afterlife, but I am so much more convinced by scientific explanations on the creation of the universe rather than an omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent being. Something that gives me some comfort, although not much, is that I have not always existed. Death could basically be the same as before you were born. This doesn’t help much because then I consider the fact that I don’t remember being born and then all of a sudden being alive. I have panic attacks every once in a while, but I’m constantly aware of every twinge I feel in my body in fear that I’m going to die. Every time I have a headache I think I have a brain tumor. Every time I exercise I think my heart is going to explode. The doctor has told me that there is nothing wrong, but I don’t believe them. I’m scared to continue my life with the constant dying that prevents me from living to a full extent. I don’t want to end it because I know that contradicts my fears. I am kind of glad to know that I’m not alone, but then again, I feel horrible that other people have to suffer through the same thing I do.

  22. Angel Says:

    One year I watched 3 people die. I was 28 years old and up until then I had never known anyone who died. After that time I started having panic attacks when I heard a heartbeat. Or even saw a fake heart (Not the valentine kind). I would lay in my bed every night and count how long I had left if I were to live out the life expectancy of someone my age. Then I would do the same for my husband and children. It was pure torture. I love my life and I believe that is really what I am afraid of losing. I have a question for anyone who will answer. Do any of you find that you have your most fearful moments during times in your life that should be the happiest?

    • Jim Says:

      My observation is that it is exactly at times when I am the most relaxed or happy and I think I have no worries in life that something in my mind reminds me, “Oops, only that one day you’ll have do die.” Ugh!!!

  23. Orlando Says:

    Wow, I must say I find this a rather unperceptive article.

    I quote:

    “Here’s a range of possible beliefs about death:
    – nothing happens, you cease to exist (materialist view)
    – you may go to heaven or hell, depending on some kind of judgment of your actions in this life (Judeo-Christian view)
    – reincarnation (Hindu, Buddhist)
    – some people believe in ghosts, or spirits of the dead who somehow just float around the earthly plane making a nuisance of themselves

    For those who believe the first option, a fear of death is not very rational. After all if you don’t exist, what does it matter? You won’t be suffering.”

    The whole point of thanatophobias is being really pissed off at the idea that your loved ones and you, yourself, will one day — in all likelihood — just cease to exist. Every day you are counting down to just not eisting anymore, and you have less and less youth and time to do things you want to do in, and EXIST. But not being keen on that situation is just “not very rational”.

    When you look critically at religions — even the vague “there must be something” kind — there is certainly nothing especially rational about them, and one can easily make a case that the major, or certainly A major component of them all is to take your mind off fearing death by getting people to believe they have some kind of immortal soul (for which no one has come up with anything but anecdotal evidence).

  24. Moogie Says:

    I’m a 22yr old female from the United Kingdom who also suffers from panic attacks and depression brought about by this condition.

    I’ve had this ever since I can remember. When I was a little kid – even before my 10th birthday – I would sometimes just need to bawl my eyes out, because even at that age I could see the eternity of nothing stretching beyond my fleeting existence in this world.

    I have never told friends or family about this, and I carry on with life, pretending everything is okay. Most days I am fine – but sometimes I’ll get a little nagging thought in my head, and I think “don’t think about it, you know what will happen…”

    But it’s too hard to resist, and my mind wanders, and I feel it – like a sinking rock in the pit of my stomach. The absolute, sheer dread.

    I have taken to keeping the TV on at night when I go to bed. I can no longer sleep comfortably without it. If I do, everything is too still, too quiet – my mind wanders. In those cases, I often end up crying myself to sleep.

    I’ve never saught help or councelling for this, because I don’t want to be belittled or told I’m being “silly”. Non-thanatophobes just do not understand it, at all. We’re not scared of DYING, it’s DEATH that terrifies us, and I think everyone who ISN’T scared of their own non-existence is crazy (and bloody lucky, I envy you to the power of infinity +1).

    Anyways, I made my input on thepickards’ blog some years ago, and I just found this blog today (after a panic attack – I had to calm myself down somehow, and I find typing it out helps) so I figured I would say my piece.

    Here’s hoping we can all find solace in something eventually. I can only forget for so long, before it returns…

  25. No-No Says:

    All this time, I was wondering what was wrong with me! I finally think I’ve found the answer! You guys are so right…it’s not the actual dying that’s scary (although I hope I do not suffer in my death…in my sleep is how I’d like to go), but the death itself. I feel like I’m leaving so much behind if I die…or I should say WHEN I die, since I know it will happen. With me, I always have the feeling I’m going to die in my early 20’s…and I’m 23!! If I can just reach 25, maybe I won’t be as worried, but I doubt it. I don’t want to die young…I want to be OLD, OLD, OLD!!! And I have a 1 year old son (just turned 1 a week ago) and I don’t want to leave him! If I can just hang in there until he’s out of the house, maybe my fears will be put to rest! Another thing is, when I was 12 (which is when this fear started), I was having a medical procedure done, and I had an allergic reaction to some medication they put in my IV, and I stopped breathing! I was so scared that I was going to die, and ever since then, my fear manifested itself. I always have the fear that I’m going to just stop breathing one day and I cannot be saved. I pray that it doesn’t happen…well, like I said before, at least not until I’m past my 90th birthday! I really want to be extremely old!! Anyway, I have never looked this up, have never talked to anybody about it, but it feels good to get this out to people who understand exactly what I go through. I think about it every day and it does take its toll…there are things I won’t even do because I’m afraid I’ll die! It’s a little ridiculous, I guess…well, to me it’s not, but I know it is to other people. I feel like I’m going to worry myself to death over nothing!! I wonder if there will ever be anything that will help…

  26. Reality Bites Says:

    All the happiness and joy in life is gone. Even though I live in a nice house, good job and most of all happily married. However, feelings of dread comsumes me. There’s never any rest from the monster. It watches me. It stalks me. It doesn’t negotiate. And it can’t be bought or reasoned with. It will take everything I have and everything I’m going to have. There is no escape. It will simply turn me off like a light switch.
    Death for humans looks exactly like death in the animal world. No different than roadkill that you pass by on a sunny day. The cruelty of all of it. There’s nothing beautiful about death. The body doesn’t disappear like Yoda in star wars. The person goes from being considered a person to being called “the body”. Its a system I never asked to be apart of, but am forced to play along. To feel guilt over what a man named Adam did years ago. I got my own problems. Life’s whole scenerio is based on things victimizing and consuming one another for their own well being. No different for people. We fight for resources: mates, jobs, money, food, etc. Then after all that fighting you lose it all and more to death. There is no winning the game of Life whether your an actor, ball player, doctor, president. You die inspite of all the sacrifice you made through the years. You keep nothing in the end not even yourself. Makes it hard with all that self awareness to want to succeed at anything knowing it will be taken from all of us in the end. Doesn’t it…

  27. Barbara Says:

    I have suffered from anxiety attacks since I was a young child. They intensified into thanatophobia when my father died. I was 14. My schoolwork suffered because I couldn’t concentrate. I am 34 years old and I still live with my mother. I have never been married and no children. I sleep alot. I have a full time job I don’t know how. I have just awakened recently and realized I have slept half my life away because of this. I am trying to date but I know at some point this subject will come up. I know to everyday people this sounds crazy and it scares me I won’t find someone who will want to be with someone like this. Anyway I would love to hear from anyone and everyone with this disorder. I have tried to find support groups but unfortunately there aren’t any. I want my life back.

  28. Danielle Says:

    I’ve always had issues with death. Just the whole concept of lying in a casket or getting cremated creeps me out. But, my dog is dying at the moment, shes very old. The other day, it came out of nowhere..I REALLY thought about what happened after she died. Then after humans died. After my own death. I gasped and i started having an anxiety attack. I deal with anxiety on a daily basis anyway. I take medicine for it.Ever since then, its been making me panic. I try to keep myself calm and think about good things. I try to think about how EVERYONE has to go through it, not just me. Its a natural thing of life, and we can’t do a damn thing about it. Its almost as if i feel that my own death is coming soon and that freaks me out. I’m 19 and I don’t want to live my whole life in terror. Please, anyone..help.

  29. Brie Says:

    Hey guys! I suffer from this phobia approx 2 years ago. Before I had this phobia, there was once, I was talking to a group of friends about teens at my age dying young. (Im 21 by the way). Since then, I was so scared that im gonna die anytime! I fear that I wont be able to get married, have kids and all. Whenver my friends talk about the future, I just cant imagine myself in the event of the future. I, too, fear of the symptoms one has bbefore death like acting weirdly, asking for forgiveness, strange behaviours and etc. Whenever I open my mouth to my friends, my mind will keep telling me that im having a symptom of death. Anyone in the same state as me? DO write to me at rampalicious@hotmail.com

  30. Brie Says:

    No-No, I have the same exact feeelings as you!! Great to know that i’m not alone. Heheh!

  31. Cala Says:

    I’d be really interested in suggestions about HOW we can all get over this. There is definitely some comfort that other people suffer the same as I do (although I do have huge empathy cos I know what you are all going through), but I feel at the end of the day, we are in this alone, like death really. Don’t you just loathe those happy-go-lucky types who say things like “I’ll be quite happy if I check out of here when I’m 70. I would have had a good innings” What!! That’s only 28 years away for me. No way, not if I can help it. But the problem is, I can’t control it. It will happen to me whether I like it or not. I was interested in people’s childhood experiences because I remember having nightmares about the concept of eternity (and I can barely write the words)with my little 8 year old brain trying to imagine myself sitting on a cloud for ever and ever and ever and not being able to turn myself off. That is just so horrific. I did go and see a counsellor but she said “Surely you can see that you are using your rational mind to try and analyse what will happen when you die – death isn’t rational, noone knows what will happen, you just have to try and focus on the present”. The big thing for me is that I cannot bear the thought of never seeing my two wee girls again, they are 7 and 9. I cannot fathom it. It is such a cruel thought. The weird thing that has also happened to me is that I have become cynical about a lot of aspects of human life – fashion, art, design etc because I think – what is the point? It’s so mindless when there are much bigger issues at stake. Does anyone else feel like this? I also always think I am dying, always at night (heart, DVT, cancer….), and I always feel fine when I wake up. In fact I have a real aversion to the wee small hours of the morning and being awake at those times.The other thing is my lovely 82 year old dad also has this terror and I feel for him more because it is stalking him more aggressively than it stalks me. I’d also be keen to hear any suggestions for books, Thanks so much and take care

  32. Elizabeth Says:

    I’m really glad i found this site, I always thought that I was the only one who thought about dying all the time and I could never understand how people can just go about their daily lives without it ever entering their mind. I’m 24 and althought i’ve had a fear of dying since I was around 7/8 it has become absolutely terrible in the last 6 months, to the point where I think it’s going to happen anytime. I will worry about every single scenario that could happen, statistically and logically it probably won’t but still that doesn’s seem to help. I won’t go on the underground anymore, won’t go out for dinner incase something has somehow got in the food, the scenarios go on and on. I’ve had a little bit of counselling but it did no good. I’m thinking of hypnotherapy but that scares me too!i wish i didn’t worry that something is always going to happen to me it really does restrict every day things. I’m not quite sure how i still am able to go to work etc. I really hope it goes. I’m determinded to try and slowly get better. What scares me most is that i will always feel like this.Sorry for long post!!!!!

  33. jessie Says:

    omg! im so happy i found this site. i have been searching for personal accounts of this dreadful disease and couldnt find any untill just now. well i started having panic attacks when i was 18 years old. i get this overwhelming fear that im dying out of nowhere and ten minutes later i would be in the emergency room anxious for them to check my vitals.they tried to put me on zoloft and paxil and prozac at different times but i was afraid of the medicine. now im 20 years old and i just lost my sister about a month ago to epilepsy. she was 26 and she had a seizure and suffocated into the pillow. i was very very close with her. and since her death i have been overwhelmed with sever hypochondria and my own fear of death. i think every moment is my last moment and sometimes i will start crying at the thought of leaving my loved ones beyond. i cant picture myself in the future and it scares me. everytime i have a pain in my leg or arm i have a blood clot or if i have a headache its a tumor or anyuerism. im afraid of driving alone and i have severe panic attacks. i cant take medicine for it cause i think it will kill me. im terrified to go to sleep cuz i think thats when im gonna die and when i wake up im happy but the fear comes back in a few minutes cuz i then think well todays the day then. i believe this fear is from my own realization of how precious life is and how one day i am gonna die since my sister was so young and she died. like i said im happy to have found this site it helped me so much just from knowing other ppl feel the way i do. i usually dont write on blogs or leave comments on stuff like this at all but this disease is truly devastating to ones life and i feel that my story may help someone else. god bless you all.

  34. Anon Says:

    It’s such a relief to find that there are other people going through the same thing as me!

    I’d never really thought about death until recently… and then one day it just came crashing down on me like a ton of bricks: I’m gonna die, and there’s nothing I can do about it!

    As many people on here have said, it’s not the DYING that I fear, but the death itself. It’s like… where do I go? Do I really have anything to worry about? Will I know what’s going on? Is there an afterlife, or will I just cease to exist anymore?

    But I guess the thing that creeps me out the most is the physical side of it. The idea of my body being inside a fridge in some mortuary, an undertaker bathing me, dressing me, brushing my hair ready for my funeral… these thoughts scare me, as I believe the human body is just a mode of transport for the spirit.

    My partner died twelve months ago, and possibly this is why I’m feeling like this?

    I also suffer from servere panic attacks – I’ve been in and out of the emergency room GOD knows how many times this year… my chest goes tight, I can’t breathe, dizzyness, I feel every twinge or pain I feel in my body is some kind of tumour/disease and I’m going to die at any second…

    I can’t sleep most nights. I sit awake worrying about it, I feel stupid because it’s affecting my quality of life. I sometimes feel like I’ve gone mad.

    But it’s comforting to know you are all going through the same thing.

    xx

  35. Elizabeth Says:

    Not sure if you will come back and read this at all jessie but if you do just wanted to say that all the things you wrote about thinking if you have a pain that its something awful etc…well i have exactly the same thoughts to the extent where its crippling so many of the things i like doing.i didn’t actually think that other people felt the same way but it seems like you have very very similar if not totally the same type of thoughts on it!Knowing that there are others who feel the same is comforting but what would be more comforting is not feeling this way.xxx

  36. jessie Says:

    hey Elizabeth. well see thats why i left my comment because i know how hard its been on me not knowing if anybody else feels the way i do and so with me helping you feel better youve actually made me feel better too. it is crippling and it has affected my life very drastically since it started. i use to be very outgoing and was content with just about anything but now i cant even sit home and relax because the whole time im feeling disoriented and terrified that any second im gonna die. youre right it does suck that there really isnt anything to do about it except face it and try to put it behind you. thats way harder than taking a pill. i hope you find peace.

  37. Heather Says:

    I have read many of your responses and I just started crying. I am 26 years old, a wife and mother of a 3 year old and I have been fighting for my sanity for almost 2 years now. I have done many internet searches and come up empty handed and even more panicked then I started. I have seen doctors they all tell me I’m fine and try to refer me to another therapist. I was talking with someone about my anxiety, and she never came up with a descriptive word for my so called problem. I have been severly depressed and now that the panic attacks have stopped after many books and relazation techniques. I’m at my end and need a change for my family and my own life.
    Everything that was mentioned above I have felt. I never new that the word “thanatophobia” even existed?? I feel as though I have been to hell and back many times and have a feeling of dread every single day. I wish I could hug everysingle one of you because I understand how you feel with every part of my being. If anyone would like to talk about their situation even more, please let me know. Sending all of you great hope and love for the new year.

    Just knowing that I can talk to you about this and have your full understanding and know I am not being judged is relief.

  38. Olivia Says:

    Here’s my story:

    I can’t remember a time in my life when I *wasn’t* terrified of dying. I remember as a little girl (can’t remember what age, but in elementary school, or even younger) thinking about death, and what would happen. I would end of crying, and my mom would come in and try to comfort me, saying that I’ll go to heaven and see my great grandparents and that everything would be fine and dandy. I stopped crying, so she wouldn’t worry, but I still wasn’t reassured.

    I was raised in a Christian household, and I want to believe, I really do. The thing is, I find it near impossible to believe in heaven. I’m afraid that after I die (like everyone else) that I will cease to exist completely. The part that really kills me (wow, no pun intended) is not being able to see. Hear. Smell. Think. Feel. I just . . . die.

    It doesn’t afflict me often, and when it does, it’s not to the point of panic attacks. I normally have other things on my mind during the day, and at night, when it’s the worst, I’ve taken to listening to my iPod and inventing stories in my head. Just to keep my mind occupied. It usually works, but it takes me a bit longer to go to sleep.

    When I do start thinking about it, my pulse increases and I feel not quite dizzy, but a little out of it.

    I really want to talk to my parents about it, to see if there’s anything that can be done. I’m even willing to try hypnotism. But I’m too scared to bring it up. Scared that they’ll brush it off, or become much more worried than I think I’d be able to handle. And I can’t talk to my friends about it. As far as I know, they rarely think about death, and certainly not in the way I do.

    I can’t imagine what life would be like if I were indifferent towards death. Or even welcoming! Someone I know says, “I’d like to die before (certain age).” How could you even think that? Like someone who posted on here, I look forward to the future, in the hopes of some sort of technology that makes it possible to live forever. I’d invest in a heartbeat.

    But really, for me, it’s the fear of nonexistence. If someone could scientifically prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there is life beyond life (and hopefully not the Asphodel Fields of the Ancient Greek underworld) then I think I might be okay.

    I wanna hear other thoughts. Would you be “cured” if there was a proof of an afterlife? I kind of have an obsession with different views of the afterlife. My favorite is, of course, Greek, and I like to optimistically think that might I qualify for Elysium. Does anyone else do this- research life after death in different cultures?

  39. john smart Says:

    hello fellow sufferers, i first had the realisation that one day i would ‘cease to be’ when i was about 9 or 10 years old and just drifting off to sleep when out of the blue a cold realisation that i was simply not going to exist at some point in the future struck me. i just couldn’t believe it, what was the point in learning and experiencing so much through life when at the end there was simply nothing there? like a lot of you guys i don,t worry about dying of brain tumours or heart attacks but i do get the sudden dawning realisation of dying at some point in the future when i wake up from ‘cat naps’ in the afternoon typically around 3-5 p.m or so, i really don’t know why though. anyway thanks for letting me see your thoughts and hope you appreciate mine!

  40. Stephanie Says:

    I can’t really say that I have thanatophobia because I don’t have the physical symptoms. However, whenever I think about death–and I mean really think about it–my heart drops and I feel extremely alone. I am quite young and I consider myself agnostic. When I think of death, I think that it’ll be like sleeping because when you sleep, you don’t know you’re asleep. I won’t know that I’m gone. Then, I think of the bigger picture and see the world continuing without me and I’m just going to sleep for eternity. That is what I fear most. I imagine the earth revolving and all I’ll see is blackness. Forever. And ever. I suppose one could consider it narcissistic? But I don’t mean the earth will be nothing without me. On the contrary, I sometimes think the world will be everything without me, but it scares me to not ever live again. I don’t believe that there is an afterlife because no one can ever know that. I fear the unknown, but I am too scared to find out.

  41. Joy Says:

    I am 22 and have had a fear of dying that goes back as far as I can remember. While I live quite a ‘normal’ life, this fear has created lots of other problems for me like feeling totally detached from my life – i’m having huge troubles dealing with this as no-one else with the same fear seems to deal with it in this way. I was just wondering if any of you guys had the same experience?

  42. Michelle Says:

    I am only 17, but I’ve had problems with anxiety since I was around 12 years old. Most of that anxiety has been socially-related though. I have always thought about death and feared it just like any normal person. But lately it seems to have gotten worse. Most of the time I feel like I won’t live to see 30, maybe even 25. I’m scared one day my heart might just stop beating, and by the time someone finds me unconscious I’ll already be dead. To a normal person that probably sounds illogical, since I am so young, but to me it’s real and causes me great stress. I don’t have panic attacks, but I get dizzy, increased heart rate and blood pressure, headaches, nauseau… it’s just awful. The worst part about it is I have no friends, I’m very shy and I tend to not be able to get along well with people, and so I have no one to talk to or confide in. My family doesn’t understand. They think I’m a worrywart or something. My mom always says, “If you are so scared of dying you must not be saved.” I know that I’m saved, I want to be closer to God but it’s hard. I was raised in a Christian home and went to Christian schools until 9th grade, but lately I’ve been questioning my faith. I mean everyone in my family acts like they know for a fact that God exists and He loves us and if we just repent we will go to Heaven for all eternity. But how can anyone know for sure? I really want to know for sure that if I die, God will let me be with Him forever in Heaven. I hope it’s all true.

    I have read all of your posts and I can relate to every one of you. Living in fear is a terrible thing. All I want and I’m sure all you people want is peace of mind. I hope and pray you all will find it.

  43. Joy Says:

    Hi Michelle,

    What you describe does sound like a panic attack – maybe you could see a GP about it if you’re not getting help from home? Or maybe a teacher at school/college? Sometimes being scared of dying isnt about how strong your faith is…it’s something that you can never be sure of no matter how much you believe, because at the end of the day all you are doing is believing, in the same way that you believe you going to pass an exam – no-one knows for certain until it happens.

    I dont know if this will help you but it did me…I read a book called The Color Purple, and in it the main character says that the only God she finds in church is the one that she takes in with her…this made a lot of sense to me, everyone questions their faith at some point but maybe just TRYING to believe is half the battle and trying to live your life in the best way possible for others but mainly for you.

    This is something quite separate from your fear of dying which you really can get help with!

  44. Bob Haines Says:

    It is not death but the way | might die that frightens me

  45. Bob Haines Says:

    It is not death but more the way I might die that frightens me

  46. Sandie Says:

    Hello everyone,
    I am going on 40 this year, have a husband and four boys to raise.
    The sense of death sometimes overcomes me and I want to hide…in a ball…in the corner.
    I believe in God, I believe I have anxiety attacks or I sometimes refer to it as extreme fear in death. Just the fear of what am I leaving behind? I have gone to several different churches since I have any recall. They do not really refer to death in any sermons just what God has done and what he can do for you…But, isn’t that what church is all about? YOu are afraid that when you die you will burn in hell if you don’t go to church? Why isn’t death and the fear of it discussed more often?
    This feels so good to let out…
    I sometimes sit in my truck and wonder if I have some sort of schizophrenia or something! I never, until today, knew that thanatophobia existed!
    I thought I was alone in the fear…
    Thank God for this site.
    I hope my sanity has been saved!

  47. Confused. Says:

    You make no sense when you say the “materialistic view of dying” – “why are we afraid since we don’t exist anyway?” What? Just because someone has studied years of science and the LOGIC of religion, and does not believe in religion, does not mean that they “don’t exist, and death doesn’t matter anyway”. That’s a very shallow point of view that clearly you know nothing about since your explanation is horrible. People of all kinds fear this. Some can’t even go on with normal activities since this fear is so overwhelming it takes over their lives. I think you have extremely shallow views and clearly you shouldn’t have even written this…. “information”… because it shows you know nothing except for what you’ve been brainwashed to believe about this matter.

  48. Ashley Says:

    Hi i have read all of your posts. I am a 21 year old girl and i have recently gotten this fear of death within the past year. When i was younger i irrationally looked at is as something that was never going to happen, since i was still so young. Now i seem to have thoughts that consume me almost everyday. I’m also OCD so i feel like i have to prepare and plan everything out and i can’t with knowing i have maybe 80years left if im very lucky. I obsess about everything which is another problem but it makes me obsess abotu dying also. So i am scared of dying soon but then again i don’t want to be old. I almost want to die young this way i don’t have to deal with what it seems like will be tramatizing fear and panic as my time gets shorter and shorter.. as i realize im getting closer and time is running out.. i’m afraid my fear will grow stronger. i dont know if i wil beable to handle it..sometimes i don’t think i want to have a family or kids because i fear getting close to anyone knowing my fate and sometimes i think i will go crazy thinking about this and won’t beable to be a good mother or wife..i fear being depressed and wouldn’t want to put anyone through that.

    ..but what scares me the most is having to deal with my parents or other older relatives getting older and closer to death everyday.. i don’t want to bring it up because i know they must be scared..how can they not? i feel bad for old people because them and everyone aroudn them knows their fate and that they don’t have much time..everyone must fear it at an older age it only seems natural to me..i feel terrified of being old.. who would want to be? life seems to short. and i just wish there was something i could say to my parents or anyone to make them not scared. i’m terrified of having my parents face death and for me to be there seeing them grow older each day and more scared. its so sad how people go ..loosing loved ones or leaving them. but i do have some postitive outlook which keeps me okay for now..

    although i’m scared i’m going to overcome this because i have to. i have a choice to be scared all my life and then pass away.. or to be happy and then to pass away. our fate is inevidable..the way the world works is out of our hands..i believe the world can be so beautiful so it cannot end so badly with death and nothingness when there are such complex and beautiful beings out there.. what if we are all worrying about something that will be okay in the end? we wasted our whole life worryign about it. and even if this is it.. that is mroe of a reason to live life to the fullest. dying is only a short part of the whole of life..i think its important to buy books on this..to study religion and spirituality..many people have experienced spiritual things.. i believe in that so then i believe that you have a soul..this could be just the begining or a cycle.. either way don’t ruin the purpose of it..to be happy to make others happy and to help those less fortunate then yourselves..i’m going to start to read helpful books and spiritual books..i hope you all do the same..don’t waste the time you’re here because then you might as well be dead already then.. or worse in hell because you are torturing yourselves..help others cope with it..be there for them..and people will be there for you..you don’t have to be in this alone..but you must have faith..the way you got here is a miracle on its own..life is perplexing and i believe anything is possible after death..but you are not dead so don’t worry about it..take a deep breath and relax..everyone gets through it and you will also..i have fears just liek all of you but i am makign the choice to have faith and be strong for those around me who may not be as strong..you all have it in you and you are all so much more then a body.. you’re your own unique spirit, soul and mind which is so much more complex then being just something that reproduces and just a body. i do believe that you exisit beyond your body and for the most part you all have naturally good thoughts that lead you towards trying to dothe right thing and trying to be the best person you can be..it’s only natural right? who else could have put those thoughts in your head then a good and devine higher being? a god who is a good god..it makes more sense to have faith..

  49. Nerevarine Says:

    Ashley,

    If you have “a choice to be scared all your life and then pass away … or to be happy and then to pass away” you are just a *very* lucky gal.

    In most cases, the fear (and belief) is not just a matter of choice.

  50. Jessica Says:

    Firstly, I will say that I am 17 years old and I suffer from thanatophobia and necrophobia. I think the author may not fully understand the causes of the anxieties nor the beliefs of those suffering from them. I am an atheist (despite being brought up in a Catholic church) and I believe when I die, the only place I’ll go is in the ground. When I was very young, a very close Aunt was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. My mother was her twin and she took care of her dying sister. She was in hospice for months and I pretty much moved into her house while my mother took care of her bed-ridden sister. I watched my aunt waste away to nothing and I watched her cry and pass away a week after my 6th birthday.
    I have a severe phobia of dying and I am petrified of my loved ones dying. I liberally apply sunblock to me, my friends, and my younger sister. My grandmother is very ill with heart disease and I very greatly fear her not waking up in the morning. I check my sister’s moles and freckles to check their color and size and I pat my cat down before I go to bed to check for tumors. I text my friends and call my family members every such interval of time to make sure they didn’t die. I have had nightmares of my family, pets, and friends dying since I was 5. When my pets die, it seems to hit me harder than it would the average person, which scares my family. I cannot swim in the ocean because I picture dead bodies weighted at the sandy bottom.
    I have a materialistic view of death, yet I am morbidly terrified of it. #1, I fear leaving my family and pets behind. #2, I fear losing loved ones. I don’t fear the process of dying. I fear the feeling of loss and I fear for how my loved ones will feel when I am dead. Its more than an anxiety, its an obsession.

  51. fiona Says:

    I am obsessed with this too. Stopping me sleeping, eating and drinking. Taking antidepressants. Watching time run away and doing nothing with it. I am wasting it telling other people I’m scared of death and dying and they can’t see life draining away in the same way I can and don’t want to know. I don’t know how to be a ‘me’ anymore, because I feel like a human life instead. My fear has become ridiculously big and spoils every day.

  52. Sean Says:

    I’m 26 and I can still remember my shock the first moment I realized I would die someday; I was five… My fears have increased steadily since then. I fear all of it: fear of non existence, fear of lack of faith and judgement, and fear of physically dying. I live in constant
    anxiety every day and I’m sick of it! I don’t
    care to debate religion, but I refuse to believe that when I die, I will cease to exist. Call it narcissm or fear if you will, but I will be reunited with my family one day wherever that may be. Love is to damn strong to simply cease….

    I’ve always been terribly afraid of armageddon, there was the turn of the millenium which had me in panic: I thought for sure that was it. Now there is this 2012 thing and changing climate, etc. Every month there seems to be a new movie about our impending doom and I feel like I can’t get a break. No one else around me seems to share this fear, why? The thought of drowning in a flood or tidal wave scares the shit out of me! I keep telling myself that dying is inevitable, so why worry. But that doesn’t work. How do I stop the fear? Can I face it? And what would that mean?

  53. sj Says:

    It has become so bad for me that I have lost the fear of sudden death.
    I used to go to sleep worried I wouldn’t wake up. Now I hope I don’t.

  54. sj Says:

    …one more thing. Thanataphobia is probably fear of life/living more so than death/dying.

  55. Miho Says:

    Hey,

    I’m 20 and have certainly had a fear of my own death for quite a while. It is not an all-consuming thought but at times I get hit with a sudden gripping fear. I have a hard time breathing and can get quite hysterical. I tend not to tell anyone though because I feel that they have the same fear that I do and I refuse to think about it. I have found that this is best way to deal with a fear of the inevitable. However, after reading what you wrote about “why” people would fear their own death I think you’re being a bit insensitive. As a person who has a pretty non-religious view on death, to be told that a phobia (especially one about death) is not rational is pretty horrible thing to say. No duh. That’s why it’s a phobia. It had nothing to do with suffering. The simplest way of putting it is, not so much death but that I am afraid of non-existence.

  56. Eamon Devine Says:

    I am amazed to find so many people like me. I don’t want to sound like I’m psycho-babbling, but I believe that all we can do is cherish each moment and live here right now. It has helped me by taking everything slow and not rushing. Although I am still struggling, I have found great comfort in believing in an afterlife. I have no idea what happens when you die and that does scare me. But at one point I was not alive (before I was born) and I hope there is a purpose for it all. Why are we here?

  57. Nerevarine Says:

    To be honest, I am not sure whether anyone of us (haing dropped some word here) really suffers from thanatophobia. Whereas phobia is defined as an extreme, irrational and often paralysing fear, people here are expressing just their (our) existential anxiety which is common for human beings realising inevitability of death.

    Since phobia degrades it has to be cured; at least, an extreme pain deserves a “cure” too.

    On the other side, most of existential challenges bring rather raising effects but not instant.

    (Sorry for halting English.)

    • Eamon Devine Says:

      In response to you message nevarine, I think I can speak for others and myself when I say it is often paralyzing and irrational. I know I have gone to great lengths to find ways to live forever. I have also been so afraid that I don’t want to leave my house sometimes. I’m afraid that my food is poisoned, I’m afraid that I have cancer all the time, I’m afraid to drive, fly. These are all sorts of irrational things. By the way, the guy who made that very first post was very
      insensitive. People have a very good reason to be afraid of nothing. I believe nothing is something & also second law of thermodynamics

      • Nerevarine Says:

        First: I agree – this what you are describing is likely phobia.

        Second: Insensitive people are just human beings. We are obligated to have patience with them.

        Third: “Nothing” is not the exact definiton what are people afraid of. The more apt term is an four-letter word: void. Less than nothing.

        Last: I believe that logotherapy can bring a relief from thanatophobia.

  58. Jane Butler Says:

    I’m 56 years old and have lived in terror since the age of 8 when the reality of my own death hit me. I’ve suffered panic attacks ever since. I have had extensive therapy and treatments over the years that have helped me to hide my fear from others. This has enabled me to function socially and present a ‘normal’ face to the world. However, the overwhelming fear is still with me constantly and I often wonder how I function on a daily basis…years of practice I guess.

    Some of the comments here are insensitive and ignorant. You have to experience this fear/phobia to fully understand it, so to trot out glib, clichéed ‘advice’ is an insult to the intelligence of anyone suffering from this debilitating condition. I acknowledge that some of the advice/comments are well-intentioned attempts to help, and I thank the well-wishers for their empathy and concern.

    One of worst aspects of this phobia, for me, is that I have to be constantly thinking about my death in order to control my panic attacks. If I drop my guard, it hits me without warning. It feels like punishment for enjoying myself…and before anyone jumps in with a clichéed comment, I DO think I deserve to be happy and I am NOT into self-punishment.

    To those who are, like me, living in fear on a daily basis, I know there is very little I can say to make you feel better…to know that I’m not alone in all of this at least helps me to know that I’m not going insane. My wish for you is that the people in your lives are kind and patient. To those who are lucky enough to be at peace with thoughts of their own death…I envy you and I hope you know how lucky you are. With regard to the comments about ‘choice’; I did not choose to feel this way.

  59. Damaris Says:

    I can relate to everything just about. Ever since I was a child I remember thinking of death, the outcome, how many ways you can die, and just the notion that life is not forever and death is the only thing that is unchageable. I have suffered from depression since the age of 12 and death, the past, the future has everything to do with it. I am happy I found a group of people who think like I do and feel the same way I do although I think my thoughts are little crazier . I don’t only think of just death I have visions wherever I go school, work, taking an elevator even doing a task like a shower. I fear that I will get rapped, beaten, kidnapped, strangeled, drowning etc. Anything u can think of I have played in my mind and it has felt so real that whatever happens in my thoughts my body experiences it. I don’t know what to do and no one around me understands and its not just me I worry about. It is also the ones I love, I hate to be hated because I fear that that is one less person who cares for me. But I have absolutly 0 friends . Why? I don’t know I guess the less people I know the easier to forget me when im gone. I cry too often because of this phobia and hate that there is no answer to my questions. My parents always said I was different and to top it off im scared to be in the dark by myself and sometimes feel like someone or something is watching me waiting.

  60. glenn Says:

    I have a freind at work.. He is very afraid of death but it has nothing to do with the afterlife. He doesnt believe in it. He is afraid for that reason. He thinks this is it and doesnt want it to end. He claims the fear comes on as a wave crashing against him and he is powerless to it. Any suggestions as I would like to help him.

  61. Liz Says:

    A few years ago I was almost killed. Ever since then I’ve been obsessed with fear of dying. I think every bad habit I have is something I do to distract myself from that fear.

    I think a big part of it is just being obsessive compulsive. I’m OC in other ways and can see how overanalyzing everything and just thinking too much is really a big part of the problem. I try to just stop myself from thinking about it and just think about something else to see if maybe I can just break the pattern. It helps, I guess, but so far it hasn’t totally fixed the problem or I wouldn’t be on here searching about it.

    Sometimes I wonder if it’s just a primal fear that everyone has in some way that just focuses on death in different ways like either the moment of, or afterlife or whatever, not a phobia, and that all of us who have this problem are just more aware of our thinking about it or less distracted by other things or something.

    For me it’s not fear of death (I could probably be a mortician and it wouldn’t bother me), fear of non-existence, fear of the afterlife, or anything like that. It’s all fear of that one moment when it comes and I realize it’s hear and there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s always fear of the surprise of it, like constantly asking myself – “Is it going to happen NOW?” It must be about loss of control or something.

    I always had an underlying depression when I was younger. I never connected it with this fear of dying. Then I got into reading a lot of spiritual philosophy about reincarnation, immortality, quantum physics, and stuff like that. Something in my head just switched, and I was really really happy. With this fear of death I lost that in all in that one scary moment. So I wonder if that depression was some sort of primal fear of death that I just didn’t realize what it was.

  62. lost Says:

    I’m glad to see I’m not solitary in this but also saddened by how many people have to endure the same pain. I fear I have a severe case- moments to falling asleep I get violent anxiety attacks which are uncontrollable until the point I break into tears. any advice to stop this is appreciated.

  63. melissa Says:

    hey i just wanted to say even tho seems like im a bit late on the comments that iv had this phobia for about 2 years and iv never bloged or anything before but lately i cant stop thinking about this like everyone keeps saying its not the fear of dying its the fear of not knowing whats going to happen i grew up roman catholic and to be honest most days i just feel like religion is pushed on us because it gives ourselves something to look foward to afterlife and im sorry i dont mean to go against peoples religions this is just my opinion and i cant help but think one day im not going to be here no one will remember me yea mabey my kids if i end up having any but what after? when people tell me why are u worrying about this your still young? being young doesnt stop you from dieing people die young all the time theres so much in the world that can kill u its ridiculous thats all i hear on the tv about cancer accedents suisides murders ect ect try to talk to my mom but its always ends up with the same reaction “you shouldnt worry about this your too young when you die you wont know it” well thats my problem! i dont want to not no! i want to be able to think to breathe and my life is horrible so its not like im affraid of leaving anything behind other then my family but still it effects me lately iv had really bad nightmares last night i had one where i was watching someone die in a coffin and the whole time someone was talking to me like “thats going to be you soon”..i cant handle it anymore someone also mentioned about taking medication sure mabey it can calm me down but in the end it doesnt take away the fact that its Inevitable and no meds or religion can take that away from me its like im going through an emotional relgion rollercoaster i feel like i have to believe in order to get some releif dont get me wrong im not saying its not possible for god to be real im agnostic but the words u prob all know is WHAT IF? .. anyways sorry for the long post iv bin up all night reading comments and having axiety it seemed like the only way to let go of some of that and mabey show others that your not the only one because your not unfortunatly if i could take it away from u i would in a heartbeat! p.s for the person who wrote the article in the first place saying why care if your not going to hurting u obviously didnt get the point! how could u if u dont understand what were feeling u think its ok just because we wont feel anything ? thinking your not going to be able to think to breathe have control over anything watch are kids (if i had any) half way grow up imagining us in coffins or to be forgotten is nothing to be scared of its sad to say i wish i could think like you because i dont want to feel this way sometimes its like people who dont get it are the crazy ones!

  64. Jason Says:

    Oh, man. I don’t know whether to feel relieved or cry. But, at any rate, it is SO good to see I’m not alone in this. I just turned 38 this month, and I just tremble as I watch my age, which was once a low number, climb higher and higher and higher. I swear, I have 6 birthdays a year! Time is flying by in my hectic life. People tell me not to worry. That late 30’s is still too young to worry about the end. To that I say, “get real”. I’m at the age where death of natural causes can and does occur. Who says that the 60’s and 70’s are when you are considered a senior citizen? I say I am one right now. I’m already old enough to be a grandfather. Death is very real to me and I fear it more and more each day. The reaper is coming for me. It may not be this month, or this year, but my time is running short. Will I see 40 in a couple of years? Maybe. Who is to know and who is to say. But, One day, there will be an age, a number I don’t see. That much is true. I like this life. Why did it go by so quick? Why is the freaking earth billions of years old, yet we get like 60-70 years to be on it? Maybe I could handle death better if we got more like 200 years. I don’t know. I just feel like my time is about done either way. Somebody talk with me. I’m so sad.

    • Vincent Kozic Says:

      I completely understand, but keep a level head and not even look at age. You are alive now, which is all that matters. Could you imagine not living to see tomorrow? And what do you think happens when you die, is it really that bad? Will you care when it happens? I suffer from an irrational fear of death, just recently developing it. True, I’m only nineteen, but I’ve joined the Marines, and let’s face it, death can come for any of us at random times. It’s hard man, I know, but whenever you start thinking of death, which I bet is all the time, if you’re like me, remind yourself of these things; one, that death won’t matter to you if you don’t exist, you have been lucky enough to have seen thirty-eight, and that most people do think about what you do, so you do have people to talk to, just avoid the ones that want to push beliefs on you.

  65. Maya Says:

    I just wanted to call you out on your mistake on talking about Narcissism and using the wrong definition for it and suggest that you get that together

  66. Vincent Kozic Says:

    Don’t get me wrong Melissa, I fear not existing as well, but the kicker is that it’s going to happen, and the best thing to do when the anxiety starts up is ask yourself; will it be so bad?

  67. Vincent Kozic Says:

    Also, a good thing for all of us in our daily lives to do is to try living in the moment, live in the present, and just plan for the future, not worry about it.

  68. Vincent Kozic Says:

    Let’s face it, people, you cannot take a casual approach to death, especially your own, because it will happen. Think for a minute here. Is this moment real? Is it happening? Well what about the moment of your death? Think about it. This is why people are afraid. Because all of you who say you aren’t are in denial. What is the first stage of learning of a terminal illness that you have? Shock. And all along you “knew” you were going to die. THIS is what we think about, and that’s why we’re afraid.

  69. JamesRatnarajah Says:

    When I found this post and the subsequent comments which followed I was glad to know I wasn’t the only one that went through this. My experience is one that had a peak period back in 2008 and over time has, I believe, subsided.

    At its peak there was a two week period where I had uncontrolable panic attacks. It wasn’t that I was afraid dying at that specific moment but rather the thought that one day I’m going to die and it’ll be something that’s inescapable. This was too much for me to handle I couldn’t bear the thought. So my fear took over until I had these panic attacks. The unfortunate thing was they would strike almost at random and the tiniest thought would set it off.

    Thank you to all those who have shared their stories. It is of great encouragement that I’m not / was not alone in what I went through.

    On a related note I am making a film for my postgrad. I am going to attempt to tackle the subject of Thanatophobia. As someone who had a ‘Thanatophobic’ episode I want to create something that will raise the awareness of this very real phobia and hopefully start discussions within our society about support, understanding and empathy. I would very much appreciate it if anyone could give me some of their time to talk about their experiences which will help me as I write the story.

    Please respond to this comment if you’re interested and we’ll take it from there.

    James

  70. Donna Rezman Says:

    I work for a man who has this. He is 81 years old. He has developed a severe case of hypochondria and germophobia to combat his Thanatophobia. He does not eat very much to keep his weight down and his blood work is better than mine. (I’m 50) Every little pimple and small pain makes him run to the doctor. There is nothing wrong with him but he complains all the time. He has no family that depend on him, no life insurance so no one will be hurt by his death. He will have no tears at his funeral and no one will be worse off because he is no longer here.

    I have a hard time understanding his problem. I am not afraid of death. Most of my family is dead already and the only thing I fear is who will take care of my family and pets should I pass on. I have very few regrets about things I may have done wrong to others so I am not worried about Karma. I have always tried to live my life in a way not to harm others and focus my efforts to better myself and others. I do not understand how you can live 81 years and not have come to grips with the fact that EVERYONE DIES! There is nothing you can do to avoid it forever. If I were him I would be busy trying to make myself remembered for the good things I left behind not continuing to work (not very productively) in order to avoid the fact that I was 81 and going to die or get ill soon.

    Unfortunately I am his power of attorney and finding myself getting grumpy and impatient with him because he really needs to retire and get his karmic house in order before he does eventually depart this world. I would really like to quit working for him and begin the next phase of my life but I have made this commitment and I am having a hard time seeing it through.

    I pray for patience every day but it doesn’t seem to help as much as I need it to.

  71. Lex Says:

    I have Thanatophobia – Luckily not severly (yet) and for me I believe there is nothing after death. This links with my enjoyment of life and not wanting to end/having no control over the fact that I am dying every second. It’s really horrible to live with.

    • Donna Rezman Says:

      Acceptance = Freedom

      • Corey Says:

        What if I cannot accept that I’m going to die sooner or later? Every day I get closer and every birthday I can’t stand thinking about. I’m only 19 and I have high blood pressure. The anxiety is keeping me up at night. Not as much as it used to, but I’m just afraid.

      • Donna Rezman Says:

        Sounds like you are afraid of something other than death. Maybe control? You and every other living creature have no choice. Death will come even if you refuse to accept it. Your fear on the other had you have the ability to accept or reject.

      • Corey Says:

        People tell me I just need to believe in something after death. But it’s really hard when in the back of my mind, I think that it may be truly nothing. And if that is true… Than my life is pointless. There has to be something.

      • Donna Rezman Says:

        Why would life be pointless if there is no afterlife? It is exactly the opposite! If this is all there is, then this is your only opportunity to experience as much as possible and leave you mark on the world. I have always believed that what you leave behind is more important than where you are going. I have no idea if there is an afterlife or not, and I don’t care. The only thing that I feel is important is that I leave this world a better place than when I arrived.

      • Corey Says:

        I understand what you’re saying. I just don’t want anything to end. I’m afraid of not being able to think. I’m afraid that, if all of my life just ends, where am I?

      • Donna Rezman Says:

        As I have said before, I do not know if there is anything after this. The only consolation I can give you is that even though many of my loved ones have died, I can still hear their words in my head sometimes and in that way they live on. I can still tell my children about them, and in that way they live on. If I only live on in the memories of my children and those I have touched over the years then I live on. If the things that I have built survive, then I live on. I may be gone, but if the good I have left behind lives on, then my life had meaning and value.

  72. Donna Rezman Says:

    Also if you are worried about not having the ability to think, I can introduce you to may people currently living in nursing homes that do not have the ability to think any longer, but are not dead.

    • corey Says:

      i don’t want to sound selfish, but what if i don’t want to live on in just a memory… and i don’t mean not being able to think in that sense…but maybe, like you said, control, but control over not having a conscious. Being aware of myself after death.

  73. Annie Says:

    I’m glad that you don’t currently have a fear of death and I hope you never do (really, I am because thanatophobia is cruel), but please do not assume that because you don’t have it that the fear of ceasing to exist is irrational.

    It’s the reason people do terrible shit in order to stay alive and avoid suffering. It’s the reason religious belief exists in the first place. Many humans (excluding yourself and others like you, of course) are naturally cursed with the “need” to continue existing (and to want others to exist and to not suffer). We’re not selfish or narcissistic. We’re empathetic people who cannot process this horror, the pointlessness. We can’t maintain the delusion that everything is going to be fine. There’s no cure for this kind of horror.

    This is horror is one of the reasons I do not support breeding and am morally against it. Let non-existent beings not exist peacefully instead of dragging them without their consent into existence to suffer and die for no reason. If any person is thinking about breeding or has bred, please refrain from breeding or stop breeding now. I recommend looking into antinatalism, which is an extremely intelligent and moral philosophy.

    I bid all a great day and the least amount of pain as possible.

  74. Shelby Says:

    The irrationality of feeling nothing happening after death isnt irrational. It means you believe that once you die, there is nothing. So much nothing, that you cant even describe it. That you will not feel as though “youre just sleeping” nor will you ever be aware of death because you will cease to exist. You will cease to exist despite the only reason you are aware of this is because you DO. And the fact that something so “dependable” and tangiable is just going to be gone. Knowing will be gone. All will be gone.
    Thats what is terrifying about not believing im an afterlife. Peoole who struggle with this arent necessarily lost. Ive been like this for years. If I was lost, it would be a miracle that there was something to find. But I have tried every form of spirituality I can find. But its just not for everyone.

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