The thanatophobia or Necrophobia is the excessive fear of death or self. If you have this phobia, the thoughts related to death haunt your mind at all times and cause you much anxiety.
You are likely to avoid going to a funeral and be terrified of hearing other people talk about someone’s death.
Every time you see a funeral procession sweep copiously, you have tachycardia and your hands tremble. People with thanatophobia can suffer intense panic attacks when someone talks to them about death or when they see a coffin, for example.
During a panic attack, the sufferer can feel as if he is about to die, which is a real nightmare for a tanatofóbico.
People with a phobia of death, whether or not they reach the final stage of life, suffer throughout their lives a fear so intense that it disrupts their daily lives.
Every day, the idea of ceasing to exist or the idea that others may die at any moment becomes a source of intense and permanent stress.
The fear of feeling nothing, not seeing or hearing anything, the idea that their bodies will begin to disintegrate in the grave really causes them terror.
Tanatofobia also includes the fear of the deterioration of the body during life, which reflects the passage of time, because the more years pass the closer will be the death itself.
Causes of tanatofobia
Thanatophobia may have been acquired through a traumatic experience or observation.
If it was the first case, you probably have a sophophobia because you experienced a very traumatic or shocking experience related to death and since then you have associated negative emotions with the idea of death.
The other possibility is that you internalized a fear of death that another person transmitted to you. For example, it is common for children to internalize fears transmitted to them by their parents, and some of these fears remain and intensify during adulthood.
Symptoms of thanatophobia
When thinking or talking about death, seeing a coffin or a funeral procession, the tanatofóbico can present the following physical symptoms:
As for the mental symptoms, if you have a tanatophobia you may feel that you lose control of the situation, that you will go mad or you will die, and perhaps a feeling of unreality will invade you .
From the emotional point of view, you will probably feel the need to run away, to escape from the situation that is causing these symptoms, and you will surely also feel very concerned about these ideas that are haunting your mind.
Anger, guilt and sadness are emotions that may also be present.
Tanatofobia Vs. “Normal” fear of death
The “normal” fear of death is natural, and could even be said to be beneficial.
When a person has absolutely no fear of death, they are more likely to engage in risky activities or engage in dangerous behavior.
The problem then is not the fear of death. The problem arises when the anxiety caused by the idea of death dominates your life, prevents you from going to a wake or directly, prevents you from talking about these issues.
If you suffer a lot when thinking about the end of life, then you have a so-called phobia and you should look for a treatment that will help you get rid of such stress.
The extreme fear of death can also be potentiated by other factors, such as a religion, fear of the unknown and fear of losing control, among others.
Tanatofobia powered by a religion
In many people, the fear of death is stimulated by certain religious beliefs.
Although most religions claim to know what happens after death, people fear being wrong when the final moment arrives.
On the other hand, it is common for religions to preach that those who do not have a certain behavior in their lives, when they die will go to hell, an idea that can also be very scary.
Terror before the unknown
The fear of what we do not know is natural and has surely collaborated with the survival of the species.
But the problem with death is that no one knows for sure what it feels like to die, if you feel something, or what happens next. Probably nobody will ever know, and this can certainly cause a lot of fear.
To lose control
The need to have control over our life and the things that surround us is also characteristic of the human condition.
However, when the moment of death comes, we lose control. Many people who have thanatophobia perform constant medical check-ups and permanently watch their bodies for symptoms of life-threatening illnesses.
It is a great effort to maintain control, which in any case will be lost when the moment of death arrives, what a fear!
This type of tanatofobia is often associated with other pathologies, such as hypochondria, obsessive-compulsive disorder or delusional thinking.
Fear of what can happen before death
Some people do not really fear death itself, but actually suffer a lot with the idea of feeling a lot of pain or suffering a long and debilitating illness before death finally arrives.
How to know if you have a tanatophobia?
Then you can perform the following test. It is about scoring from 0 to 5 how much fear you have before each concept of those mentioned, where 0 would be “nothing of fear” and 5 would be “extreme fear”.
In relation to your own death you fear:
The total loneliness of death.
The brevity of life (or the fact that you do not know when death will come).
All the things you would lose when you die.
How it will be to be dead.
Not being able to feel or think about anything anymore.
The disintegration of your body after dying.
In relation to your own dying process, you are afraid of:
The physical degeneration that occurs or that can happen in the process of dying.
The pain you might feel in the process of dying.
The mental degeneration of aging.
The loss of faculties and abilities during the dying process.
The lack of control over the process of dying.
The possibility of dying away from family and friends.
In relation to the death of other people:
You fear the loss of a loved one.
Having to see his corpse.
Not being able to communicate with that person anymore.
Not having had a better relationship when I was alive.
Feel guilty for the sense of relief when that person dies.
Feeling alone without her
In relation to the process of dying of other people, you are afraid of:
Having to be with someone who is dying.
Having to talk about death with other people.
See how another person suffers at death.
Observe the degeneration of your body.
Not knowing how to handle your pain in the face of the loss of a loved one.
See how he loses mental faculties.
Be aware that all of that will happen to you too.
If you have more than 20 or 25 points in each of these sections, you may have tanatofobia.
Do not you want to suffer more with these ideas? Then it is best to seek professional help to overcome your fears.
Treatments to cure the tanatofobia
Like all phobias, excessive fear of death can be cured by cognitive-behavioral therapy. Hypnosis, neurolinguistic programming and group therapy may also be useful .
It is a treatment that tries, on the one hand, to banish the obsessive ideas that you have around death.
It is about moving away from irrational fears and changing negative thoughts by more positive rational thoughts.
On the other hand, the therapist will also expose you gradually to certain tanatofóbicos stimuli, so that little by little you learn to control the anxiety that they generate.
The techniques of relaxation and breathing can be very useful in this aspect.
After a few sessions you will surely see good results, because most people with a sophophobia are cured, as long as they follow proper treatment.
The support groups for people with sophophobia can help you a lot, because in these areas you will find other people to whom the same thing happens to you and they will share interesting experiences and tools, which will be very useful in your case as well.
When a traumatic experience of childhood remains in the subconscious, associated with negative emotions, a phobia develops. Hypnosis is a technique that allows to reach the source of the phobia and deactivate the mechanism, that is why it can be useful to improve the symptoms of thanatophobia.
It is a technique that seeks to achieve a change in behavior through a change in the context or meaning of that same behavior, for example, looking for a positive connotation in a certain thought or behavior.
Neurolinguistic programming can be used as a psychotherapeutic treatment for the control of thanatophobia or other phobic disorders.
Here are some curiosities about the fear of death.
Tano-phobia in children can be prevented
Recent studies indicate that tanatofobia in children can be prevented by providing them with adequate information.
As part of an investigation carried out around this topic, a group of 90 children between 4 and 8 years old was taken and a questionnaire was asked about their fears, more specifically, about the fear of death.
The results showed that children with a lower degree of anxiety at the idea of death were those who had a good understanding of the biological concept of death .
Therefore, if you want to prevent tanatophobia in your children, teach them what is death, from the biological point of view at least, always using words appropriate for their age.
Women have more tanatofobia than men
As in many other psychological disorders, the tanatofobia seems to be quite more frequent in women than in men.
A study by Thorson and Powell in 1984 clearly showed this trend and also concluded that there probably are cultural reasons for this to be the case.
Women, historically responsible for caring for children and often also for the elderly in the family, may have a greater fear of death because they feel they have the “obligation” to survive in order to fulfill their role.
Older people have less tanatofobia
You may think that as age advances and death gets closer, people tend to feel more fear of death. However, this is not so.
Tathnophobia begins to appear in young adults between 20 and 40 years. But it is in the next phase of life, between 40 and 65 years of age, that extreme fear of death has a higher prevalence.
And surprisingly, among adults over 65, the number of cases of so-called phaeophobia falls precipitously, despite the fact that death is actually closer.
Does anxiety overwhelm you when you talk about death? Does your closeness make you feel very afraid? Do not hesitate to seek help, because your problem can be solved.