What Is Death Anxiety?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2018
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Death anxiety typically refers to feelings of fear or panic that arise at the thought of death or when faced with items, images, or concepts related to dying. In some ways, this may be a fairly normal and healthy response to the concept of dying; most people, on some level, have a fear of death. Death anxiety can be extreme in some cases, however, in which a person's natural ability to suppress or override this fear is compromised in some way. When this occurs, people may find it difficult to go about daily activity and find that their fear or panic gets in the way of their normal lives.

In general, anxiety refers to feelings of panic or worry, sometimes associated with fear, that can be caused by a number of different sources. Death anxiety, in some ways, is one of the most common and rational fears for many people, since it is something unknown and inescapable. There are some theories within psychology that indicate that everyone, on some level, experiences death anxiety and a general fear of death. Most people, however, manage to push that fear down or find ways to cope with and ignore it, often through a focus on practical concerns such as work, family, and hobbies.


For some individuals, however, death anxiety can become so powerful that it cannot be ignored and instead begins to impact a person's daily life. This heightened level of anxiety and fear is often caused by some type of event, such as a near-death experience or the death of a loved one. Such an event brings someone closer to the reality of death and dying, which can then make it more difficult for that person to suppress his or her natural death anxiety. Sometimes this can occur without any immediate event or cause to point to, which can be difficult to initially understand.

Death anxiety is often associated with Thanatophobia which is a fear of death, or Necrophobia which is a fear of death or dead things. All of these are often tied together for someone experiencing this type of anxiety, which might include feelings of fear and panic when thinking about death or confronted with someone or something that is dead. Therapy is often used as a way to help deal with and move beyond death anxiety, often involving attempts at better understanding the source of the fear and confronting it. This can help someone not only understand where their panic comes from, but also eventually overcome that fear and reacquire their inherent ability to suppress it.



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