The term taphephobia has its origins in the Greek language. Phobia is familiar to most people and means fear of or abnormal fear of. Taphe is less well known, and typically translates as grave (as in the type in which a person would be buried). Taken together, taphephobia is the irrational fear of potentially more than one thing. It is often defined as the fear of being buried alive, but it could be also be defined as fear of things having to do with death, particularly cemeteries.
The concept of being buried alive is scary to anyone, but the taphephobic person may fear this issue in a much more significant way. Concern about this could be so severe that people cannot or are unable to attend funerals of friends, or perhaps visit loved ones buried in a cemetery. Most phobias are said to be irrational, and this true of taphephobia; fear is elevated beyond a reasonable point creating suffering for the person with the fear.
When confronted with thoughts of this fear, directly exposed to deaths of friends or having to be in the presence of a cemetery or even funeral home, taphephobia could manifest in different strengths. People might feel shaky, weak, breathe heavily, want to throw up, have a rapid heart beat or other symptoms typically associated with panic. When this fear is strong, the person suffering it could have a correspondingly strong need to remove him or herself from the situation as quickly as possible. Since many have experienced this fear before, they simply won’t attend any funerals because the suffering a funeral may cause is too great.
Yet fear may not be limited to actual deaths. Those with strong taphephobia may report dreaming this fear repeatedly. This can cause difficulty pursuing daily life. Most often failing to attend funerals, which may be many or few in a person’s life, is a common adaptation to taphephobia, and many people never seek treatment for this condition, unless it is interfering with life at all times.
However treatment is advised and does exist in numerous forms. These could include desensitization therapy, which gradually exposes the person to images of the thing feared. Additional potential treatment types include giving medication to control fear during times when exposure to it is likely, but medication is usually viewed as a short-term solution. Other therapy treatments that appear to be effective in most phobias include behavioral or cognitive behavioral therapy. Some people also find hypnosis helpful to uncover underlying basis for the fear and to overcome it.