Panic fear of death (thanatophobia) takes a strong position among the top human fears and there are good reasons. This fear lies deeply in the subconscious of each of us, as no one wants to die early. This is the way nature cares about the preservation of living beings. Perhaps it is only because of the fear of death our world still exists. However, sometimes the natural fear of death rises from the depths of the subconscious, just like boiling lava, and turns into a debilitating phobia that destroys normal human life. Reflex life saving turns into pathology as the patient begins to be afraid of everything and everyone, and sometimes even ceases to leave the house. After all, in any corner of the city, in a bus or shop, you can face a sudden death. Even our home is not safe: “Maybe this very moment is the last minute of my life, and I’m about to fall and die of some sudden attack.”
And what will happen next: pain, torment, a journey to the afterlife, darkness, the disappearance of everything? The patient does not know, and it scares even more. Tanatofobia is hard to treat, but today it is the most common reason for panic in society. The patient is not able to adequately respond to surrounding events and suffers from constant tension. However, he/she does not go to the psychiatrist because of shame. Although, for the overwhelming number of panic-mongers this would be the only chance to relieve themselves. It is not always possible to find the reason for the overcoming fear of death and to control the situation on your own. Since any mental disorder tends to progress, the patient has every chance to drive himself into a deep depression with terrible consequences.
Causes of Thanatophobia
If you imagine a phobia as a plant, then the question arises: who and when threw the seed into your soul and watered it abundantly until the plant grew? It is interesting that sometimes the seeds of fears are sown in early childhood and for a long time winter under the layers of our soul, and then something gives a boost and the seed lets the sprout. But there are also instantly growing seeds. Only an experienced psychiatrist could determine the process of rise of thanatophobia. The most common causes of the fear of death:
- Contact with death. Unfortunately, sometimes life makes us to face unpleasant events: an accident, an attack on the street, a hostage, someone’s death right before our eyes, the death of a relative or friend, a disaster of different scales. The strongest stress leaves a bright imprint, and the person understands: our life is not eternal, and once death will take everybody. Internal protest to it does not give rest. The person experiences the fear that he/she or somebody from his/her loved ones will die, drawing terrifying pictures in the imagination.
- The influence of the media. In today’s world it is difficult to imagine life without TV and world news, where every day something happens. Absorbing events from the screen like a sponge, a person involuntarily thinks that he will once be the hero of a terrible fatal event. It doesn’t matter if it’s on the news. It is important that this will happen in any case. And any death is horrible and disgusting. Awareness of the inevitability of a painful end drives a person into depression and gives rise to thanatophobia.
- Questions that have no answers. Sometimes a person thinks so deeply about philosophical (and biological) facts that he drives himself into a trap. What is life? What is it for? What happened before and what will happen next? Will we be born again and on what planet? What happens to the soul after death? Not getting clear answers, a person is at risk to stop in his/her personal growth, to become trapped in the abyss of the so-called “existential panic”, which eventually gives rise to thanatophobia.
- Middle-aged crisis. Reaching the fatal thirty-years-old age, a person begins to rethink the passed period of life and understand how much time was wasted. This is true, and nothing can be returned. A global revision of his/her life and the everyday (creative) business starts. I have to do everything before it is not too late. What if I fail? It is terrible to think about it after a half of the life has already passed and … in such situation there is often a fear of death at falling asleep when the person digests the next lived day and reproaches himself for irrationally used time which runs so fast.
- Neurotic disorder. Some people are so perfectionists and supervisors that they try to control all spheres of life: work, household, home life, shopping, important decisions. However, there are things that can not be controlled, for example, the biological course of life. The internal fear that some sphere is out of control, brings a person to panic. A neurotic begins to oppress their loved ones more zealously sticking his nose into affairs that do not concern him. One day he has to accept the fact that the course of life is beyond his control, and then the disorder is supplemented by new devices, such as OCD or unexpected phobias (fear of contracting, choking, not waking up, etc.), among them, of course, the fear of death.
- Vegetative-vascular dystonia. The fear of death in VVD, as a rule, begins at school, when the child has the first panic attack. Rapid pulse, loss of control over events, confused thoughts, attacks of suffocation and shaking hands forever remain in memory as harbingers of imminent death. It does not lead to lethal outcomes, but few teachers or parents have sufficient psychotherapeutic knowledge – so the situation is left to chance. The worst is when surrounding people start to panic, not realizing what is wrong with the child. Tanatofobia usually accompanies the person suffering from VVD in his/her later life.
- Age phobias. Fear of death in adolescents begins with the fact that one day they begin to understand: life does not stand still, and the first to leave it will be the parents. Panic before this discovery torments the child so much that he/she is at risk to fall into depression, to slow down in study, to become closed in himself if the psychologist does not intervene in time. In addition, adolescents, because of their hormonal changes, are more prone to phobias than children or older people. It is during this period that there is a huge risk that the seeds of serious phobias will be in the loose soil of a confused soul, and years later ugly poisonous monsters will sprout from these seeds.
Way of Salvation
Panic-mongers are well aware that any serious work should begin with the recognition: I’m really sick and I need help. There are neurotics who manage to overcome fear of death and ease their condition with the help of yoga, meditation, lifestyle correction and self-hypnosis. However, without finding the true causes of thanatophobia everything is useless. You can push the problem out, hiding it behind a thick screen of your own beliefs (“I can do it, I understand everything”), but true experts in psychology and psychiatry know: even an experienced therapist will never be able to help himself, and that is why goes to another specialist.
A psychiatrist and a pathologist will help. First the degree of the severity of thanatophobia will be determined, and then personal and mental characteristics of the patient are analyzed. Only then a treatment program is offered. Medications are usually prescribed for advanced forms of mental disorders, and treatment is necessarily accompanied by psychotherapeutic work.