Do You Have a Fear of Death? Here’s How Therapy Can Help

Most of us experience some worry about dying. Even though we know that life is ultimately finite, being aware of your final demise can feel unnerving and frightening. To complicate matters, the topic is largely taboo in mainstream society. We don’t really talk about the fear of death until we’re faced with it directly. 

Thanatophobia is a specific type of anxiety about the process of dying and one’s own end of life. This anxiety transcends general discomfort and can interfere with your daily functioning. Here’s how therapy can help.

Understanding the Fear of Death

It’s common to worry about dying- whether that applies to losing loved ones or experiencing your own death. However, most people can accept this reality as a standard part of life.

But someone with a pronounced fear of death faces tremendous anxiety about the inevitability of death. With this, they tend to worry excessively about:

  • Absolute separation from loved ones
  • Coping with losing a specific person
  • Leaving loved ones behind after their death

The fears often feel so intense that they impact one’s daily mood and behaviors. In more severe cases, death anxiety stunts someone from truly embracing the virtues of life. 

Symptoms of Death Anxiety 

The fear of death can cause phobic symptoms that range in severity. Keep in mind that symptoms may fluctuate based on your individual circumstances and other relevant stressors. Common symptoms include:

  • Experiencing intense anxiety about dying
  • Having physical symptoms like stomach aches, panic attacks, or headaches
  • Feeling helpless or directionless 
  • Avoiding situations or people that specifically remind you about death 
  • Feeling depressed or apathetic about life

Death anxiety can start at any point during one’s life. It may become more exacerbated during grief or when a life-threatening crisis occurs. 

How Therapy Can Help You Cope

Therapy won’t eliminate your fear of death or necessarily change the sadness you experience when grieving a loss. As mentioned, some anxiety is normal. Likewise, it’s also normal (and healthy) to experience various emotions during the grief process. 

However, therapy can offer a refreshing perspective on embracing life while also providing you with appropriate coping skills to manage your anxiety symptoms. Here are some other ways seeking professional support can benefit you. 

Making More of Your Current Life 

Confronting the fear of death often entails embracing a more intentional, meaningful life. When you learn how to live in the present moment, anxiety tends to dissipate.

Unfortunately, most people live in an auto-pilot mode. They don’t necessarily recognize their values or live in a way that brings them joy. Instead, they keep doing what they’ve always done without really questioning its merit. 

Therefore, to make more out of your current life, you might need to reevaluate some serious choices. For example, is it time to change jobs or end an unhealthy relationship? Do you need to stop a particular habit? Therapy can help you outweigh these decisions and make proactive changes in the right direction. 

Recognizing Your Anxiety Triggers

The fear of death often stems from feeling powerless or hopeless. These are uncomfortable feelings, and they can result in people believing they are trapped.

Therapy can help you identify some of these triggers. That awareness permits you to develop an action plan for how you will manage them as they arise.

Working Through Grief

Grief can exacerbate your own fear of death. Losing someone can be jarring, and it often sends people into some existential anxiety.

Grief therapy offers support and encouragement during this time. You can work with your therapist to process your emotions and learn healthy ways to cope with sadness, fear, guilt, or anger. 

Accepting Uncertainty and Fear

To some extent, people with a fear of death must ultimately accept that their fear will come true. That is the nature of being human. 

Therapy can help you reach this significant point of acceptance. Acceptance doesn’t mean you like a specific situation. It simply means that you recognize the reality and no longer resist or try to change it. When people can accept something, they tend to experience greater emotional relief and freedom. 

By accepting the ambiguity of life, you become less attached to specific outcomes and desires. You may no longer try to control things that are beyond your realm of control. Subsequently, this emotional shift  frees your time and energy to focus on what’s most important to you. 

Final Thoughts

Grappling with the fear of death can be challenging. This is especially true if you’re facing a concerning medical diagnosis or complicated grief. In addition, some people find that this fear becomes more pronounced with age. 
At Willow Counseling, we are here to support you during this time. We believe that you can learn how to cope with your anxiety and live more wholeheartedly. Contact us today to get started!

Willow Counseling, PLLC, Nashville, TN

Willow Counseling, PLLC exists to provide quality trauma-informed mental health counseling to the Nashville community, recognizing the interconnectedness of our emotional, spiritual and physical selves. We work together to alleviate symptoms, learn better coping skills, relieve burdens, remove the pain of trauma, and so much more. However, our greatest desire is for you to know what it means to feel purpose and joy again and to recognize the strength and worth you have to offer the world.


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