Thanatophobia – the fear of death or dying is a phobia that is rarely talked about. Most people think they are alone in their suffering and don’t usually share their fears about the Grim Reaper. In reality, Death Anxiety affects most people at some time or another in their lives, but the degree of anxiety would largely depend on the individual. Some of us live in complete denial, preferring to think that we have an endless supply of tomorrows, while others are consumed with daily thoughts about their own mortality. None of us know for sure what will happen to us after we die, but when the fear of dying consumes your thoughts to the point that it interferes with your everyday life you may be suffering with Thanatophobia. The realization of one’s own mortality is a natural concern for most humans but obsessive fear and anxiety can take the joy out of living and even lead to full-blown panic attacks.
So what is it about this universal phenomenon that fills us with such dread? Most people would agree the most obvious answer is the “fear of the unknown.” Since we have never actually experienced death, how can we be sure what will be waiting for us on the other side? What if our concept of the afterlife is completely false and there is absolutely nothing – the ultimate disappointment? The loss of Self and ceasing to exist can be a terrifying prospect. If this is all there is to our existence, then our fear would seem to be justified. For some the “fear of dying alone” causes extreme anxiety. Ultimately you must pass through death alone but the passing may be made easier when surrounded by loved ones and familiar faces. Others fear leaving their loved ones behind to cope without them. They worry about how they will manage emotionally and financially as well as living out their lives without them.
Whatever the reasons, death is unavoidable and comes to us all. Whether you are obsessed with the issue or choose to completely ignore it, a balance must be sought if we are to live our lives fully and completely.
So how do we deal with dying?
Some of us find comfort in religion and a strong belief in the afterlife. Others turn to science and the study of Near Death Experience desperately looking for some proof that we really do possess a soul that lives beyond the finality of death. Everyone, in their own way seeks an answer that will calm and soothe their fears. Studies show that deeply religious people fear death the least while the more skeptical were haunted by their death fears. However, atheists don’t worry at all – for obvious reasons. It has also been noted that the fear of dying also seems to lessen as we age.
It is our instinctive nature to resist and avoid death. Our bodies are geared toward
survival. To help us deal with our mortality maybe we should take a closer look at our fear of dying. Identifying our fears is the first step to facing them. Are we afraid to suffer? Are we afraid of the unknown? It is only by facing our fears that we are able to overcome them.