What is Thanatophobia?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 30 September 2019
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Thanatophobia is a type of phobia that has to do with the fear of impending death. The condition is closely associated with necrophobia, which is usually described as the fear of dead things. As with most phobias, thanatophobia can be triggered by life events such as physical traumas, emotional issues like depression or anxiety, or even be brought on by the sudden loss of a loved one. Seeking treatment from healthcare professionals is often necessary to overcome the phobia and begin enjoying life once more.

One of the key symptoms of thanatophobia is a constant worry regarding the possibility of dying in the near future. While many people experience this type of fear on a short-term basis, such as when facing an operation, thanatophobics may be in perfect health but are still obsessed with the idea of death. The phobia can become so severe that work and social relationships are adversely affected as the obsession with death continues to increase.


There are also several physical manifestations that may occur due to thanatophobia. Dry mouth, trouble sleeping, anxiety attacks, and rapid heartbeat are very common. Trembling, usually beginning in the hands, may begin with intermittent episodes that gradually increase in frequency and severity. The condition will often rob the individual of the ability to enjoy activities that once brought a great deal of pleasure, and cause damage to relationships that is difficult to repair. A general sense of hopelessness may lead to changes in routine that undermine effectiveness in the workplace as well as destroy relationships with loved ones.

A sense of having no control is another symptom that is often present. Over time, the thanatophobia may lead to the development of necrophobia, causing the individual to develop a fear of corpses as well as a fear of coffins in general. At this juncture, the individual may have such a pronounced fear of objects like headstones that visiting the graves of loved ones in cemeteries becomes impossible.

The course of treatment for thanatophobia often involves a combination of medication and therapy. Medication can help to calm the episodes of fear and anxiety, while therapy can help to slowly help the individual adjust his or her mindset so that thoughts of death are not part of the daily routine. There is no single course of treatment that guarantees the elimination of this phobia. Like other types of phobias, treating this condition requires a great deal of patience and commitment, and may require several years to overcome.


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