Panic fear of death is a psychological problem: how to cope with it

The feeling of fear of death (thanatophobia) is common to all living beings. If you do not take therapeutic measures in a timely manner and do not get rid of the fear of death, the consequences can be severe.

When a person is faced with a disaster, a negative emotional state is considered valid. Anxiety goes away on its own after its cause is eliminated. However, some phobias arise without any basis and can lead to psychosomatic disorders (physical illnesses) in a physically healthy person.

Features of the fear of death

Fear of death is a natural state. Every living creature has an instinct of self-preservation. But panicky fear of death, which contributes to the emergence of obsessive thoughts and vegetative crises, requires the attention of a psychotherapist.

“I’m 27, I have a fear of death” - this is how patients begin their “confession” during a session with a psychologist. Such a person is haunted by the fear of dying.

What is the fear of death called? This phobia is called thanatophobia. People belonging to the thinking type suffer from it.

People who are haunted by the fear of death during VSD are mainly divided into two types: those who themselves are afraid of dying, and those who are afraid of the death of loved ones.


This is how we can formulate the key to understanding this problem.

Stages of formation

The phobia develops gradually

  1. The emergence of an obsessive fear that begins to permeate a person’s every step. He has difficulties making certain vital decisions; inexplicable actions and incorrect reactions are possible.
  2. Formation of complete apathy. A person understands that there is no point in doing anything if sooner or later he will die anyway.
  3. The personality begins to be excessively active. A person is afraid that if he doesn’t have time to do something today, then tomorrow it will be too late.
  4. Fear of objects and events that are directly related to the phenomenon of death, namely funerals, cemeteries, ritual devices, conversations about death.

The Nature of Anxiety

A person suffering from vegetative-vascular dystonia usually has a combination of several phobias. The following fears most often appear during VSD:

  1. Fear of going crazy with VSD.
  2. Fear of a particular disease.
  3. Metrophobia.
  4. Fear of crowds.
  5. Agoraphobia.
  6. Fear of an attack.
  7. Thanatophobia.

Psychological factor

Psychology says the following about the fear of death: there is a certain type of people prone to this phobia. People who are susceptible to thanatophobia are:

  1. Overly impressionable individuals.
  2. Persons characterized by anxiety and excitability.
  3. People with low self-esteem.
  4. Suspicious individuals.
  5. Creative people (mainly musicians and artists).
  6. Persons prone to reflection.
  7. Selfish natures, intolerant of other people's positions.

Main reasons

A phobia, in which a person is haunted by the fear of dying, develops for various reasons. The main factors are given in the table.

ImpressionabilityAn obsessive state can be caused by watching crime news.
Fear of the unknownA person is tormented by the question of whether it is possible to die in a dream. Such a person may additionally suffer from OCD.
Religious BeliefsThere is a fear of appearing in divine judgment and being punished for one's sins.
Crisis ageThe risk group is people 35-50 years old. The phobia develops against the background of a revaluation of values.
Elderly ageFear of death occurs against the background of concomitant diseases.

Basic forms

Common forms of the disease are presented in the table.

Fear of sufferingTo a greater extent, people are frightened by the circumstances of death. He is afraid of severe torment, afraid that he will lose his dignity.
Unwillingness to suffer irreparable lossesA person is afraid of losing his loved ones. In people with VSD, this fear often has no basis.
Fear of being aloneThe feeling of fear of death arises after realizing that everyone goes through “this” individually.
Fear of the duration of dyingA person is frightened by the “prospect” of dying painfully within a few hours or days.

Fear of losing control

It is observed in very anxious and suspicious people who believe in their own exclusivity. The fear of death is closely intertwined with this phobia and keeps a person in constant tension. Sometimes OCD can develop “in the background.”

Fear of cardiac arrest

Cardiophobia is a disorder affecting children and adults. A person tries not to sleep on his left side, constantly monitors his health and considers any ailment a serious cause for concern.

The result is that he constantly lives in terrible tension.

Against the background of pregnancy

Fear of death before childbirth accompanies a complicated pregnancy. A woman is afraid to die and leave her child orphan. There is also a fear of giving birth to a stillborn baby. If the birth ends successfully, the young mother begins to worry about every cough of the child - it seems to her that he may die.

Children's fear of death is based on personal experiences.

Which people are especially susceptible

It is difficult to answer this question unequivocally. An obsessive fear of dying can occur to many, especially if there are loved ones with a terminal illness or small children. Most often, this fear arises in people who are very attached to someone or who are “held” by unfinished affairs and experiences.

I will try to systematize and identify the groups of people who are most susceptible to this fear:

  • people with a weak nervous system who have experienced psychotrauma;
  • responsible individuals who are afraid of not having time to complete their important tasks, especially for loved ones;
  • famous people who fear their own disappearance from this earth;
  • parents of small or not very independent children who are worried about who will take care of them;
  • people who are afraid of physical suffering leading to death;
  • people who realize the inevitability of their own death, but who are tormented by envy of those who will still live, and they have to die at the wrong time;
  • people who are used to controlling everything and do not allow the unknown in their lives - death breaks their entire paradigm, since it is not under control and after it there is uncertainty.

How does a phobia manifest itself?

Thanatophobia is a complex somatic disorder. It is accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • dyspnea;
  • dizziness;
  • heartbeat disturbance;
  • "jumps" in blood pressure;
  • nausea.

A panic attack with an attack of fear or death may be accompanied by increased urination or bowel dysfunction. The person feels like he is about to die. But that's not true. The autonomic nervous system reacts to fears in this way.

When thanatophobia progresses

In patients, thanatophobia is at its peak of development. The person falls into despair. Between attacks, which can occur at any time, he is in a gloomy, depressed state.

Sometimes the attack occurs at night. Some patients are attacked by the phobia when they are on the subway or at work. Additionally, there is a fear of losing control over oneself.

Additional symptoms

Negative emotions are accompanied by a sharp release of adrenaline into the blood. The blood vessels begin to spasm. Blood pressure “jumps” greatly, the person feels sick. If the clinical picture is very pronounced, he may vomit.

Sometimes there is a feeling of lack of air.

Anxiety disorders

A person who is afraid of becoming dead tries to fight his obsessions on his own. Often he does it wrong, and they only get stronger.

He cannot relax, which leads to exhaustion of the nervous system. There is a deterioration in blood circulation.

A patient, obsessed with worries about the inevitability of death, encounters the following symptoms:

  • stomach ache;
  • pain in the intestines;
  • spasms of varying intensity.

Ulcers may appear on the mucous membranes.

Against the background of severe anxiety, the production of gastric juice is stimulated. This adversely affects the condition of its walls.

Appetite decreases and a person may lose weight dramatically. Often these symptoms contribute to the fact that a person becomes ingrained in the idea that he is terminally ill.

Causes of a panic attack

But why does someone periodically suffer from such conditions, while others are completely unfamiliar with them? What are the reasons?

Scientists have not yet found a specific answer. However, precise factors have been established that directly contribute to the development of an unreasonable fear of death:

  • Psychological trauma. Some people may be haunted by unpleasant or even terrible memories since childhood. Even if a person does not consciously think about them, the trauma remains fresh in the subconscious. Even the most indirect memory of the past is enough to give rise to a strong panic attack.
  • Prolonged stress or an overly busy lifestyle. Can't remember the last time you got enough sleep? And when you were in nature, did you retire? How much time do you spend at the computer, smartphone, TV? And these are all the causes of panic attacks. Constant deadlines, an overly busy life, and a neglectful attitude towards one’s mental health are the direct reasons for their occurrence.
  • "Internal Dictator" Are you constantly doing “what you need” and suppressing your real desires? But is this really necessary? Day after day, do what you don’t like, don’t give yourself rest, drive away your own thoughts? This is what gives rise to internal anxiety and discord. You become afraid to be alone with yourself. And in such a state, thoughts often appear: “I’m dying. How long do I have left?

Thus, the patient in most cases brings himself to a critical state, but does not realize it. At the same time, his difficult situation is greatly complicated by the lack of understanding of his loved ones. A person suffering from panic attacks needs support and care like no other. Be with him on this difficult path. With recovery, calmness, personal opinion, and sound thoughts will return to him.

What to do

Getting rid of the fear of death is a rather long process. This phobia is difficult to cure.

When the disease is in its initial stage, a specialist carries out a differential diagnosis. After this, the severity of the disorder is established.

Then the patient is sent for consultation to a pathopsychologist. The following points are explored:

  • depth of defect;
  • depth of mental functions;
  • determination of the method of assistance.

If the clinical picture is very pronounced, the patient is prescribed hypnotics and tranquilizers. The goal of therapy is to relieve insomnia and reduce stress levels.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive techniques help control negative emotions and help change incorrect thinking. This helps reduce premature fear, which develops into panic attacks.

These techniques help a person who has thoughts of death learn to control their condition and change the fatal perception of panic. The duration of the attack is shortened, and its impact on the general emotional state is reduced.

During the consultation, the patient is given an individual task plan. The prognosis depends on how actively he performs them. This technique is called “learning.” A person learns to resist bad emotions.

Drug therapy

If the panic fear of death cannot be controlled, the patient is prescribed potent drugs. The most effective hypnotics are presented in the table.

A drugDescription
ZolpidemNon-benzodiazepine sleeping pills. Has an agonistic effect on CNS receptors. Recommended for insomnia and concomitant thanatophobia. You need to take it about half an hour before bedtime.
ZoliclonePrescribed for transient, situational sleep disorders that arise against the background of fear of death. The optimal dosage is 7.5 mg.
MidazolamRecommended for insomnia, morning and daytime anxiety. The optimal dosage is 15 mg before lights out.
NitrazepamRecommended for sleep disorders, morning and daytime anxiety. You need to drink half an hour before bedtime, 5-10 mg.


A person may have a panic attack at the mention of death

Thanatophobia may be suspected if certain symptoms are present.

  1. The person is overly impressionable, easily excitable, doubts everything, and is characterized by increased anxiety.
  2. Various conversations regarding death may be suppressed. Thanatophobe avoids funerals, as well as wakes; there is a fear of tombstones, monuments, and wreaths. Also, in the presence of such a phobia, on the contrary, frequent conversations about death may be observed.
  3. A person may experience intense fear when thinking about the possible existence of ghosts, in particular the spirits of deceased loved ones. Such fear may arise on religious grounds.
  4. Thanatophobia may be characterized by unhealthy sleep, constant nightmares, loss of appetite, possible insomnia, and decreased libido.
  5. When talking about death, a panic attack may occur, which is accompanied by:
  • trembling from within;
  • profuse sweating;
  • shortness of breath;
  • tremor of the limbs;
  • tachycardia;
  • nausea;
  • dizziness;
  • fainting.

Independent work

Treatment of fear of death should be combined with independent work. It lies in the fact that a person must understand the following:

  1. Life is cyclical.
  2. The memory of the person remains.
  3. You can't keep your experiences to yourself.
  4. It is recommended to take advantage of life while you can.
  5. It is important to look at everything with optimism.
  6. You need to decide on your worldview.
  7. Everything in the world should be treated with humor.

Awareness of the cyclical nature of life

A person must understand that everything in nature has a clear cycle. First we are born, then we are given a certain period. This ends in death. This is a natural process; no one has ever been able to avoid it.

“Man is not only mortal, he is sometimes suddenly mortal,” says a famous literary character. This thought scares a lot of people. There is nothing that can be done here. Even despite the precautions taken, no one is immune from death during accidents.

The memory remains

A person continues to live in the memories of his family and friends. The kinder and more attentive he treats them, the warmer their memories will be. One of the reasons for fear is the “uselessness” of a person. Therefore, you need to try to do as many good deeds as possible.

A change of environment and type of activity has a beneficial effect on a person. He may not notice how he stopped being afraid, and the painful thoughts left him alone.

Don't keep your feelings to yourself

You should not isolate yourself and stew in your own juice. It is recommended to share your experiences with loved ones. Their support plays a huge role.

Obsessing over your experiences is a vicious circle.

Use life

The strong fear of death will subside if you stop being afraid of life. It is recommended to get out of your comfort zone and do something new. If possible, you need to change your job or improve your qualifications, which will allow you to apply for a promotion in the future.

You need to try to realize your abilities. It is recommended to constantly seek new experiences. If it is not possible to go on a trip, you should go for a bike ride at least once a week. The route should be different each time. You can ride alone or with someone else.

Optimistic view

Thoughts tend to materialize. If a person constantly sets himself up for negativity, then the “program” embedded in the body can “target” self-destruction.

A positive outlook is not euphoria and delight. Positive attitudes are inherent in many self-confident people, politicians, and businessmen.

By learning to have a positive outlook, a person will be able to change his life attitudes and fully experience the joy of life. Thanatophobia will recede, and the person will part with these thoughts forever.

Decide on a worldview

Relying on materialism or on one or another religious doctrine allows you to have a clear position and has a calming effect. As a result, a person develops a special opinion regarding death.

If materialism is close to him, he begins to understand the biological nature of the living, learns what happens in the process of dying and learns to take it for granted. Faith helps to understand the mystical meaning of death. All beliefs claim that nothing ends with the death of the physical shell. Man already exists in some “other dimension”.

Psychologist's advice and treatment

Therapy is selected based on why a person is afraid of dying. After identifying the source of the problem, it is recommended to accept the fact that it is impossible to avoid the end of life. Death is neither bad nor good. If a person has relatives or friends, then the departed person remains in their memory forever.

The patient needs to understand that there is no second chance to live life, so it is necessary to receive maximum happiness and benefit from everything that happens. The opportunity to experience joy should not be missed. If you constantly worry about your impending death, you can miss your long life without knowing what it means to be happy.

Positive thinking has been proven to speed up the recovery process from physical illness. When the problem is psycho-emotional in nature, optimism is one of the best medicines.

No fear of death

The instinct of self-preservation and the fear of death are almost identical concepts. If a person does not feel the fear of death, this is not normal. This deviation is typical for:

  1. People who lack empathy.
  2. Individuals whose empathy mechanism is at a very low level.
  3. People prone to misanthropy.
  4. Persons with no or reduced sense of physical danger.

Such people lack satisfaction when communicating both with their own species and with wildlife. Often their threshold for the perception of painful sensations is reduced. Also, the fear of death is reduced or absent in individuals prone to sadism and other criminal tendencies.

Preventive measures

To reduce the frequency of manifestations of thanaphobia, maintain contact with optimistic people. Communicate with those who inspire and show that life is beautiful, and there is no time to dwell on suffering and fears.

Watch less news and mortality statistics. Doctors recommend avoiding:

  • disaster films;
  • negative news chronicles;
  • books in the horror genre, etc.

They only increase fear and panic. Subsequently, the person becomes nervous and irritated, and the phobia worsens in the subconscious.

Do what you love. It doesn’t matter what it is: creativity, ordinary cleaning or cooking. The activity should be enjoyable. You will not notice how in the process you will forget about your own negative thoughts about death. The disadvantage of this method is the short-term effect.

Some patients become visitors to forums for thanatophobes. This is the wrong decision. It is necessary to avoid contact with people who have similar problems. It’s better to spend time with your family, loved ones, and friends.

Learn to notice details. A compliment from a loved one, delicious coffee, an interesting book, a meeting with an old friend - there are many reasons for joy. Plan every day to make life interesting and rich.

Learn to relax

Panic attacks plague people who keep all their experiences and emotions inside themselves. When the cup inside overflows, the body requires discharge. The consequence of this is a panic attack.

Learning to let go of negative emotions, not to hold or accumulate them in oneself is a difficult art. To master such skill, you need to spend more than one year. However, today such practices are available to everyone. This is meditation, yoga. You can easily find master classes, lessons, and visual exercises on the Internet. Some information is free and in the public domain.

Specialist help

Self-medication of both physiological and psychological problems is not the best way to solve them. Along with using the tips above, do not forget about a timely visit to a qualified psychologist. As with any disease, the sooner you seek help, the faster and easier it will be to get rid of it.

If you are in a critical condition, you will need the help of a psychotherapist - the doctor will prescribe you sedatives. Most often these are herbal products that are safe for the body and harmless to the psyche. But remember that you shouldn’t “prescribe” them for yourself!

Try to distract yourself

The thought arose: “What should I do? I'm dying!" When you feel an attack approaching, remember one thing - don’t give in to it! Psychologists advise simple but effective actions:

  • Do breathing exercises.
  • Start clapping your hands.
  • Go to the window - count the passing cars, concentrate on the clothes of passers-by.
  • If you are not alone, ask someone to talk to you. The direction of the conversation doesn’t matter here—he can tell a children’s story or ask spontaneous questions. The main thing is that you do not concentrate on your condition.

Adjust your lifestyle

Panic attacks are a consequence of constant stress. If you sleep catastrophically little, don’t care about your diet, and forgot about proper rest, then they won’t keep you waiting. This is a kind of signal for help - your body is tired, it cannot constantly exist in a frantic rhythm, it needs a break.

The treatment here is simple: take a vacation, spend a weekend in nature, retire at home with your favorite movie or book, go to a place where you have long dreamed of visiting, or return for a few days to a place where you were once happy.

Live the day

There is a saying: “Tomorrow never comes. You wait for the evening, it comes, but it comes now. Went to bed, woke up - now. A new day has come—and now again.”

No matter how much you fear the future, in the general sense of the word it will never come - you will always be in the moment “now”. So is it worth allowing your thoughts to take you far away, while you are always here and now?

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