Death is the truth of life. It is a message to us living beings, that whatever begins has to come to an end. There is nothing in this world that does not have an end. Nature ensures that everything has an expiration date. However, the mere thought of death can be super daunting. It can create anxiety in some people. The denial of the end of life can make people fear death. What leads to anxiety about death? In this article, we understand the fear of death closely. We explore death anxiety as well as ways to overcome it.
“Death anxiety is the mother of all religions, which, in one way or another, attempt to temper the anguish of our finitude.”
What Is Death Anxiety?
This is a form of worry about one’s death or the process of dying. You may start getting worried even when someone else mentions death or dying. Additionally, you can get anxious even if close ones else die. Here are some common symptoms of death anxiety.
- Avoiding places or events that are dangerous.
- Getting nervous at funerals.
- Exhibit physical signs of panic whenever they think of death or hear the word death. This includes trembling, sweating, heavy breathing, or breathlessness.
- They may show signs of illness anxiety.
Causes of Fear of Death
There is no exact cause for this condition but many factors contribute to it. Here are some major reasons for death anxiety.
Many people with death anxiety are also very religious. Religion instills fear of god. Concepts such as hell or punishment for bad deeds can make a person anxious. They may think that, after death, they may have to suffer.
Death anxiety can spring from traumatic experiences. When people have experienced a near-death experience or a terminal illness, they can develop a fear of death. Additionally, people who have had some kind of past trauma such as a calamity can also fear death. Loss of loved ones can also lead to fear of death.
Mental health conditions have associated with death anxiety. For instance, some types of phobias such as fear of spiders or snakes are closely related to death anxiety. This is because, in the evolutionary sense, this fear protected earlier man from dangers in the forest. However, this fear has continued to remain in us in the form of death anxiety.
During middle age and old age, people witness a lot of deaths. For example, the death of siblings, parents, friends, and relatives. This leads to uncertainty about one’s own life. Additionally, a person starts to come a little closer to the end of life and the truth of death. This is why people at this age can have death anxiety.
When parents are too anxious or overprotective, their children will grow up anxious in most cases. Additionally, parents who do not let their children explore or take risks, children can fear events that involve even a small amount of risk.
When people are physically, emotionally, or sexually abused, they can start having death anxiety. This is because they are always worried that the abuser may kill them.
At the root of all causes, the greatest reason for death anxiety is the fear of an end. People generally want good things to last forever. In other cases, people may fear death because they think that they have not lived their lives to the fullest. As humans, most people are not satisfied with what they have. Death equals to end of this beautiful life. Therefore, many people have death anxiety.
Treating the Fear of Death
Psychotherapy for phobias can help people overcome their specific phobias, hence reducing the fear of death. One of the most effective therapy for treating this fear of death is cognitive behavior therapy. This therapy deals with the core beliefs that lead to such fear. It involves identifying thoughts, behaviors as well as underlying thoughts that lead to fear of dying. Therapies such as existential therapy help people understand the power of choice. So if people are dissatisfied with their life, they understand that they have the freedom to change the way their life is moving forward. Additionally, existential therapy also helps people suffering from terminal illnesses to find hope in their life and let go of their fear of death if present.
One of the most effective ways of finding content and peace in life is through meditation. Meditation helps people control their thoughts. Additionally, meditation helps us embrace the truth of life and death. It helps us appreciate the beauty of little things in life. It helps us nurture what we have and not feel sad over what we cant have. The practice helps us acknowledge that death is a remedy for some kinds of cruel pain. For instance, when a person is in a coma for a long time, death can bring an end to their suffering. This way meditation, helps us understand the laws of nature. Meditation also helps us detach from materialistic elements in life. It helps us understand the mind and body in a better way,
Adopting a Healthy Lifestyle
Very often, when we are disease-ridden, it can lead to anxiety about death. This is because our body also starts showing its incapacity to fight. For example, a person who has had a heart attack can have fear of dying due to experience. Therefore a healthy lifestyle coupled with a positive outlook for life can help in overcoming the fear of death. This includes taking a nutritious diet, avoiding alcohol and smoking, taking proper rest, and engaging in some form of activity. Exercise has been found to have proven benefits in changing the outlook toward life. It helps us become more careful of our choices and our bodies.
Living in the Moment!
A lot of death anxiety has its roots in uncertainty. We are afraid that people won’t remember us. We don’t know what will happen to our bodies. Additionally, we are scared if our legacies don’t continue. We are worried about how our loved ones will cope without us and what will be the afterlife if at all it exists, be like. However, a simple answer to all of these questions is that there is no answer for them. Therefore the best way to ensure that we don’t fear death is by ensuring that we live life to the fullest. Living a life where the decisions are made mindfully helps us live with content. Taking care of ourselves and those around us helps us sleep peacefully at night. As Irwin Yalom rightly said, “The more unlived your life, the greater is the death anxiety”.
While death is inevitable, fear of death should not stop us from living our lives in the best way possible. We all deserve a life filled with meaning and happiness. Fear of dying can limit the way we live our lives. We may be afraid of trying new things in life. Additionally, people with chronic pain can face this fear on an everyday basis. This is because their pain is so frequent that they keep fearing for their lives. If you have been experiencing chronic pain in your life, then there is help available. At Epsychonline we offer self-help courses to help people with mental health concerns. Courses like Chronic pain are aimed to help people in their well-being. These courses are curated by experts in the field of mental health. There are several articles addressing various types of anxieties, do check them out.