Fear of Death equals Fear of Living.
Fear of Death equals Fear of Living?
A closer look into Thanatophobia, the fear of death.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “It is not the length of life, but depth of life.”
As human beings, we’re often brought up in this world with a manual set by society that clearly states our path in life: what college to go to, what majors are preferable, what car to drive, what kind of person to date, and so on. We grow up with the belief that this is who we are and this is the life we’re destined to live, no more, no less. We end up creating a checklist of goals or plans that follow this manual, thinking it will help us experience the true joys of this journey we’ve been given.
And by the time we do get older and our life does flash before our eyes, we end up not liking what we see and wishing we had taken the opportunity to cherish each day as if it were our last.
While living each day to the fullest without taking tomorrow for granted is the way to enjoy life, some people battle with the constant anxiety of dying, holding on to each day as if it were “literally” their last.
Sounds familiar to any of you? Let’s take a closer look at Thanatophobia, otherwise known as Death Anxiety.
As I write this article, I can’t help but think of some friends or family members who went through a tough depression phase, especially related to health problems or resulting from the death of a loved one. Those experiences often left them living on the edge, thinking any day could be their last. I bet that most, if not all readers, can relate to such cases, as we’ve all experienced the sickness or death of a close family member, and we understand that some fear is considered rational.
But extreme Thanatophobics are often driven by more irrational thoughts that are related to paranoia, loss of control, fear of the unknown, fear of separation, and illnesses that are not even present.
As these individuals place more energy on these feelings, they actually throw themselves into a vicious cycle of stress and anxiety that eventually creates physical pain, leading to more fear. Extreme cases can stop people from conducting daily activities or even leaving their homes, centering on things that could result in death, such as contamination, dangerous objects or people.
The website fearof.net posted a study conducted on a sample of people, which showed that the majority of individuals affected are interestingly females between the ages of 18 and 34. The findings of this study clearly show that Thanatophobia is not always related to old age, and shows how depression is actually targeting young adults all over the world.
We’re going to share with you some of the signs and symptoms so you can recognize Thanatophobia, possibly in yourself or in a close friend or family member:
– More frequent panic attacks
– Increased anxiety
– Dizziness and nausea
– Heart palpitations or irregular heartbeats
– Stomach pain
– Sensitivity to cold or hot temperature
These symptoms may or may not be present the whole time, but not getting the right treatment will eventually cause severe emotional symptoms like persistent sadness, worry, avoidance, etc.
Researchers don’t know exactly what triggers this phobia, but it is often present in overly anxious people. Some of the most prevalent factors that have been known to lead to this phobia include:
– Previous personal illness or the death of a close relative: This is probably the only case where such phobia is understandable and makes perfect sense.
– Fear of the unknown: As humans, the unknown scares us, and we tend to feel more at ease in our comfort zones. The thinkers are often victims of such phobias because they tend to overthink the unknown and try to make sense of what happens to the body after death.
– Fear of losing control: Human beings generally strive to have full control over their lives, especially those who suffer from anxiety. They perceive death as the one thing they can’t control, which can lead to delusional thinking.
– Fear of circumstances leading to death: Some people do not fear the act of death, but the process that might lead to it, i.e: Going through illness, not being able to perform daily activities, losing dignity with others feeling pity towards them, etc.
Personally, I can somehow relate to some of these factors, because I went through health anxiety issues not so long ago. My fear and irrational thoughts drove me to a point where I thought I was actually dying from a disease that no doctor was able to diagnose, because they weren’t taking me seriously. Hypochondria (health anxiety) made me detached from myself, fearing I might die everyday.
But was I really living each day fully as if it were my last? No. I was too scared to.
Whether you’re taking life for granted and planning too far ahead, or you’re tucked in bed everyday thinking you might die, life is passing you by in both cases, and you’re not making use of it.
So how was I eventually convinced? A special conversation with a wise person that went like this:
‘So you’re afraid of dying?’ he said as I finished babbling about my irrational fears.
‘Yes, basically’, I replied as I was sniffing.
‘Tell me, how do you define a dead person?’ He asked again.
‘Someone who is not alive, I said.
‘So you’re defining yourself right now’, he continued. ‘And who’s alive?’
‘The person who is fully making use of each day’, I replied as it finally hit me.
The above point brings us back to the main title of this article: “Fear of Death = Fear of Living?”
As cheesy as it may sound, this is the only life you get on this planet, and no one will get out alive anyway. The thought of death is much scarier than death itself, and if you’re a spiritual person, you can trust that when your time comes, it will no matter how hard you try to fight it, and you’ll most likely end up on another beautiful adventure waiting to be explored. If you do not believe in life after death, then it shouldn’t scare you as you won’t feel it afterwards!
Based on my experience above, taking occasional tests and getting checked is always recommended, but once all medical conditions are ruled out, that’s where therapy comes along. For me, therapy was friends, art, family, spirituality, and nature. But if you think your fear of death or any related anxiety is too severe and is stopping you from being “you”, talk to a therapist about it, there are hundreds of licensed professionals who can turn your thinking upside down, and bring out your best version.
If your fear is still mild, like my health anxiety was, just throw yourself in nature, surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you, gaze at a sunset, and look up at the skies as the clouds paint a picturesque view. Throw the checklist and the manual you’ve been given, and write your own, cross off the things that don’t resemble you. And most importantly, thank the universe for each day that has been given to you, as others are really battling with their last breaths.
To wrap it up, when the day comes and your life does flash before your eyes, make sure it’s worth watching, and be sure that no one is really dead until the ripples they cause in this world die away.
It’s the legacy you leave behind, my friend, not the body.