Overcoming Fear of Death (Thanatophobia)



Are you afraid of dying? It’s common to feel uncomfortable about our own mortality, but some people experience intense dread at the thought of dying. Extreme fear of death or dying is called thanatophobia, and it can interfere with daily life. In this blog, you’ll learn how writing your own eulogy and several other strategies can help you overcome death anxiety, so you can start living your life fully.


Writing your own eulogy is one of several strategies that can help you overcome death anxiety, so you can start living your life fully. Click To Tweet


Thanatophobia is an excessive fear of death or dying, although it is not included as a clinical disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

In clinical terms, thanatophobia is typically associated with general anxiety disorder or as a specific phobia One study found that fear of death phobia can also be present in depression, panic disorder, and hypochondriasis (health anxiety).

Hypochondriasis involves worrying excessively about developing a serious medical condition. With health anxiety, you may obsessively check your blood pressure, scour your body for suspicious moles, or monitor your heart rate.

Overall, a fear of death can seriously impact your emotional well-being and everyday life.

Thanatophobia symptoms include:

  • Intense anxiety
  • Panic
  • Fear
  • Dread
  • Distress
  • Depression
  • Avoiding dangerous situations

Some people with this condition take extreme measures to avoid discussions about death. They may also refuse to visit loved ones who are sick or dying and may not attend funerals.

Other signs of thanatophobia are physical in nature, such as:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Racing heart


Most of us have a fear of death. Our brains are wired for survival, so anything that threatens our existence sets off alarm bells in our minds. Risk factors associated with fear of death include:

  • Aging: As we age, it’s common to spend more time worrying about our health and the possibility of dying. With age, we become more concerned about how our loved ones would fare after we’ve passed away.
  • Midlife: The fear of death may intensify in midlife. According to one study, fear of dying spikes in women in their 50s but not in men. This may arise due to a health scare, a divorce, or having trouble performing in the bedroom. Fears can also escalate when your parents die or when your friends start dying off. When you see loved ones dying, you may begin to worry that the end is near.
  • Physical and mental problems: A review of 49 studies looked at factors contributing to death anxiety among the elderly. It found that older adults with more physical and psychological problems had higher levels of death anxiety.
  • Low ego integrity: Ego integrity refers to an individual’s ability to feel at peace with their achievements and choices in life. It provides a sense of a live well-lived. Lower ego integrity is associated with looking back on one’s life with regret and disappointment. The same review mentioned above shows that low ego integrity is associated with increased fear of death.
  • Loneliness: A sense of isolation also puts older adults at risk for death anxiety, according to a 2021 study.
  • Low parental self-efficacy: Believing that you aren’t capable of being an effective parent is linked to heightened anxiety about dying, according to research.
  • Early trauma: In some people, the fear of dying starts early in life. For example, being in a serious car accident as a child, getting diagnosed with a life-threatening illness such as cancer, or having a friend who died unexpectedly can spark fears of death.
  • Youth: Surprisingly, one study found that death anxiety is highest in both men and women in their 20s.


Having death anxiety can interfere with daily life. Intrusive thoughts about dying can make it challenging to perform well at school or work. It can also get in the way of relationships.

One study found that death anxiety is linked to a greater likelihood of having other mental health disorders. It is also associated with increased severity of psychiatric issues.

Being afraid of dying also plays a role in the way you process grief. According to a 2020 study, having a fear of death increases the likelihood of prolonged grief after a loss.


There are several tools that can help you cope with fears of dying. Here are 6 strategies that may calm death anxiety.

  1. Write your own eulogy: Thinking about how you want to be remembered can help you live a more purposeful and meaningful life. A 2019 study in BMC Geriatrics shows that having a sense of meaning in life reduces death anxiety.

Knowing what you want to accomplish helps you plan for the future. It also guides you to create the legacy you want to leave behind. Writing your eulogy is basically drafting a map for the life you want to live.

  1. Accept that death is a natural part of life. In her book Death: The Final Stage of Growth, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote, “It is the denial of death that is partially responsible for people living empty, purposeless lives; for when you live as if you’ll live forever, it becomes too easy to postpone the things you know that you must do.”

Understanding that death is inevitable can motivate you to enjoy life to its fullest. It can provide the incentive you need to make the most of your time on earth.

  1. Create a list of what you want to accomplish during your life. Be sure to make it meaningful. Choose activities that support your values and relationships.
  1. Focus on issues that have eternal value: In addition to taking care of your health and supporting your family, spend time on things that really matter. This can help you stop sweating the small stuff.
  1. List good things about dying. Try to have a little fun with the thought of dying by writing down the benefits of dying. Here are some examples:
  • Eternal life after death
  • An opportunity to reunite with deceased loved ones
  • No more traffic
  • No more mortgage payments
  • No more taxes
  • No more junk mail
  • No more robo-calls
  • No more going to the dentist
  • No more housework
  • No more pain
  • No more alarm clocks
  • No more work meetings
  1. Consider psychotherapy: People who are terrified of death may benefit from various forms of psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or exposure therapy. CBT aims to alter the way you think about death and dying, so it isn’t as frightening. Exposure therapy encourages you to gradually face your fears. This may involve visiting the grave of a loved one, going to a hospital, or reading the obituaries.

Taking positive actions such as these to face your fear of dying can be very beneficial. Just imagine how much happier you would be if you could stop obsessing about dying and stay focused on living.

Anxiety, phobias, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.


  1. I would like to participate in this study fear of death

    Comment by John Jackson — August 28, 2023 @ 4:56 AM

  2. I am 84 years old and can't help being concerned about dying because of the unknown so found this helpful. Thanks

    Comment by Freda England — August 28, 2023 @ 7:40 AM

  3. I don’t believe in life after death.

    Comment by Astrid — August 28, 2023 @ 8:11 AM

  4. Sadly this is me 100%. Fear of death consumes my thoughts daily and I am tormented by my thoughts. I am a Christian but fear I will go to hell. Very scary way to live.

    Comment by Kathy Harrington — August 30, 2023 @ 3:55 AM

  5. I don't fear death at all. As a young girl I did. But when I turned 28 I started studying the Bible with Jehovah's Witnesses and learned that death is just an unconscious state; there's no activity. We go back to the ground we were taken from and our thoughts perish.(Genesis 2:7; Psalms 146:4; Ecclesiastes 3:19,20 ; 9:5,10) And the good news is, we have the hope of living again by means of the resurrection hope made possible by Our heavenly Father and God Jehovah through the sacrifice of his only- begotten Son Christ Jesus .(Psalms 83:18; Isaiah 26:19; Matthew 20:28; John 3:16; 11:25; Romans 10;:15,17; 15:4; 1Corinthians ,15:21,22,55,57; Hebrews 9:22; 11:1,6) And very soon now the major fulfillment of his sacrifice will be felt earthwide when he will restore this earth and mankind back into the perfect. state they were created to be. (Genesis 1:28-31; Psalms 37:10,11,29; 72:7,8; Isaiah 32:16-18; 2 Peter 3:13; 1 John 2:15-17) And all the many in the GRAVE will return to life and perfect health on this coming Paradise earth. (Isaiah 33:24; 65:17; Luke. 23:43; John 5:25,28,29; Acts 10:42; 24:15; Revelation 20:13; 21:4,5; 22:17,20) That time is very near, and it will not be late! 😉 (Habakkuk 2:3; Luke 21:10,11,28,31) Soon death and the GRAVE will be swallowed up forever; never will it separate us from our loved ones again! (Isaiah 25:8; 1 Corinthians 15:26,55,57; Revelation 20:14)

    Comment by Binnie Parker — August 30, 2023 @ 5:01 AM

  6. Great wordpress blog here.. It’s hard to find quality writing like yours these days. I really appreciate people like you! take care

    Comment by zoritoler imol — November 14, 2023 @ 2:55 PM

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