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A phobia is an irrational, intense and persistent fear of different things. Phobia is a psychiatric disorder usually accompanied by excessive and unreasonable desire to avoid feared stimulus. It can be very mild but also extremely severe to the point where it affects one’s ability to lead a normal daily life. The serious phobias fall into the realm of anxiety disorders. Thanatophobia is the abnormal fear of death and everything associated with death: dead things, corpses, coffins, tombstones… The name of this disorder comes from the Greek mythology where Thánatos was the daemon personification of death. Thánatos was the son of night (Nyx) and darkness (Erberos) and a twin brother of sleep (Hypnos).

Fear of death

Thanatophobia is a very complex disorder concentrated in the very specific fear of death itself. Patient suffering from thanatophobia will usually feel very much anxious about the state of being dead as well as about the very act of dying. However, this isn’t a normal existential dread that everyone experiences occasionally, especially in the border situations. People suffering from thanatophobia are literally obsessed with the fear of death or dying, that it affects their normal functioning in the daily life. These patients very often develop a wide range of other mental disorders, while trying to cope with their fears. They usually become hypochondriacs or develop a form of compulsive disorder. For example, patients may start to constantly worry about having a serious illness that may eventually result in death. 

Fear of death: symptoms and causes

Thanatophobia is usually accompanied with extreme anxiety and panic every time the patient encounters death, or thinks about death and dying. This exaggerated and irrational fear is often accompanied with feelings of panic, terror or dread. Patients often feel rapid heartbeats and experience shortness of breath. The symptoms are similar to symptoms of other related phobias and also include nausea, dry mouth, trembling and anxiety. Patients will also try to avoid an unpleasant stimulus as much as they can. 

The normal fear of death is rooted in every human being, as a part of natural survival instinct. However, sometimes the patient may start feeling extreme fear after the death of a pet, or a loved one, or in association with the scary events in the media. This fear is sometimes associated with the feeling of unknown, as the patients may not be ready to face whatever comes after the death. Sometimes this fear has a strong religious connotation, and a fear of the unknown eternity causes this extreme anxiety.

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