The irrational and deep dread of death and the thoughts of death is referred to as Thanatophobia. It is an anxiety phobia that, in severe cases, can affect the daily activities and functioning of the victim.
Thanatophobia is also known by the following terms;
* Fear of entombment or the fear of being buried
* Dying phobia
* Fear of cremation
* Fear of the unknown
It can also be linked with negative thoughts and lead to agoraphobia (fear of open or crowded spaces), making the phobic dread leaving the home. The thoughts or confrontation of these stimulus (thoughts of death or dying, or what lies after death) may induce a panic or anxiety attack.
CAUSES OF FEAR OF DEATH:
As young children, we learnt that death is inexorable and uncertain, negative subconscious manipulation of this fact can overwhelm a Thanatophobic individual and like in other cases of various phobias, past traumatic events and/or predisposition to extreme negative perceptions about death.
The causes of Thanatophobia maybe either internal (as in the case of perceptions and overthinking) or external (past traumatic occurrences).
SYMPTOMS OF THANATOPHOBIA:
The minor and unmitigated mention of death, images or thoughts
concerned with death kickstarts an array of both physical, mental and psychological symptoms of Thanatophobic individuals. These symptoms are witnessed as anxiety and panic attacks.
* Physical Symptoms: Dizziness, dry mouth, sweating, palpitations, nausea, stomach pain, trembling, sensation of choking, chest pain or discomfort, hot or cold flashes, numbness and tingling sensations.
* Mental Symptoms: Loss of control- feeling of going crazy with automatic or uncontrollable reactions, repetition of gory thoughts, inability to distinguish between reality and unreality.
* Emotional symptoms: Desire to flee and escape from current situation, extreme avoidance, persistent worry and terrifying or overwhelming thoughts. Additionally, anger, sadness and guilt may also be present.
DIAGNOSIS OF THANATOPHOBIA:
* The diagnosis of Thanatophobia can be mistaken for few other conditions such as depression, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and bipolar disorder. In other cases, conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, migraines, concentration disorders, strokes, schizophrenia, and epilepsy etc may actually be related to Thanatophobia.
* This is best done accurately by the patient himself. Here, if the symptoms are so severe and is affecting the daily functioning and career of the sufferer, a medical consultant must be made available to discuss and rule out other unnecessary conditions and prioritise the main effects of this phobia. Further evaluation can then be carried out by a certified psychologist in a mental health care on the condition.
TREATMENT OF THANATOPHOBIA:
Medical or drug therapy measures can be manipulated in the treatment of thanatophobia. Anti-depression and anti-anxiety pills are used to reduce panic attacks in victims that are exposed to the stimulus (thoughts, images, or physical direct contact with a dead person). These drugs although potent, have short lasting effects and may give side effects.
Other methods include; hypnotherapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, religious and social counselling, talk therapy, Neuro Linguistic Programming, relaxation techniques (such as yoga, meditation, positive reaffirmation, controlled breathing, imagery, etc).
Gradual desensitization involves the progressive exposure of the phobic to the stimulus from the least to the highest wherein the patient is asked to reveal his emotions, analyze and interpret them accurately. This also includes self help therapies and group counseling therapies.
In conclusion, family and friends can help combat Thanatophobia in many ways, mostly in helping the victim cope with problems arising from the condition.