Thanatophobia: What is it? Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prognosis

It is a term used to define a complex phobia that involves an extreme fear of death.

People who have this phobia are those who have a specific fear of the death process and everything related to it.

The word Thanatophobia comes from the Greek “Thanatos”, the personification of death according to Greek mythology.

The various types of religious beliefs related to death are highly personalized, meaning that even a therapist or psychiatrist who has the same faith could generally have a difficult time fully understanding a patient’s beliefs.

If the Thanatophobia is based on religious beliefs, it is often quite helpful to seek additional help in the form of advice from the religious leader about the patient’s general faith. However, this should not replace mental health treatment.

This phobia could also be rooted in fear of the unknown. It is a natural part of the human condition to be eager to know and understand the world around us.

However, what happens after death cannot be unequivocally proven as long as we live.


People who are highly inquisitive and highly intelligent often form a group that is vulnerable to this form of thanatophobia, as are those who are in the process of questioning their own religious or philosophical beliefs.

Like knowledge, having control over life and the things around us is something that all human beings strive for. However, the very act of dying is something that is completely outside of a person’s voluntary control.

People who fear losing control can try to avoid death by sticking to rigorous and occasionally extreme health checks.

Certain individuals who have an apparent fear of death are not actually afraid of death, generally fearful of the various circumstances surrounding the actual act of dying.

This can take the form of debilitating illness, crippling pain, or loss of dignity.

Such a Thanatophobia can easily be identified by asking careful questions of the patient about the various specific attributes of fear.

Many people with this phobia are not essentially afraid of dying; however, they are very concerned about what will happen to their families and loved ones after the day of their death.

Lingering concerns can engulf them that their families would suffer a financial setback or that there would be no one to care for them.

The fear of death in children can be a normal and healthy part of their development, even into late childhood.

Children typically lack the various religious beliefs, defense mechanisms, and understanding of the phenomena of death that adults typically use to deal with them.

They also often find it difficult to understand the concept of time, making it difficult for them to accept the fact that people can leave indefinitely or even come back later.

These factors can sometimes lead children to develop confusing or even terrifying concepts regarding the importance of death.

Whether the fear really qualifies as a phobia depends on its severity and how long the symptoms have been present.

Generally, phobias are not diagnosed in young children unless they are present for more than 6 months.

Symptoms of Thanatophobia

It is not the common psychological state of death anxiety, or philosophically oriented ” existential anxiety .”

People with Thanatophobia are so preoccupied with death that it significantly affects their daily lives.

While most people may have some fear of death and face the unknown, a thanatophobic individual may be so anxious about the concept of death or what might be involved that they may refuse to leave home or display irrational hostility when the subject of death is mentioned.

People who have this type of Thanatophobia often develop other associated psychological disorders, such as hypochondria, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and even delusional thinking.

People who have had this disease for some time may have a number of symptoms, which may include:

  • The tremors.
  • Tachycardia
  • The extreme avoidance of the topic.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feelings of panic or fear.
  • Generalized anxiety.
  • Difficulty maintaining relationships.
  • Have difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling uncomfortable visiting hospitals.
  • Automatic or uncontrollable reactions.
  • Feeling uncomfortable while attending funerals.
  • Irrational fears regarding the health of your loved ones.
  • Worrying about sudden body aches.

They are constantly looking at the past as evidence of what may happen in the future.

The emotions and feelings that this painful phobia causes can be immensely overwhelming and overwhelming, making it difficult for the individual to function effectively in their daily life.

When anxiety episodes are triggered, it can be very difficult to control your own emotions.

No matter how much one is reassured by others, it can fall on deaf ears, as fear seems to be very real when thanatophobic panic attacks begin .

Constant worrying and avoidance behavior can leave an individual completely exhausted both mentally and physically.

People often slip into a harmful cycle of depression in a life trapped rather than lived.


The diagnosis of Thanatophobia should be made by trained mental health experts, as a number of possible factors and complications are associated with the disorder.

Guiding questions can be asked of patients that can help them figure out what exactly is going on.

Diagnostics can also identify the various symptoms of all related disorders, as well as prescribe appropriate treatments.

Fears related to Thanatophobia

It is quite common for Thanatophobia patients to develop closely related fears and phobias.

Patients may show fear of funeral homes, tombstones, and other common symbols of death, as they can remind them of the primary phobia.

People can also experience fear of ghosts and other supernatural entities; This happens especially in people who have Thanatophobia based on religious factors.

Treatment of Thanatophobia

The condition is best treated by a certified mental health professional.

The main goal of treatment is to first discover the factor that is initially responsible for causing the extreme and irrational fear of the patient.

The therapist talks to the patient and makes him see why the fear surrounding death is unfounded, the various ways in which he can come to terms with the traumatic experiences that may have resulted in the phobia, and also the various ways of handle it.

This form of therapy is generally very effective, and has been helpful in helping countless thanatophobic patients completely overcome or at least successfully cope with symptoms for years, if not the rest of their lives. The cognitive behavioral therapy is another means to treat this condition.

In this mode of treatment, the patient attends sessions with the therapist where, progressively and systematically, he faces the real source of fear along with learning to effectively control physical and mental reactions to it.

This allows the patient to face his head-on phobia, get used to it, and realize that the initial fears were not based on any real and imminent danger.

Therapists and support groups can help deal with the disorder and the psychological difficulties associated with it.

This can also be followed by medications, supplemental religious counseling, as well as other therapeutic alternatives to manage this condition effectively.

Finally, exploring the concept of death with someone close to the thanatophobic and generally meditating on the subject can also be helpful.

If the person is religious, often looking at death in the context of those beliefs can be comforting, as well as seeing the positive aspects of death, such as resurrection and celebrating the life of a loved one.


The prognosis for the treatment of patients suffering from Thanatophobia is mainly positive, and people eventually develop the ability to overcome their irrational fears of death.

Treatment is successful in most cases, and most patients can live a satisfying life.