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I Suffer from Thanatophobia (Fear of Death)

07 January, 2022
Q Salam. Since the last week, I have been suffering from thanatophobia. I can't stop thinking about death and it causes me panic attacks.

Answer

In this counseling answer:

Please, do seek out counseling and assessment. It is best not to let these things run on, as they usually get worse.

Panic or anxiety disorder might cause these symptoms as well, so I strongly recommend you seek out an assessment.

Treatment for phobia can include psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and psychoanalytic therapies exposure therapy. 

In these times of covid19, it is no surprise that many are becoming fearful, thinking of death, and dying more. Maybe this might be the cause of your fear.


As salamu alaykum dear brother,

I am sorry to hear about your preoccupation with thoughts of death and consequent panic attacks. It must be quite frightening for you brother and I pray Allah swt blesses you with relief from these troubling thoughts.

Thanatophobia

Thanatophobia in its truest form is a phobia. While most people think about and have fears of death, this is normal.

When it becomes a preoccupation or interferes with daily activities, it is then classified in the DSM-5 as a phobia, which can be part of an anxiety disorder. Thanatophobia is not in the DSM-5, but the general guidelines for phobia’ include aspects of Thanatophobia such as “having excessive worry or fear of death or dying that gets in the way of their life, actively avoid any situation involving death or dying, experiencing intense anxiety when encountering or thinking of death or dying.”  

Panic Attacks

Brother, based on the nature of thanatophobia being part of an anxiety disorder, it is no surprise you are having panic attacks. Panic attacks can be intense and fearful, causing one to think they are dying.

It could be that you are suffering not so much from thanatophobia, but from a panic attack, anxiety disorder, which fuels your thoughts about death and dying based on the intense symptoms, which often occur with episodes.

Please do look at when panic attacks occur (separate from thinking about death) and how intense they are. This may help you in determining if it is panic or true thanatophobia that is causing you distress.

Please check out this link for more in-depth information including symptomology for panic disorder.

The Time Factor

Brother, as this has only been going on for a week or so, you have a high chance that it will be treated successfully.

Oftentimes when we allow depression, stress, anxiety, or other mental health issues to go on for long periods of time without treatment, it may cause changes in the brain thus making treatment a little more challenging. However, treatment is available and millions of people have successfully recovered.

Treatment

Brother, there are many treatments for thanatophobia if that is what you indeed have. Treatment can include psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalytic therapies exposure therapy.

There are also online groups you can join to assist in your healing journey. Insha’Allah if you chose this option please do ensure they are valid support groups with a professional in charge.

Assessment and Counseling

At this point, I kindly suggest that you do seek a counselor for an assessment and ongoing treatment if it is recommended.

The only way to get a true and valid diagnosis is to be assessed by a counselor/therapist in your area. While you have only been experiencing this for a week and may feel it is too soon, I do encourage you to seek assessment and treatment as this type of mental health issue tends to get worse over time as more and more fear builds.

Insha’Allah, by going now (early in the onset) you will avoid a lot of intense and uncomfortable moments.

Covid Considerations

Brother, in these times of covid19, it is no surprise that many are becoming fearful, thinking of death and dying more, as well as developing trauma-based mental health issues, anxiety, depression, and panic.

In some ways, it is the mind’s way of coping with a very dire and intense two years of fears about the virus, lockdowns, as well as a global change in the way we live our lives.

Whether or not this is relevant to you I am not sure, I just thought I would mention it as you are not alone in your thoughts and fears, and possibly given the times we are living in, these types of feelings and thoughts may be expected.

Conclusion

Brother, please do seek out counseling and assessment. It is best not to let these things run on as they usually get worse. Whatever the diagnosis (if there will be one) treatment is available and insha’Allah if you start now, you will be on the road to healing rather than the path of continued suffering. We wish you the best.

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Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general. They are purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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About Aisha Mohammad
Aisha has a PhD in psychology, an MS in public health and a PsyD. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years at Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. She has worked with clients with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, panic disorder, trauma, and OCD. She also facilitated support groups and provided specialized services for victims of domestic violence, HIV positive individuals, as well youth/teen issues. Aisha is certified in Mindfulness, Trauma Informed Care, Behavioral Management, Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and Confidentiality & Security. Aisha is also a Certified Life Coach, and Relationship Workshop facilitator. Aisha has a part-time Life Coaching practice in which she integrates the educational concepts of stress reduction, mindfulness, introspection, empowerment, self love and acceptance and spirituality to create a holistic healing journey for clients. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocates for prisoner rights/reentry, social & food justice, as well as advocating for an end to oppression & racism. In her spare time, Aisha enjoys her family, photography, nature, martial arts classes, Islamic studies, volunteering/charity work, as well as working on her book and spoken word projects.