Suffering from Death Phobia & Panic Attacks

27 October, 2020
Q I have a question. I have depression, anxiety and get panic attacks. Nowadays I have death phobia which takes me to extreme panic attacks and I am scared all the time.

I am scared of death and dying. I know we all have to die, but I am mentally so disturbed. I cannot sleep at night time. I am so afraid.

I am taking medicines but I wonder if it is something related to my faith in Allah. I pray 5 times a day, ask for Allah's forgiveness and try to do good deeds, but I sometimes lose hope. I don't enjoy life anymore.

It's like a huge burden and living like a zombie. Is it ok if I ask for help from you guys or the doctors or take medicine? I don't know if it is related to my faith or is it related to my depression and anxiety level.

I am all the time looking here and there and just thinking of death all the time. I don't know what to do?

Even I am scared when remembering Allah, the phobia kicks in. Should I seek help from a psychologist or just rely on prayers? I don't want to do shirk with Allah, he is the only One who gives Shifa and health. I hope you understand my point.

Answer


In this counseling answer:

  • I would kindly suggest that if you are not getting weekly therapy, then you please start now.
  • Often times, when one suffers from anxiety, panic, or depression, it may take a few tries with different medication and doses to find what works for you.
  • We should seek medical or mental health help that Allah (swt) makes available for us through others when we need to.
  • We must always rely on Allah (swt) and go to Him with all of our hurts, pain, and illnesses for He (swt) is Most Merciful.

As-Salamu ‘Alaykum sister,

I am sorry to hear you are going through difficult times with depression, panic, and anxiety.  It is definitely a challenge to deal with them, to say the least. As you are now experiencing thoughts and fears of death and dying, it compounds the issues.

While fears of death and dying often accompany anxiety and panic attacks, it also occurs sometimes in young adults who are transitioning through the life stage of adulthood wherein the reality of dying and losing a loved one often arises.

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In your case, dear sister, I think it is related to the anxiety and panic as well as probably the depression you have been going through. My heart goes out to you, sister. I keep you in prayer as I know this is not easy and can be very scary to live with.

Suffering from Death Phobia & Panic Attacks - About Islam

Medication

You mentioned that you were taking medication. While you did not say what the medication was or if you see a counselor on a regular basis, I would kindly suggest that if you are not getting weekly therapy, then you please start now. You said you were on medication, but it obviously does not work as you are still suffering from the symptoms; you cannot sleep and live in constant fear.

I would suggest that you speak with the doctor who prescribed the medication and inform her/him that it is not working. Often times, when one suffers from anxiety, panic, or depression, it may take a few tries with different medication and doses to find what works for you. Please call your doctor as soon as you can. There is no need for you to be suffering like this.

Stress reduction

You may find it useful to engage in relaxation and stress reduction practices. These do work, sister, and over time will help you gain control over your fears and anxiety.  Some of these techniques include progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, walking, doing self-talk and positive affirmations, and doing dhikr several times a day or when you feel these thoughts and fears are coming on.

As our brain chemistry can change over time with prolonged anxiety, stress, depression, or other mind or body illnesses, it is necessary to make a conscious effort to restore it to its natural state.

I would kindly suggest that, in addition to a medication re-evaluation, you engage in weekly therapy which includes a cognitive behavioral approach. It has high success rates and daily stress reduction/relaxation techniques.


Check out this counseling video:


Journaling

Please, also keep a journal of your feelings, triggers, events, thoughts that occur before the panic, anxiety sets in. When you start thinking about death and dying, picture a great big red stop sign in your mind. Focus on the visual “stop” for a few moments and divert your thoughts (and sight) to something positive or do a relaxation technique.

It will take concentration and persistence, but in sha’ Allah if you begin to take control of your thoughts instead of your thoughts taking control of you, along with the therapy and medication, you will eventually overcome your fears.

While I am not an Islamic scholar, I will say that in regards to your concerns about trusting in Allah (swt) and not wanting to see a psychiatrist due to shirk or wanting to depend on Allah (swt) without medical intervention, please consider the person who has a severe blood infection and refuses antibiotics, or the person who has diabetes and refuses dialysis. They would get extremely ill.

Trust in Allah

Also, if you look at the trials, tribulations, and illnesses that the Prophet Mohammad (saw) went through, surely it was not because of his lack of faith in Allah (swt)!

As humans, we all go through various health concerns and issues. The Qur’an states,

“For each one are successive [angels] before and behind him who protect him by the decree of Allah. Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” (13:11)

Allah (swt) created people who have the ability and desire to serve humanity and who have gone on to become doctors, nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, and so forth so they can help and heal others. There is no reason why we should not seek out the help that is there. It is not shirk; it is common sense.

We should seek medical or mental health help that Allah (swt) makes available for us through others when we need to.  Not doing so is denying a blessing that Allah (swt) has provided to us.

You are correct in stating that Allah (swt) is the one who gives shifa (cure) and health, and everything is within Allah’s (swt) control. However, with Allah’s (swt) mercy, He (swt) provides us with ways to heal such as described above.

Turn to Allah

In addition, we must always rely on Allah (swt) and go to Him with all of our hurts, pain, and illnesses for He (swt) is Most Merciful. He (swt) knows us better than anyone, and ultimately, what Allah (swt) has ordained will be. Keep in prayer, read Qur’an, do dhikr, and make du’aa’ to Allah (swt) for your healing. It is our responsibility though to take care of the mind, body, and spirit that Allah (swt) has blessed us with.

So, with that said, dear sister, please know that what you are going through will not last forever. However, you will need to do some proactive thinking and actions to get on the path of healing so you can live life without these fears; without depression, anxiety, and panic which prevents you from living life fully.

Please think about what has been said. I truly hope that you get evaluated by a psychiatrist, get the proper medications, and engage in counseling as well as beginning to practice stress-reduction techniques. You are in our prayers sister,

Allah (swt) knows best,

***

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About Aisha Mohammad
Aisha received her PhD in psychology in 2000 and an MS in public health in 2009. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. Aisha specializes in trauma, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach. Aisha works at a Family Resource Center, and has a part-time practice in which she integrates healing and spirituality using a holistic approach. Aisha plans to open a holistic care counseling center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocate for social & food justice. In her spare time she enjoys her family, martial arts classes, Islamic studies as well as working on her book and spoken word projects.