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At some point in our lives, we all stop and think about death. But sometimes we have a strong fear or anxiety about it — death anxiety. We may need someone to talk to in order to deal with our feelings and find new perspectives.

What is death anxiety?

Death anxiety refers to fear of one’s own death, others’ deaths, the dying process, post-death uncertainty and death-related objects and rituals. It is an awareness of mortality that many people experience, but death anxiety is more extreme, and it may prevent people from participating in their daily routines. Irish mental health practitioners and organisations recommend Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) as a form of treatment for death anxiety.

Symptoms of death anxiety

Death anxiety symptoms can vary, but they often include:

  • Palpable fear of death or dying
  • Anxiety attacks, especially in the evening
  • Avoidance of thinking or talking about death
  • Sleep problems due to fear or anxiety

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Death anxiety in children and adolescents

In children and young people, death anxiety can manifest itself through:

  • Concerns about the well-being of parents or loved ones
  • Questions about death and what happens afterwards
  • Difficulty sleeping or nightmares related to the topic of death.

Managing death anxiety

There are several ways to deal with death anxiety:

  • Talk therapy: Talking to a psychologist can help process feelings and thoughts related to death anxiety.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This form of therapy can help identify and change negative thought patterns.
  • Mindfulness and relaxation techniques: These can reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality.
  • Support groups: sharing experiences with others who have similar feelings can be very helpful.

Medication and treatment

In some cases, medication, such as anti-anxiety or anti-depressants, may be recommended by a doctor. It is important to remember that medication should be used as part of a broader treatment plan, in consultation with a healthcare professional.


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When to seek help?

If the fear of death becomes so overwhelming that it prevents you from living a normal life, it is important to seek professional help. This includes:

  • Significant impact on your daily functioning
  • If death anxiety causes physical symptoms such as heart palpitations or difficulty breathing
  • If you or someone you know has suicidal thoughts (in such cases, contact 112, 999, or emergency services immediately).

We make the difficult easier

On our website, we offer contact with experienced psychologists and therapists who can help you deal with your fear of death. By creating a safe and understanding environment, we aim to make the journey through death anxiety less frightening and more manageable. Our experts are available for sessions both online and in person.

Help is closer than you think

If you recognise the symptoms of death anxiety or know someone who does, don’t hesitate to contact us. By understanding and confronting these feelings, together we can find ways to live a more harmonious and less anxious life.

Understanding and accepting death anxiety

Accepting and understanding death anxiety is an important step in the coping process. It is not about getting rid of the fear completely, but rather learning to live with it in a way that does not limit your daily life.

Existential death anxiety

Existential death anxiety relates to deeper questions about the meaning of life and what happens after death. It can be particularly pronounced at the end of life or after the death of a loved one. Talking to a therapist can help you navigate these complex feelings.

Medication

In some cases, medication such as antidepressants or beta-blockers can be part of the treatment. Medication can help manage the symptoms of the anxiety and make it easier to participate in therapy and other activities.

Death anxiety in the evening

Many people find that their death anxiety worsens in the evening. This may be due to reduced distraction and an increased tendency to reflect on existential issues. Therefore, it can be helpful to establish a relaxing evening routine that includes, for example, meditation or mindfulness exercises.


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Special circumstances

Death anxiety after major changes

Major life changes, such as having children or being diagnosed with a serious illness like cancer, can trigger death anxiety. It is important to acknowledge these feelings and seek support when needed.

Death anxiety in relation to PTSD and hypochondria

For people with PTSD or hypochondria, death anxiety can be particularly intense. Specialised treatment, such as trauma-focused therapy, may be necessary.

Practical steps to deal with death anxiety

  • Education: Learn more about death anxiety and its causes as this will help you broaden your perspective on both the anxiety and death.
  • Writedown your thoughts: Writing can help you process and understand your feelings.
  • Create a supportive environment: Talk to family and friends about your feelings as most of us deal with different types of emotions around death in some way.
  • Explore relaxation techniques: Meditation and yoga can help relieve anxiety.

Seek professional help

Furthermore, it is important not to hesitate to seek professional help. Our psychologists and therapists are specialized in dealing with different forms of anxiety, including death anxiety. They can offer customised treatment plans and support strategies to help you manage your feelings.

Remember: you are not alone

Death anxiety is a universal experience, and you are not alone in your feelings. By seeking help and using available resources, you can find ways to manage your anxiety and live a more fulfilling life.

Creating a new relationship with death

An important aspect of dealing with death anxiety is reshaping our relationship with death. This may involve accepting death as a natural part of life and then finding ways to live more fully with the awareness of our own mortality.

Reflecting on the meaning of life

Exploring and defining what gives life meaning can be a powerful counterbalance to death anxiety. It can include:

  • Appreciating and celebrating small moments in everyday life.
  • Engaging in activities that feel meaningful and enriching.
  • Cultivating close and supportive relationships.

Deepening spirituality and personal beliefs

Regardless of religious affiliation, spiritual or philosophical reflections can provide comfort and perspective. It can involve:

  • Exploring personal beliefs.
  • Participating in religious or spiritual contexts.
  • Meditating or practicing mindfulness to feel more connected to the present moment.

Creating a plan for the future

For some, planning for the future, including after-death matters, can reduce anxiety. This can include:

  • Writing a will.
  • Discussing wishes with family and friends.
  • Planning for health care at the end of life.

Celebrating life

Choosing to focus on and celebrate life can be a powerful way to manage death anxiety. It can involve:

  • Engaging in activities that bring joy and fulfillment.
  • Appreciating and expressing gratitude for the good things in life.
  • Creating and maintaining positive relationships.

Death anxiety is a complex and deeply personal experience, but there are many ways to manage and reduce its impact on your life. By exploring these different aspects – from professional help to personal reflection and acceptance – you can find your own path to peace and meaningfulness.


20 common questions and answers about death anxiety

What is death anxiety?

Death anxiety is a strong fear or concern about the idea of death or dying. It is a natural feeling but can become overwhelming and affect your everyday life. It often involves thoughts about the meaning of life, existential questions and fear of the unknown after death.

How do you know if you have death anxiety?

Signs of death anxiety include constant worry about death, avoidance of conversations about death, panic attacks, difficulty sleeping, and a general sense of fear that cannot be explained. It is important to seek professional help if these feelings become overwhelming.

Can death anxiety be cured?

While death anxiety is part of the human experience, there are treatments that can help. Therapy, mindfulness exercises and sometimes medication can be used to manage these feelings. Talking to a psychologist or therapist can be a first step.

Why do I think I am going to die?

This feeling can be part of death anxiety. It may be due to internal concerns or external influences such as news or personal experiences. It is important to understand that these thoughts are often irrational and a reflection of underlying anxiety.

How do I manage my death anxiety?

Managing death anxiety often means learning to accept death as part of life. Practical steps can include talking about your feelings, writing down your thoughts, participating in relaxation exercises and seeking professional help. Keeping busy and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can also be helpful.

Does death anxiety affect my physical health?

Yes, death anxiety can have physical effects such as heart palpitations, breathing difficulties, or stomach problems. Chronic anxiety can also affect the immune system and cause other long-term health problems. It is important to take care of both your mental and physical health.

Is it normal to experience death anxiety?

Yes, it is completely normal. Many people experience some form of death anxiety during their lifetime. It is a natural part of being aware of your own mortality. Problems arise when these feelings become overwhelming and interfere with everyday functions.

Can lifestyle changes help alleviate death anxiety?

Absolutely. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, adequate sleep and stress management techniques can all help reduce symptoms of anxiety. Maintaining social contacts and engaging in meaningful activities can also be helpful.

How can I talk about my death anxiety with loved ones?

It is important to open up about your feelings in a safe environment. Choose a quiet time and place, and explain how you feel in an honest way. Sharing your feelings can reduce feelings of loneliness and create understanding and support from others.

Are there any specific therapies that are effective for death anxiety?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often effective in dealing with anxiety-related conditions, including death anxiety. Existential therapy can also be helpful as it focuses on addressing the fundamental issues of life, death and meaning.

Can creative expressions such as art or music help in the management of death anxiety?

Yes, creative expressions such as art, music, writing or dance can be very effective in dealing with death anxiety. These activities offer a way to express feelings non-verbally, which can be particularly useful for those who have difficulty putting their feelings into words. Creative expression can also provide a sense of calm, presence and personal expression that can reduce anxiety levels.

Can meditation and mindfulness help reduce death anxiety?

Meditation and mindfulness exercises are known to reduce stress and anxiety by promoting relaxation and presence in the present moment. These practices can help create a new perspective on death and reduce the fear associated with it.

Is death anxiety more common in older people?

While death anxiety can affect individuals at any age, it is not uncommon for it to become more prominent as you get older. This may be due to more experiences of loss or an increased awareness of one’s own mortality.

Can religious or spiritual beliefs influence the experience of death anxiety?

Yes, individuals’ religious or spiritual beliefs can have a significant impact on how they experience and cope with death anxiety. Some may find comfort in their faith, while others may experience additional conflicts or questions.

When to seek professional help for death anxiety?

If death anxiety begins to affect your daily functioning, causes overwhelming worry, or if you have thoughts of self-harm, it is important to seek professional help. Psychologists and therapists can offer strategies and treatment to deal with these feelings.

Can death anxiety be linked to other mental health conditions?

Yes, death anxiety can sometimes be linked to other mental health conditions such as depression, generalised anxiety disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is important to treat these underlying conditions along with the death anxiety for a holistic treatment plan.

What role do family and friends play in managing death anxiety?

The support of family and friends is crucial. Being able to share your thoughts and feelings with loved ones can provide emotional relief. Feeling understood and supported can also reduce feelings of isolation that often accompany death anxiety.

Can physical activity help reduce symptoms of death anxiety?

Regular physical activity has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood enhancers, and helps reduce tension and stress.

How can I deal with sudden bouts of death anxiety?

In acute moments of death anxiety, try focusing on your breathing, using relaxation techniques or mindfulness exercises. Having a prepared plan for dealing with these attacks can be very helpful.

Is it possible to completely overcome death anxiety?

While death anxiety can be part of the human experience, it is possible to learn to deal with it in a healthy way. Therapy, lifestyle changes and personal growth can all help to reduce the intensity and frequency of these feelings.

Dealing with death anxiety: A step-by-step guide

Dealing with death anxiety can be a challenging journey, but it is important to remember that you are not alone. Here are some steps to help you start the process.

1. Acknowledge and accept your feelings

Death anxiety is a natural part of life. Therefore, it may also be natural to acknowledge and accept your feelings without judging yourself. It is perfectly normal to feel fear, sadness or confusion.

2. Understand the causes of your anxiety

Try to identify what is causing your anxiety. Is it fear of the unknown, concern about leaving loved ones, or perhaps fear of pain? Understanding the causes can provide insights for coping and thus give you something specific in the anxiety to focus on dealing with.

3. Seek support

Talk to friends, family or a therapist. Sharing your thoughts and feelings with someone can provide comfort and understanding. It is also a way to feel that you are not alone.

4. Explore relaxation techniques

Techniques such as mindfulness, meditation or relaxation exercises can be helpful in managing anxiety. These practices can help reduce stress and promote inner peace.

5. Inform yourself about death

Reading about and understanding death can reduce the fear of the unknown. There are books, articles and podcasts that can provide a broader view of death and its importance in life. As other people’s perspectives can reflect your own, as well as provide alternatives, it is a good idea to listen to other people’s thoughts on death. The Irish Hospice Foundation are one such group that offers people help on how to confront a loss.

6. Create a life plan

Focus on living a meaningful life. Make a list of things you want to achieve, places you want to visit and relationships you want to nurture as this can provide perspective and reduce anxiety.

7. Consider professional help

If your death anxiety is overwhelming, consider seeking professional help. A psychologist or therapist can offer strategies and support to deal with your feelings.

8. Participate in support groups

Participating in a support group can provide a sense of community. Sharing experiences with others who are going through similar feelings can be extremely healing as we sometimes need help from others to express our feelings and thoughts.

Remember, each person’s journey is unique. Take the steps that feel right for you and don’t hesitate to seek support when you need it. You can book a session with our therapists whenever you feel ready. We at Lavendla are here to support you through this journey and want to make the hard things easier.

Lavendla – Making the difficult easier

Written by Ellen Lindgren

Licensed psychologist

Ellen is a licensed psychologist and has experience mainly in clinical psychology where she has worked with various conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, crises and trauma in primary care and psychiatry. She has also worked with research while studying in the US and with affective disorders and insomnia at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.