Fear of Death in Recovery
One of the few things that people can be certain about in life is that they are going to die. When children first realize this fact, it can fill them with terror and dread. Most individuals will learn to live with their fear of death, but for some people, it can continue to intrude on their ability to enjoy life to the fullest. There are even some humans who develop phobic reactions to even the mention of the D-word. People who are recovering from an addiction may find that these fears of death can return in sobriety. It is vital that they do not allow themselves become overcome with such fears because it could lead right back to addiction.
Thanatophobia refers to an abnormal fear of being dead or dying. It is type of phobia, in which the individual becomes preoccupied with death to the extent that it disrupts their life, can lead to obsessive-compulsive behaviors. This condition is closely related to necrophobia, which is a fear of anything related to death. Those individuals who have necrophobia may even become upset if they see a dead animal.
Causes of Fear of Death
Most people are likely to have at least some concerns about their future demise. The following are some of the most common reasons for fear of death:
* Fear of the unknown. People may have a strong faith in their religious beliefs, but there is no way to really know what happens until after they die. Even if the individual is convinced of a continued existence after they die, they may still fear the huge change that it must involve. There are many individuals who feel uncomfortable with any changes in their life, and death is the biggest change they will ever face.
* For a great many individuals, it is not death itself that they fear but the process of dying. Most individuals are not lucky enough to pass away quietly in their sleep. If people are terminally ill the process of dying can take months or even years. During this time, the individual may have to deal with a great deal of discomfort as their body begins to fail. They may also have to adjust to losing control and their independence.
* The individual may have concerns that they will suffer an excessive amount of pain when they die.
* The fact that people are powerless to escape their death can be a bit terrifying.
* Many individuals love their life and don’t want it to end.
* Another huge concern for people who are faced with their mortality is how those left behind will cope. This can be a particularly strong fear for those who become terminally ill while they still have dependents.
* Some people fear that they will be punished for former misdeeds when they die.
Symptoms of Thanatophobia
A great deal of fear about death can have a significant effect on a person’s life. Things can become so bad that even the mention of death induces negative feelings. The symptoms of thanatophobia can include:
* Panic attacks
* Shaking or trembling
* Difficulty breathing
* Increased heart rate
* Fear of dying suddenly
* Dry mouth
* Nausea and vomiting
* Fear of going in cars, planes or on public transport
* Fear of leaving the house
* Fear of any situation that could put them in danger
The Dangers of Fear of Death for People in Recovery
If people have an excessive fear of death, it can have a negative impact on their recovery. These are some of the repercussions of such a fear:
* The individual may become convinced that life is meaningless because we are all going to die anyway. If they believe this, then it is easy for them to conclude that there is no point to staying sober. Those individuals who have no sense of purpose in life find it hard to build a life in recovery.
* One of the reasons why many addicts abuse substances is that it allows them to escape their fears and concerns. If the individual in sobriety feels overwhelmed by fear of death they may be tempted to return to the escapism provided by addiction.
* Some people are so deeply affected by the idea that they are powerless over death that they end up committing suicide. This is their way of taking back the power.
* If people have phobic reactions to even the mention of death it can make life in recovery a bit uncomfortable. They may begin taking extreme measures to avoid facing death and dying. This is likely to mean that the individual will struggle to find happiness away from their addiction.
How to Overcome Fear of Death
There are things that the individual can do that will help them overcome their fear of death:
* If people are dealing with thanatophobia or necrophobia they may need to see a therapist who can help them overcome their symptoms. Cognitive-behavioral treatments and some types of talk therapy can help the individual overcome this phobic reaction to death.
* Some people get comfort in the idea that everyone on the planet is in the same boat. Death does not just pick on certain individuals. It never discriminates. Life on the plant involves a cycle of birth and death. The old has to die to make way for the new. People have always died and this is unlikely to change in the future.
* Those individuals who do not have any type of religious convictions about an afterlife can still take comfort in the idea that death is a mystery. Scientists may have plenty to say about the material world but they have as much evidence about what happens after people die as everyone else. Embracing the mystery of death can bring the individual a degree of comfort.
* Learning more about religious and philosophical ideas about death can bring people some comfort. This is a problem that has faced humans from the beginning. Many wise things have been written about it.
* Talking about fear of death with other people can be beneficial. This type of concern is something that most people can understand. It can help the individual to know that they are not alone in their fear.
* Worrying about death is not going to prevent it from happening. All people can do is make the most of what they have now.
* Some people get comfort from the idea that it is the shortness of life that makes it so special. If humans never died they would soon begin to find things a bit boring. Eternity is a terribly long time.
* Spiritual practices such as mindfulness meditation can allow the individual to see exactly what is going on in their minds. This will give them the opportunity to examine fear of death in a more objective manner. They may even decide that fear of death is just a type of mental chatter and not a driving force in their life.
* One thing that people recovering from an addiction learn is that if they keep on doing the right things, the right things will continue to happen. There is no reason to believe that this process will not continue after death.