Experiencing the fear of death in your 20s is normal (and quickly peaks and declines during the age bracket). It is usually triggered by other mental health challenges. And it only becomes a problem when it gets excessive – i.e. when it becomes an anxiety disorder – and starts adversely affecting your ability to carry out your daily activities. This fear of death (or the process of dying) anxiety disorder is called Thanatophobia.
Have you ever spoken of death or dying among your folks? I am sure you got “the look” if you did. The topic (death) is unsettling. And being mostly swept under the rug, it’s no surprise Thanatophobia or death anxiety in 20s is very common.
The topic of death (or dying) is hidden by society – no one seems to speak of it at home, school, workplace, etcetera. At least, not honestly or seriously.
And insisting to talk about it makes you come off as either morbid or a pessimist.
Yet, are we not all concerned about death? – be it the thought of our mortality or that of another (well, I am).
After all, what happens when our eyes are closed forever is one of life’s mysteries that most people are desperate to know.
To manage this fear of death – the terror that comes from realizing “everybody dies” – most people simply rely on DENIAL – avoiding and dismissing the thought for as long as possible.
To keep the mind in “denial mode”, they often indulge in very extreme and stimulating actions such as excessive quest for pleasure, hysterical celebrations, violations of rules, unrestrained aggression towards others ( people engaging in wars, conflicts, debates, in the name of God or ideologies that promise a longevity of somewhat) and so on [Source: psycnet.apa.org]
Or, ambitious desires like the practice of cryonic (the act of freezing the dead at a certain temperature in hope that future science will revive them) – Anything to mock death, to trample it underfoot, to overcome the fear of dying, right?
If you’re unlike most people, and really want to sit down and consider your mortality, it would be nice to start by understanding why you are scared about dying in the first place.
4 Reasons Your Are Afraid Of Death
You may ask, “why am I so afraid of death lately?”. The answer could be
- Since what happens when we die is unknown, you are afraid of the unknown. This has to do with fear of an afterlife
- You fear what might happen to your loved ones – what happens to your family, friends, or partner when your time is up
- You fear the nature/feeling/experience/process of dying – you are scared of pain or suffering
- You fear losing all your life’s work and achievements… legacy, dignity, etcetera.
And sometimes it can be hard to see how Death anxiety (that is when the fear gets excessive) negatively affects you – your personal development, and entire life’s experience.
Effects Of Death Anxiety
Thanatophobia leads to several dysfunctional behaviors, habits, as well as health conditions.
- Too much worry can drive you away from places that remind you of death (like funeral homes, and clinics), and also make you avoid anything that seems risky (like mountain hiking, long road trips, speed, height, etcetera).
- Extreme fear can cause you to avoid family and friends, which then goes on to trigger or feed loneliness, anger, sadness, and even delirium.
- When death anxiety is left unchecked it could lead to other mental disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder ( PTSD), depression, Obsessive-compulsive disorder ( OCD), Paranoia, and Panic attacks. Man! that’s quite a lot. [source: researchgate.net
Also Read: Compassion for The Depressed: How to Respond to Someone Who is Struggling
A certain degree of fear is important (for survival) and at the core of our nature. But, excessive fear limits the quality of our lives.
When these thoughts and desires are unbalanced they could do so much more harm than good.
To boost your personal growth and development, get things done, live a healthier lifestyle, and enjoy the good things life offers you and I must be free of death anxiety. And we can do this by…
How Do I Stop Overthinking About Death?
- Let Go: Let go of the excessive expectations and thoughts that are handicapping your life. For real, look at it, you are still here, Alive! – It’s all in your head. You are mainly afraid of the thought and not death itself. So instead of struggling with your thoughts of death, accept your fate as a human and utilize the subtle strength that comes from knowing that someday the lights would go out to do all you dream of, and enjoy each moment of life.
- Seek Spiritual Or Philosophical Enlightenment: Spiritual or Philosophical truth can change your perception of death. They both have a great impact on our feelings towards death. Though beliefs that suggest that our mistakes or missteps in life would lead to eternal torment in an afterlife may be counterproductive.
- Participate In Humanitarian Activities: Extending a hand of support or help to others and younger generations may not take away this fear completely but it gives satisfaction and peace knowing that your contributions are making life easier for another (which fills your mind with a sense of the purpose).
- Try Out Recreational Activities: Recreational activities like taking a walk in the park, reconnecting with nature and serenity calm the mind. The aim is to focus more on the present, on the things we can see and touch.
- Go For Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a quick therapy technique that helps people with Death anxiety and other types of mental disorders to find a new and better way to behave by changing their thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, feelings, and habits. The beautiful thing about CBT is the availability of self-help courses. You can easily get these courses from the Internet or a therapist.
Conclusion: Why You Shouldn’t Fear Death
In conclusion, as Sam keen once said, “ The script for tomorrow is not yet written.” Your death might not happen as you fear it would, nor as soon as you imagine. No one knows for sure what it feels like (except the dead, if I would say…)
So why panic? why grow anxious about death?
Mark Twain would say “the fear of death follows from the fear of life…”
So don’t be afraid to live.
Go out there and live! That is how you cure Thanatophobia
Do all you need and want – scale Mountains, break records, love, and learn as much as you can. So that when it’s time, you will meet death with a smile on your face and fulfillment in your heart.
A mindful self-help writer and photographer