It is very common for people to experience some anxiety around death. However, for  some people, thinking about death or dying can trigger heightened anxiety, also known  as death anxiety. People may also fear separation, dealing with a loss, or leaving loved  ones behind. In cases where the fear of death occurs every time a person thinks about  dying, persists for more than six months, and negatively impacts daily functioning or  relationships, this is considered a phobia (APA, 2013). Thanatophobia is the medical  term used to refer to the phobia of death or dying. 

Below are some strategies that can help to manage death anxiety more effectively: 

1. Validating the fear of death 

This does not mean that we do not want the feeling to  change but rather acknowledge the emotion and allow ourselves to experience it  without judging it. Remember that what we resist, persists. It may help to think of  validation from the standpoint of someone else; for instance, if a friend told you they  were anxious about death or dying, what would you say to them? You would probably  not judge them for how they feel but be kind and compassionate. So, the next time you  are struggling with your fear of death, consider applying the same approach to yourself. 

2. Reconsidering unhelpful beliefs about death and dying 

Some of the beliefs that  people with death anxiety commonly experience include the belief that they would not  be able to cope if they found out they were going to die, or that dying is likely to involve  unbearable pain and suffering (Menzies & Veale, 2022). It is helpful to re-evaluate such  thoughts and develop more realistic and balanced thoughts to help you cope better.  For instance, thinking that it is reasonable for people to feel scared when they find out  that death is approaching yet they still manage to cope with their emotions and most  people face their death with dignity. Thinking that people can get through their illness  and pain with emotional and medical support, including pain relief which has become a  priority in the treatment of the dying. (?)

3. Facing your fears and developing death acceptance 

Whilst avoiding thinking  about death might help us to avoid anxiety in the short-term, we are likely to feel  anxious the next time the thought of death crops up. Conversely, the more we confront  our fears and thoughts about death, the less anxious we feel (this is a process known  as habituation) and the more accepting we become. It may, therefore, help to think of  situations you avoid not to trigger fear of death, and slowly begin to confront these  situations often enough and for adequate time periods until your anxiety diminishes.  Some practice ideas may include reading the obituaries in the newspaper, reading  literary accounts of death and loss, and watching TV programs and movies related to  death. 

4. Enhancing enjoyment in life

 People struggling with death anxiety are so  preoccupied with their fears that they may miss experiencing enjoyment in life. As much  as possible, try to consider how you might begin to increase your enjoyment of life  despite the anxiety. This can help you live more in the moment and avoid getting  tangled up in unhelpful thoughts about death and dying. Everyday activities that may  bring enjoyment in life may include spending relaxing time with a friend, family  member, child, or pet; engaging in physical exercise; doing a hobby; reading a book or  watching your favourite TV programme. 

5. Seeking support 

Talking with people you trust about death may help you realise that, although they may not struggle with fear of death, they think about it too. This can  in turn help you feel less alone with your struggles and more encouraged to conquer  your fear of death. It may also help to see a therapist if you feel unable to deal with your  fears on your own or else talk to family or friends about it.

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Dr. Ronald Zammit holds a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Southampton, has completed Master’s level psychotherapy training in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy at the New Buckinghamshire University in the UK, as well as received training in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). He has a special interest in mood and anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and other trauma-related difficulties, personality disorders, and compassion-based approaches to treating difficulties related to high self-criticism and shame.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental  disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing. 

Menzies R.E., & Veale, D. (2022). Free yourself from death anxiety: A CBT self-help  guide for a fear of death and dying. Jessica Kingsley Publishers,