Thanatophobia

The word Thanatophobia is a combination of two Greek words. ‘Thanatos’ is the name of the Greek God of Death. ‘Phobos’ is the word for ‘fear’ in the Greek language. Therefore, Thanatophobia means ‘Fear of Death or dying process”. This is a mental condition.

People who suffer Thanatophobia worry excessively about death and the act of dying. Their obsession comes in the way of their everyday life.

Such anxiety disorder may lead to the following physical symptoms: (a) Excessive Sweating, (b) Breathing difficulties, (c) Palpitation, (d) Nausea and headache, (e) Fatigue and insomnia.

Apparently, such mental ailment originates from ‘Extreme Fear’. The common fears are:

  1. Fear of Unknown.
  2. Fear of Pain and Illness in the process of dying.
  3. Fear of loss of control, wealth, business etc.
  4. Fear of parting with dependent relatives.

Thanatophobia may occur at any age due to some traumatic experience of witnessing someone dying. Fear of death is a normal emotion. But if such fear or anxiety persists for more than six months and hampers day to day life, it turns into a mania.

More than men, women may fear the death of a loved one. They may become anxious about the consequences of such a tragedy.

Undergoing Psychiatric or Psychological treatment by doctors may be considered as the last resort to recover from Thanatophobia. But one may try to overcome this anxiety disorder by getting counselled by:

1. Close elderly relatives,

2. Religious teachers, 

3. By involving themselves in some constructive work or,

4. By gradually exposing themselves to the object of fear itself.

During the war, Army men face death very closely. Then, how do they conquer their fear of death?

First, before going for a dangerous operation, they are inspired to mentally accept that the possibility of their returning alive is slim. So instead, they are encouraged to write their ‘will’ or pen down their last letters to their dear ones, bidding farewell. Thus they temporarily rid themselves of their worldly attachments.

Then, finally, when they make up their minds, they entirely focus only on their task ahead.

Sometimes, an overwhelming sense of responsibility helps overcome the fear of death. I have seen ailing and aged grandfathers ‘Willing’ themselves to remain alive fearlessly to bring up young children left behind by their sons or daughters who suffered untimely death.

Many super-powerful people are known to have the irresistible desire to become immortal. They cannot let go of their power, position, wealth and influence.  They tend to go out of their way in their attempt to be remembered by generations to come.

Many detailed Autobiographies giving the account of their achievements have been written; only to be lost in oblivion. Magnificent towers have been constructed commemorating victories. But with time, those have dilapidated and turned into rubbles. The only eternal fact of everyone’s life is death at the end. Death is the greatest leveller.

Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of United China, had built the Great Wall of China. He was affected by Thanatophobia when he was barely 14 years old. At that young age he ordered his own Mausoleum to be built.

As he grew, his fear of death also grew and so did the size of his mausoleum. Ultimately the inner city of his mausoleum admeasured 2,5Kms and the outer was a circle of 6.3 Km wide.

When Mercury was discovered, people believed that it had magical properties. By then the Emperor Qi Shi Huang’s health had started declining as he was aging. At that point, the Emperor became obsessed with retaining eternal youth and remaining immortal.

He sent out men in all directions to find an Elixir for him. His court physician convinced him that Mercury purportedly had the magical power to provide the same.

Unfortunately, the Emperor expired prematurely by consuming an ‘Immortality Elixir’ made out of liquid mercury. Mercury poisoning killed him. Yet a large quantity of liquid mercury was kept in his tomb after his sudden death.

Is Immortality worth it? After having lived a full life, lingering on may be uninteresting or even painful. No one wants to hang around to witness the death of his near and dear ones like his own children.

When an immortal person sees the demise of everyone he knows, he may feel like committing suicide. But Alas! An immortal person cannot even do that!

A person who is totally satisfied with life never regrets dying when it is his time to go.

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