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Death Anxiety


confusedbroken
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Sorry for another post tonight.

I'm also having a panic attack about death. I get so nervous when I think of the reality that everybody dies.

I get so scared and wonder if you feel your brain turning off, or your body rotting. How do people cope knowing they are going to die one day? I get obsessed with the fear. The only time I don't have the death fear is when I have severe depressive episodes, and then I only think of suicidal death.

Sometimes I feel suicidal because I'm afraid of death and that makes no sense at all to me. I can't bear the fear that I could be dead at any moment. There are so many horrible diseases. I am having many thoughts and voices I can't control typing this and keep having to delete and re-delete what I want to type.

How do we cope with the reality of mortality? I wonder if corpses know they are rotting, or if there is just nothing. I start to wonder why anyone does anything when death and disease could come at any time.

I can't even imagine how other people can face this. Some people are so accepting of it. Some people just are able to avoid thinking about it but I get obsessed by the fear.

I am so afraid of death conversation or disease conversation I have to chant in my head to get rid of the thoughts. How can some people be so nonchalant about this?

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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Confusedandbroken,

Of course, you are describing what every human being feels. This is what is called an existential crisis. In other words, because of the inevitability of death, all of wonder, at one time or another, what the point is of being alive. While there is not answer because there are somethings that just don't have an anwer, is live life to the fullest. Now, what does that mean? It means having people in your life. It means knowing that your relationships are important because you have a good influence on others. Like here, your being here helps all of us. Its helpful to me to know that you experience the same feelings that I do. It helps me feel less alone. Your life has meaning. You have a good affect on everyone in your life, even if you don't believe that.

Another point that you make: You said you are so afraid of death that it makes you think of suicide. That means that you want to feel control over your life by deciding when you will die rather than waiting in a helpless way. Again, the idea is to live life rather than wait for death. Its important to do things. Keep busy.

Do you keep busy? What types of things occupy you in addition to writing here?

By the way, there are those who deal with these fears through being religious. Thats okay for those folks but it doesn't help me. What about you?

Allan

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Ya Know

It makes good sense on what you have said. I have never been that religious in a long long time. But since my mom is dying from the damn Alzheimers Diease and I have been taking care of her now oh about 3yrs. I now can accept death all of us can't live forever & it scares the hell out of anybody . But if we, or you alone keep saying what if I bang my head or get hit by a bus [sorry just a phrase] I now believe there is a higher power over any of us in the world. It doesn't matter what your religion is or your beliefs on religion. There is only maybe that person who knows when we are ready to go.

Take it easy this is the first time I'm looking at death right in front of me & it's my mom and I can't stop it. Just remember what you have done so far it doesn't mean the Presidency anything OK

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Hi, Confused and Leo.

I'm going to piggyback on Dr. A's comments...

Death is the primordial anxiety we all share, consciously or unconsciously.

There's an argument that every lessor anxiety (guilt/condemnation, fate or meaninglessness) has its roots in this primary anxiety...Guilt or a sense of meaninglessness wouldn't have the same punch, in other words, if it wasn't for that over-arching deadline we all share.

If we were immortal, we probably wouldn't need therapy, at least not for anxiety.

Plus, the death anxiety is so terrifying for all of us, on some level, that we manufacture fears (like not getting a promotion, etc.). They become a "peg" to hang the primary anxieties on.

In a way, you're ahead of most people. Some therapists try to get people to a place where manufactured fear will decrease and anxiety will increase, because the underlying anxiety can be very motivating.

When we come to terms with imminent non-being, we realize that the cost to find meaning and all the risks and courage that demands of us is equivalent to the cost NOT to act and die without finding meaning. Then we realize we may as well act.

I hope that wasn't too dense. I was reading about this not too long ago.

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Confusedbroken,

What you said resonates with me so deeply, I can't even put it into words. I've spent years of my life going over and over the pointlessness of everything, and I mean EVERYTHING! I see a tree, I know it's gonna be dead someday. I see a building, I know it'll be gone someday. I look at the moon and know someday it'll be gone. Kinda pointless. Very frightening. I have no answers, and there are no answers, but, when I'm feeling better, those same thoughts actually bring me comfort. It makes the world, and in fact the universe a more "magical" place. That sounds kinda cheesy, but, bear with me.

What I started to do was to face these fears in a very real way. Instead of trying to shut of the CONSTANT questions in my head, or to try and run away from the frightening images, I'd sit still and let them wash over me. I'd try to find a counterpoint to each of the thoughts. For example: How can I feel safe knowing I'll die someday? I can allow for the possibility that there is an afterlife, and that all that I learn and everyone I love is here for a reason that I ( we ) are not meant to know.

I guess what I'm getting at is that instead of running ( fight or flight ) from these fears, I'd just let them come, and accept them. It takes time, and it seems odd at first, but, trust me... the more you face and deconstruct your fears, the less frightening they become. Eventually for me, the fears turned into curiosity, which turned into knowledge. By that I mean I started reading up on ALL kinds of death theory. Religion. Science. Philosophy etc. I read books about near death experiences just to open my mind to the possibility that death is not the end. Embracing it turned that tyrant into a teacher. All I've come up with so far in my life is that the only thing we can control is our reaction to any given situation. Life is a river with a very strong current. The more you swim against the river, the more fatigued and hopeless you'll become. I've learned to try and go with the river... to not try to swim back upstream, to not push the river to go faster. Instead I try to float... and in doing so, I've learned that the sights along the banks can be stunning instead of terrifying.

I also wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are the first person I've ever seen put my deepest fears into words. That makes me feel more connected to this world than I've felt in quite some time. Like Allan said, it's good to hear someone else share the same questions and fears that we all have.

None of us know where we came from, and none of us know where we're going, but we're all here together for a reason. I hope that the day I die, I find myself surrounded by loved ones, on this side and the other ( if there is one ), and that on that day, I'll find out what this crazy ride is all about. Until then, I'm going to breathe in and out all day long, accept the ups and downs of my wild mood swings and embrace the good the bad and the ugly of being a being.

Take care,

jimmyfay2

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Hi jimmyfay, I think you are right about letting your fears come and feeling them instead of hiding. I hope to get to that point at some point. I'm glad I have made you feel more connected and I want to thank you too for making me realize I'm less alone.

Gayle, I would agree that perhaps death anxiety is the true root of all anxiety. in fact, that makes a lot of sense.

Thank you everyone for your insight.

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Guest ASchwartz

Jimmyfaye,

I do not agree that it's a matter of facing these fears. Instead, I believe it's a matter of doing things with your life that have meaning for you. The things that have meaning for you are things you must come to know. Perhaps its the job you have or the friends you have or stamp collecting or playing football with the guys, etc. Again, your fears are primordial and form our existential crisis which, as you say, is, "what's it all about, why are we here, etc? Well, for these things there are no answers. Philosophers going back to Aristotle and Plato have tried to find answers. They occupied their time working on these questions. That's how they kept the fears at bay.

What do you do, in your life, that has meaning for you, or, what would you like to do, or, what stops you from doing those things?

Allan

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I agree with both of you. If you don't ever consciously let your fears come and accept them as your fears, then you are just suppressing them and letting that fear potentially increase in your subconscious. Focusing on things that have meaning for you is an extremely positive life exercise and outlook. However, when done exclusively, without at least accepting and dealing with your fears and talking about them, I believe it is just another way of avoiding thinking about (or talking openly about, probably the better choice) what it is you are afraid of, and letting it simmer away in the background.

However, if you overly dwell on these fears you are also at risk for becoming even more obsessed and destroyed by them. True, some things we never really have answers to, and we have to accept that.

I think the goal is to face that you have these fears, accept them, try to work through them as best as you can, and THEN work to focus on what gives your life meaning, and appreciate it fully.

This is just my opinion, and I am obviously plagued by a lot of anxiety, depression, etc, so I'm probably wrong.

However, I went to a very good psychologist, and she wanted me to fully focus on what gave my life meaning and work towards what I wanted to be, etc. She never really dug in deep enough to my fears and my issues and my sadness. She just wanted me to work on positive stuff. While she helped me immensely, I still face these constant fears that sometimes become so intense they threaten some of my better moments.

Edited by confusedbroken
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