Why i am worried about death (Fear of death Psychology)

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

Rational vs Irrational fear of death

We humans are mortal beings. This fact makes it so normal for people to think about death every now and then. A person with terminal illness for example is more likely to think about death than a healthy person.

But this is not the kind of worrying i want to discuss in this article. In this article i will address the healthy people who think about death more than they should and who constantly worry about dying for no apparent reason.

In psychology a problem is considered a disorder when it becomes disabling. If you get worried about death every once in a while then this is totally normal but if your fear of death became so strong that your life started getting negatively affected then know that something wrong is going on. See Why do some people have disorders

Failing to achieve immortality

Many psychologists believe, and i strongly agree with them, that we humans struggle to solve the mortality problem we all have to face. According to this theory humans do their best to make achievements in their lives that ensure that their names will live on even after their death.

Great warriors who wanted to do great things in battles so that they keep living after they die were just trying to solve the mortality problem in their own way. The same goes for people who want to achieve greatness, change the world or leave an impact.

All of those are healthy copying strategies in dealing with the problem of death. In fact the desire to have children can be fueled by the fear of death. Many parents want to have children because of their unconscious desire to leave a legacy behind , in addition to other reasons, instead of perishing and being forgotten. See Why do people like having kids

In other words most people who worry about death don't fear death itself as much as they fear annihilation. This brings us to the next interesting conclusion.

Those people who believe that they are doing the right things in life that will lead to their immortality might not worry much about death as much as a person who thinks he will leave no mark will. Those right things don't have to be any kind of superior achievement but they be something as simple as having good kids.

In other words the fear of death can be a message your mind is sending you to motivate you to change the course of your life or to take influential actions that can allow you to achieve immortality. See Those methods will never help you stop worrying

Terror management theory

The terror management theory discussed that issue from a broader perspective. According to that theory people do their best in life to ensure that their existence is adding value and this allows them to worry less about death.

According to the theory religious beliefs can make some people fear death less as a result of believing that death isn't the final stage but instead its the gateway to something bigger. This leads us to another important conclusion.

A person's beliefs about death greatly determines his level of worrying about it. If a person believes in an afterlife then he is less likely to worry about death given the fact that he believes that he is doing righteous things in life. See Why religious beliefs can make a person happier

Low self esteem and fear of death

Studies have shown that there is a connection between having a low self esteem and fear of death. But how can this be possible?

The connection is very simple. If a person believes that he is worthy or that he is leading a full life then probably he also believes that he will leave a mark after his death. This in turn will lead to a high self esteem and less fear of death.

If on the other hand the person thinks that he is not that worthy then probably death for him will mean total inhalation with almost no memory left of his previous existence.

Fear of death and distraction from goals

I also tend to agree a lot with the Adlerian perspective on disorders which states that in some cases the subconscious mind can actually create some kind of a disorder on purpose to help the person achieve another objective. See Why do people behave the way they do

A person who wants to distract himself from something might actually start worrying about death so much. For example if a man thinks about death whenever he sits with his wife then it could be possible that his mind doesn't want him to interact with her.

In another case the fear of death can be used as a tool to attract loved ones attention. If a person felt that his wife didn't love him much then his mind might use the fear of death to scare his wife and bring her closer to him.

In other cases a person can feel more worthy by worrying about death as this might motivate others to show their love for him when they think that he might die. The cases are numerous but the concept is the same as you see.

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