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How to Overcome the Fear of Death

Fearing death is useless. It doesn't help and makes you feel worse.

Key points

  • Fear of death comes from irrational thinking.
  • Emotions don't come from situations.
  • Not everyone fears death.
  • Some people welcome death and act accordingly.


Do you fear death? If so you have thanatophobia. It's one of the most common fears people suffer from. Some fear the pain that may be associated with dying. The spiritual among us may have a fear of the unknown or the afterlife. Yet some have positive views of death, for example, in various places death has been referred to as "the last big adventure," "the happy dispatch," or "as a welcome as an insomniac longs for sleep."

Since individuals tend to have a self-preservation instinct it's natural to fear death. But is it necessary or sensible?

It's unequivocally not necessary. Since your emotions are caused by your thinking about situations, not by the situations themselves, and you can learn to change your thinking, you can overcome your fear by identifying the thinking causing it, determining if your perspective is reasonable, then changing it if it's not. Great concern, extreme regret, and deep disappointment would be more functional.

I cannot escape death, but at least I can escape the fear of it.

— Epictetus

In a roundabout way, death acceptance has a proven positive impact on one’s mental health as a whole. Accepting that the worst thing (death) will happen to you and all of your loved ones helps trivialize everyday anxieties. Compared to death, getting criticized or being treated unfairly fades in comparison.

Here's a Three Minute Exercise (TME) to diligently think through and write out many, many times to overcome your fear of death:

A. (Activating event) It's inevitable, I will die one day.

B. (irrationalI Belief) I must never die.

C. (undesirable emotional Consequences) Fear, anxiety, worry.

D. (Disputing or questioning your irrational belief) What is the evidence, logic, data, or pragmatics supporting your notion that I must not die? No matter how much I want something does this mean I absolutely must have it? Can't I accept life, myself, and other people no how much I want it and don't get it?

E. There are no empirics, logic, or pragmatics to prove I must not die. Although I passionately prefer not to die, a preference, no matter how heartfelt, passionate, or deeply believed never is a must or a law of the universe. I'm not special so there's no reason I should live forever. I definitely do not like being mortal, but I clearly can stand what I don't like. Rather than spend my life worrying about dying, I would be significantly better off by diligently working to achieve my short- and long-term goals and objectives. It's not the fact that I will die one day that makes be anxious, but rather it's my irrational must thinking about it that's my emotional problem and with much diligent

F. I no longer fear death I just don't want to be there when it happens.

You may also consider ways to avoid an early death. These include eating a healthy and moderate diet, exercising regularly, maintaining an active social life, get a good amount of sleep, and constructively dealing with and minimizing stress, depression, anger, and addictions. It's not the fact that I will die on


Edelstein, M.R., & Steele,D. R. (2019). Three Minute Therapy, San Francisco, CA: Gallatin House.

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