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"Thanatophobia" redirects here. For other uses, see Thanatophobia (disambiguation).

Necrophobia is a specific phobia which is the irrational fear of dead things (e.g., corpses) as well as things associated with death (e.g., coffins, tombstones). Necrophobia is derived from Greek nekros (νεκρός) for "corpse" and -phob- from the Greek phobos (φόβος) for "fear."[1] With all types of emotions, obsession with death becomes evident in both fascination and objectification.[2] In a cultural sense, necrophobia may also be used to mean a fear of the dead by a cultural group, e.g., a belief that the spirits of the dead will return to haunt the living.[3]

Symptoms include: shortness of breath, rapid breathing, irregular heartbeat, sweating, dry mouth and shaking, feeling sick and uneasy, psychological instability, and an altogether feeling of dread and trepidation.[4] The sufferer may feel this phobia all the time. The sufferer may also experience this sensation when something triggers the fear, like a close encounter with a dead animal or the funeral of a loved one or friend.[5] The fear may have developed when a person witnessed a death, or was forced to attend a funeral as a child. Some people experience this after viewing frightening media.[4]

The fear can manifest itself as a serious condition. Treatment options include medication and therapy.[citation needed]


Similar to necrophobia, thanatophobia is the more specific fear of death itself, of being dead or dying. Thanatophobia is derived from Thanatos (θάνατος: "death"), the Greek personification of death. Thanatophobia is not the psychological phenomenon of death anxiety, nor the related but more philosophically-motivated "existential angst"; death anxiety and existential angst are not phobias. People suffering from thanatophobia are so preoccupied with death or dying that it begins to affect their daily lives. They may even develop other disorders as they try to cope with their phobia, such as obsessive–compulsive disorder or hypochondriasis.[6]

Many theories have emerged to explain the psychological phenomenon of thanatophobia and to help sufferers cope. These theories range from the religious, to the philosophical, to the practical. Each offers a distinct perspective on the nature of the human condition, the process of death, and the meaning of the human condition.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Thomas, Clayton L., M.D., M.P.H. (1993). Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, Edition 18. F.A. Davis. ISBN 0-8036-0194-8. 
  2. ^ Woods, Timothy J. (July 2007). "Death in Contemporary Western Culture". Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 18 (3): 333–343. doi:10.1080/09596410701396071. 
  3. ^ Tsaliki, Anastasia (2008). "Unusual Burials and Necrophobia: An Insight into the Burial Archaeology of Fear". In Murphy, Eileen M. Deviant Burial in the Archaeological Record. Oxbow Books. ISBN 978-1-84217-338-1. Retrieved 7 July 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Heering, Jan (23 August 2010). "Necrophobia". How To Cure Necrophobia?. Retrieved 2 September 2010. 
  5. ^ "Necrophobia". ThinkQuest. Retrieved 2 September 2010. 
  6. ^ Fritscher, Lisa (August 26, 2010). "Thanatophobia: Fear of Death". Phobias. Retrieved 14 September 2010. 

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