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Necrophobia is an overwhelming fear of dead things or things associated with death. Those with this condition often experience intense anxiety and fear, as well as physical symptoms like sweating, shaking, and nausea when they are exposed to something related to death, such as a corpse, graveyard, or funeral home. There is no one specific cause of necrophobia, but it is possible to reduce the symptoms with treatment.
Like all phobias, necrophobia is an irrational fear. It is different from a simple worry about death or anxious wonders about what happens when a person dies; rather, it is fear or anxiety to such a point that it become debilitating and affects a person's daily life. A person with this condition may fear that there are corpses everywhere, or that he or she will find a dead body. He or she may suffer from panic attacks when exposed to things that remind him or her of death, like a church, a tombstone, or the dead body of an animal. Symptoms of panic attacks include a dry mouth, a fast heart rate, difficulty breathing, and profuse sweating. Insomnia is another common symptom, as the person cannot get thoughts about death out of his or her mind.
Necrophobic people may develop many other fears, such as a fear of leaving their house because encountering dead things seems more likely outside, a fear of a violent attack or a sexual attack, or a fear of heights or of being in enclosed spaces. Those with this condition often have trouble attending events like funerals, and may develop severe anxiety symptoms regarding situations like this. There are also a range of triggers; some necrophobes may only feel anxious when they are near a graveyard, while others may feel extremely stressed when watching horror films.
There is no one specific cause of necrophobia, but some people develop it after seeing someone or something die, or after attending a traumatic funeral as a child. Unexpected or forced exposure to a human corpse or dead animal may cause this phobia for some people. There can be a direct cause between past experiences and development of this fear, and parents should take this into account when they must help a child recover from the death of a loved one. Forcing a child to attend open casket funeral, for example, may not be a good idea, though this won’t always cause a person to develop necrophobia.
Some people believe that fear of death and dying things has become much more exaggerated in the modern world because most people have eliminated the natural presence of death in their lives. In the past, people often died at home and bodies were prepared for burial by the family; a casket might sit in a home for several days while people came to pay their respects. In modern times, this happens less frequently, and most people in Western societies die in the hospital, effectively removing death from everyday life.
Since there is no one cause of necrophobia, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for it either. Therapists can use a number of techniques to help a person overcome the aspects of this phobia that prevent him or her from living a normal life. Desensitization therapy works by gradually exposing a patient to those things he or she fears, in hopes of making them seem less frightening. Cognitive behavioral therapy can also be used to help the person control his or her thoughts and look at those things that trigger the fear differently. Psychiatrists may be able to prescribe anti-anxiety medications or antidepressant, which can help reduce panic symptoms.
Necrophobia and Thanatophobia
This condition is often confused with thanatophobia, which is the fear of dying itself. The two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, particularly since they share many of the same causes and triggers. Thanatophobia is not the same thing as a general anxiety about death or "existential angst," which is dread or fear without a specific cause; it is a specific, irrational fear in which the patient becomes obsessed with the idea of his or her death to the point where he or she can no longer function normally in life. People who suffer from thanatophobia may experience necrophobia as well, and the symptoms and treatment are often very similar.