Necrophobia, an abnormal fear of death or corpses, is one of the most widely known fears in history. This irrational fear often causes feelings of panic and terror, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, extreme trembling and anxiety, dry mouth and nausea. One of the most dangerous symptoms of necrophobia is the extreme avoidance measures that some will take. Necrophobia is a serious anxiety disorder that can have devastating effects on the lives of those who suffer from it. Around every corner, necrophobiacs see death waiting to happen. It is commonly believed that necrophobia arises from a combination of life changing events and internal ideas.
Most people also agree that the fear of death is the fear of the unexpected or the unkown. Ceasing to exist is a notion that some find incredibly terrifying. Some worry about leaving their friends and family behind. Studies also show that those who are religious or believe in an after-life such as heaven are the least likely to fear death. Likewise, skeptics or atheists seem to have the highest rate of necrophobia. The fear of death also decreases as we get older and start to accept the facts of life. Necrophobia is also commonly referred to as thanatophobia.
Thanatophobia is derived from “thanatos,” a word referring to the personification of death. This personification often leads to one believing that death itself is an entity of its own. In some religions, this entity is known as the angel of death. In English, “death” is frequently known as the Grim Reaper, a skeletal figure wearing a long cloak and carrying a long scythe. The stories, myths and legends of the Grim Reaper vary from culture to culture. Some believe that the Grim Reaper is actually able to cause death, while others believe the Reaper is merely a guide to the after-life.
The Grim Reaper has been popularized by American pop culture in recent years. In various episodes of the popular adult cartoon Family Guy, “Death” is featured in a dark cloak with a sarcastic sense of humor. The 2003 tv series Dead Like Me is about an 18 year old girl who dies only to “wake up” and discover she is now a Grim Reaper. In this series, the Grim Reapers are have to remove the soul from the body before that person actually dies. In other movies, the Grim Reaper is a terrifying entity. In 1980 a slasher film was released with the title “The Grim Reaper.”
A similar movie of the same name was released in 1997. The 2000 movie Final Destination is about a group of teenagers who learn how to “cheat” death. Films and television shows frequently portray ghosts and the undead. In some instances the dead help the living. This is the case in The Sixth Sense, Meet Joe Black, What Lies Beneath, etc. In some movies, the living help the dead, as seen in the movie Stir of Echoes. These movies contribute to necrophobia in both a positive and a negative way, depending on the person. The only thing that remains clear is that necrophobia will continue to take a prominent stance in our society.