OCD Death Obsessions: How to Overcome Your Fear of Death
Do you have non-stop intrusive thoughts or fears about death and dying? Are you struggling with uncontrollable fears of dying or a friend or loved one dying? If so, you may be experiencing OCD death obsessions. OCD death obsessions are not only frightening and debilitating, but also life-altering.
This type of OCD is so severe that it interferes with your quality of life. If you have ever felt any of the things listed above, you are not alone and there is help available. You do not have to suffer alone. You have come to the right place because this article introduces you to OCD death obsessions, discusses its symptoms, causes, and risk factors, and suggests that you can cope with it, while you seek treatment.
What Are OCD Death Obsessions?
OCD death obsessions are obsessive thought patterns that involve worrying about death and dying beyond normal concerns. This type of OCD typically manifests as a fear of dying or the fear of a friend or loved one dying. People who struggle with OCD death obsessions may become overwhelmed by intrusive, upsetting, and persistent thoughts, fears, and images about death and dying.
These obsessions can lead to high levels of stress, death anxiety, depression, and/or emotional distress. Because OCD death obsessions are powerful and all-consuming, they can be hard to manage. Living with OCD death obsessions can be rough, but they can be managed with the right OCD treatment. Still, finding that right balance between managing one’s irrational fears and accepting the inevitability of death can be tricky for some OCD sufferers.
Symptoms of OCD Death Obsessions
OCD death obsessions can cause a variety of symptoms, such as intrusive thoughts and images, an unrelenting fear of dying, avoidance of death-related topics, and death-related rituals or routines. Intrusive thoughts, fears, and images can involve excessive worrying about death and dying, such as fearing your own death, or the death of a friend or loved one. These thoughts, fears, and images can cause significant emotional distress, and be hard to ignore. People who suffer from OCD death obsessions tend to have an irrational fear of death. To cope with this fear of death, OCD sufferers who struggle with death obsessions may avoid situations or topics that could trigger this fear.
This avoidance may involve avoiding death-related conversations or activities, such as funerals or memorial services. These individuals may also engage in death-related rituals or routines. These rituals or routines may involve repeating certain phrases or numbers, and/or ruminating on death-related topics. The goal of these rituals and routines is to provide temporary relief. The problem is this can also have a detrimental effect on a person’s mental health.
Causes and Risk Factors for OCD Death Obsessions
The exact cause of OCD death obsessions is unknown, however, there are certain factors that may increase the risk of developing this obsession. For instance, genetics may play a role in the development of OCD death obsessions. People with a family history of OCD or another mental health condition are more likely to develop OCD death obsessions. Environmental factors, such as stress, trauma, or a major life change, can also increase the risk of OCD death obsessions. Lastly, people who have experienced a traumatic event, such as the death of a loved one, may be more likely to develop this type of OCD.
Living with OCD Death Obsessions
Living with OCD death obsessions can be taxing and life-altering. Even with OCD treatment, people with this type of OCD struggle with their death-related thoughts, fears, and images. Personal reviews are the best way to understand the ins and outs of OCD death obsessions.
Listed below are the real-life stories of people who struggle with OCD death obsessions:
“In 8th grade, all I could think about was death. I mean, 24/7, literally, I could not stop thinking about it. I had this feeling of suffocation in my chest that just would not go away. To this day, I still have episodes of death obsessions. Sometimes, I think I am getting better, but then all of a sudden, there I am again with extreme death anxiety. It normally gets better for me when it is time for me to take college classes/exams, but if I am not in school, I start obsessing about death. It is horrible.”
“One of my biggest obsessions involves suicide. I live in constant fear that I may kill myself, even though I am not suicidal. Outside of that, I assume a cold is lymphoma, a mole is melanoma, heartburn is a heart attack, and the migraines that come from all this BS thinking – probably having a stroke.”
“I had heartburn one day last year on my way to work. I got off the highway, and turned around to go home telling myself I do not feel well. I made a split second decision to turn off and go to the hospital. Then, I had the mother of all panic attacks. I thought I was dying. I started thinking of family and this was it. My whole body went numb. So, I got in the car and ran to the ER. All of that commotion just for them to tell me it was just heartburn…..yeah….”
“I’m 32, and have dealt with OCD since the end of high school. I find that worsens, depending on my anxiety level. I used to obsess over having AIDS. I spent 45 minutes looking for lumps in my breast yesterday. I am constantly convinced that I have colon cancer. I also have non-stop intrusive thoughts about my cats’ mortality, which brings me to tears.
When my mom (who has had a heart attack before) falls asleep in her recliner, I check repeatedly that she is breathing (when I am in town which is about twice-a-year). Every time I leave my parents’ house to fly back home, I cry for hours because I am afraid they will die and I will never see them again.” I also constantly think about the physical effects of death and dying. I basically regret my whole life because it is basically half over, and the rest of it will just be pain. It’s unbearable.”
Coping Strategies for OCD Death Obsessions
If you are living with OCD death obsessions, adopting healthy coping strategies and strategies may be beneficial when it comes to effectively managing your OCD symptoms. One effective coping strategy is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is a form of meditation that involves focusing on the present moment, and being aware of your thoughts and feelings. Practicing mindfulness mediation can help reduce intrusive thoughts and images, while providing a sense of calm.
Cognitive restructuring may also be beneficial for people struggling with OCD death obsessions. Cognitive restructuring is a type of CBT that involves identifying and challenging negative thinking patterns. Cognitive restructuring can help reduce the severity of a person’s intrusive thoughts, and reduce their fear of dying. Self-care is another effective way to cope with OCD death obsessions. Self-care may involve activities, such as exercising, utilizing relaxation techniques, and eating healthy foods.
It could also involve spending time with friends and loved ones, going on dates with your partner, getting a massage, expressing yourself through art, music, or writing, or simply taking some time for yourself to relax and revitalize. Adopting a healthy lifestyle, getting proper rest, taking a nap, getting acupuncture or hypnosis, going shopping, or going on a vacation are also forms of self-care. The goal of self-care is to help reduce your stress, improve your mood, and reduce the severity of your intrusive thoughts and fears.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for OCD Death Obsessions
Like OCD, in general, researchers suggest that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure-response and prevention (ERP) therapy, a form of CBT, are effective treatments for OCD death obsessions. CBT and ERP therapy are forms of “talk therapy” that focus on identifying and challenging negative thinking patterns. CBT involves changing how people perceive events and experiences in an effort to change their behaviors.
For people who suffer from OCD death obsessions this means changing how they view death and dying in an effort to stop the intrusive thoughts, fears, and/or rituals or routines connected to them. CBT may also involve exploring irrational beliefs associated with OCD death obsessions, and finding ways to challenge and reframe them in a more positive, healthy, and accepting way.
ERP therapy involves gradually exposing people with OCD death obsessions to their fears of dying and death to reduce their extreme or excessive fears. These psychotherapies may involve talking about death-related topics, like what happens when someone dies, why people die, or like discussing funeral or memorial service details, or visiting friends and loved ones at the cemetery.
Mindfulness Techniques for OCD Death Obsessions
Mindfulness is a type of meditation that involves focusing on the present moment, and being present and aware of your thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness meditation can be an effective self-help tool for managing emotionally distressing thoughts, fears, and images surrounding OCD death obsessions.
Mindfulness meditation techniques for OCD death obsessions may consist of focusing on your breathing patterns and/or being more aware of bodily sensations, such as taking slow, deep breaths, and clearing your mind of negative thoughts by visualizing happier times. Focusing on deep breathing and being more aware of what is happening in your body can help ease your death and dying obsession, while helping you become and remain calm and collected.
Engaging in activities that involve your five senses – seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting can also be a form of mindfulness meditation. Activities like listening to music, cooking, smelling flowers from your garden, taking a nature walk, bird-watching, or listening to people laugh and have a good time are all ways to practice mindfulness meditation. Thus, practicing mindfulness meditation can help distract you from the non-stop, unwanted intrusive thoughts, fears, and images of death and dying, while helping you get a better grip on your OCD symptoms.
Self-Care Strategies for OCD Death Obsessions
As mentioned above, self-care plays an important role in the management of OCD death obsessions. Self-care may involve exercising, practicing relaxation techniques, and utilizing natural remedies and self-help tools, like reading books on OCD, downloading OCD apps, joining OCD support groups or forums, partaking in CBD (to reduce stress and anxiety and ease the mind), and investing in online OCD recovery treatment programs, like Impulse Therapy.
Exercising is beneficial for people who struggle with OCD death obsessions because it boost serotonin, dopamine, and adrenaline levels, ease stress and improving their mood. All it takes is 15 minutes of exercise each day to reduce intrusive thoughts, fears, and images surrounding death and dying, and provide a sense of peace and stability.
Likewise, relaxation techniques, like progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, taking a warm bath or shower, practicing yoga or mindfulness meditation, journaling, reading a juicy book, chatting with a friend, partner, or loved one are effective ways to reduce stress and anxiety and stop the OCD death obsessions. Progressive muscle relaxation can also help to reduce stress and anxiety associated with OCD death obsessions through the tensing and releasing of various muscles in the body.
Contrary to popular belief, adopting a healthy diet can also alleviate the stress and anxiety triggering or worsening OCD death obsessions. Consuming healthy food filled with vitamins can improve your mood and help you think more clearly. Avoiding junk and processed foods, like pizzas (especially frozen pizzas), salty fries or chips, sugary candy, sodas, juices, and cookies, and frozen dinners can help you get a grip on your OCD symptoms.
Lifestyle Changes for OCD Death Obsessions
Making positive lifestyle changes can also be an effective way of managing OCD death obsessions. These changes may include establishing a solid bedtime routine and going to bed earlier, taking midday naps, when necessary, reducing your caffeine or alcohol intake, and engaging in behaviors that provide you with a sense of relief and calm.
Understand that getting proper sleep plays an important role in the treatment and management of OCD death obsessions. A lack of sleep or insomnia can increase your stress and anxiety, which can cause nightmares or night terrors, and thereby, exacerbate death-related intrusive thoughts, fears, and images. Thus, it is imperative that you establish a solid bedtime routine and get enough sleep each night.
Reducing your caffeine and/or alcohol intake is also a helpful way to effectively manage your OCD death obsessions. Caffeine and alcohol can increase stress and anxiety, which can trigger or worsen OCD death obsessions.
Lastly, engaging in behaviors that provide you with a sense of relief and calm can be beneficial for OCD death obsessions. Behaviors like reading, practicing yoga, mindfulness meditation, and/or tai chi can help ease your stress and anxiety, while offering you a sense of peace.
Support Groups for OCD Death Obsessions
OCD support groups are also an effective way to manage OCD death obsessions. Support groups can provide safe and supportive environments to discuss your death-related intrusive thoughts, fears, and images, and share advice and healthy coping strategies.
Online support groups can be especially helpful for people struggling with OCD death obsessions. More specifically, these groups can provide a sense of connection, “family,” or community with people suffering from this type of OCD, which may reduce feelings of loneliness and social isolation, due to their OCD death obsessions.
If you are grappling with OCD death obsessions, it is important to find a therapist who specializes in OCD and anxiety disorders. An OCD therapist can provide a safe and supportive environment to discuss your death-related OCD thoughts, fears, and images, while helping you find healthy and effective ways to manage your OCD symptoms.
Living with OCD death obsessions can be difficult and overwhelming. However, practicing healthy coping strategies, such as mindfulness meditation, art therapy, music therapy, cognitive restructuring, and self-care like going shopping, talking with friends and/or loved ones, going for a run, taking a warm bubble bath or hot shower, practicing daily positive affirmations, learning a new skill, or simply doing whatever brings you joy are great ways to effectively manage your OCD symptoms.
Seeking treatment from a therapist who specializes in OCD and anxiety disorders is also an important step in your journey toward becoming OCD-free. Support groups, forums, apps and workbooks are also good ways to manage OCD death obsessions, along with other OCD treatments, such as acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), couples therapy, trauma therapies, individual therapy, hypnotherapy, SSRI antidepressants, etc.
If you are living with OCD death obsessions, it is important that you know that you are not alone. There are many resources available that can help you better manage your OCD death obsessions, and find peace and acceptance.
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- Menzies, R. E., & Dar-Nimrod, I. (2017). Death anxiety and its relationship with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 126(4), 367–377. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1037/abn0000263
- Moore, M. (2021). What to know about OCD and death obsessions. Psych Central. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/ocd/ocd-and-death-obsessions