What Happens When You Have a Fear of Cemeteries (Coimetrophobia)?

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If you've ever tried to get over your fear of cemeteries, then you know that it can be challenging at times. The thought alone of figuring out what to do about it can make you want to give up.

It helps to know that whenever a particular phobia tries to take over your life, there are some things you can do to overcome it. You'll first have to understand what your particular fears are and know how to approach each.

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Phobias can threaten your sense of being and can severely impact your life. In particular, the fear of cemeteries can provoke overwhelming feelings of dread, most notably because they arouse painful memories in some people.

Experiencing coimetrophobia is not as easy as saying you fear cemeteries, as sometimes there's usually a deeper-rooted association with it. Pinpointing the underlying fears giving way to any phobia will help you in getting past them. 

What Is Coimetrophobia?

The fear of cemeteries is known as coimetrophobia. For some, the fear of cemeteries is not just anxiety over visiting a cemetery but actual fear that causes significant distress.

People suffering from this type of fear usually avoid going to cemeteries because they think they can feel the presence of spirits around them or fear the unknown. Others still are uncomfortable with the idea of being surrounded by dead people.

Coimetrophobia is a specific phobia and is a part of the anxiety disorder found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). 

Sufferers who experience extreme anxiety when exposed to cemeteries may have an adverse reaction and exhibit physical distress symptoms. This extreme anxiety may contribute to them making painstaking efforts to avoid cemeteries.

Some even go as far as preventing driving by them or even looking at them. This extreme avoidance usually causes distress in daily routines such as functioning at home and at work.

For example, someone will avoid going to a cemetery or a funeral or even visiting the grave of a loved one because of their extreme fear. People afraid of cemeteries may also choose to live in an area far away from any graveyard. Coimetrophobia may create a false feeling of security, but it can lead to chronic depression in the long run if left untreated. 

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What Happens When People Have a Fear of Cemeteries?

Experiencing coimetrophobia usually has nothing to do directly with the fear of cemeteries by itself. Whenever someone has a fear of cemeteries, they’ll also typically exhibit a fear of funeral or memorial services brought on by painful memories and causing adverse physical reactions. 

Like most phobias, symptoms are unique to each person and vary depending on their deep fears. Coimetrophobia can bring out severe panic attacks and great difficulty sleeping, along with other physiological reactions in those who have a deeply-rooted fear of cemeteries. Physical symptoms may include:

  • Trembling and shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pains or heart palpitations
  • Dizziness and elevated blood pressure
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Rapid speech
  • The inability to speak or think clearly
  • Hot and cold flashes

These are all side effects common to a full-blown panic attack and can be treated effectively in much the same way.

But why do cemeteries elicit such strong negative emotions in some people?

Part of the reason is our conditioning to being afraid of cemeteries based on films and the entertainment industry in general. The movie industry has long portrayed graveyards as places where bad things happen and where you should be afraid to walk alone at night.

Cemeteries often have nothing to do with the fictional reality portrayed in movies that perpetuate these irrational fears and anxieties. Most of it can be chalked up to fictionalizations elicited for entertainment purposes only.

Can People ‘Get Over’ Their Fear of Cemeteries?

As with all fears, coimetrophobia isn’t rooted in only one type of fear. Most times, the fear of cemeteries has a deeper cause and is sometimes associated with the fear of the unknown.

The good news is that you can overcome the fear of cemeteries. Learning to live a life free of this debilitating fear and anxiety is attainable. The following are some ways to help you get over this type of fear:

1. Talk it out

Talking about death with family or your support circle is one way of getting over the fear of cemeteries. When talking to others, it’s crucial not only to share your experiences but to get other’s perspectives on cemeteries and death, in general.

You’ll learn how other people deal with these same fears, if any, and what they’ve done to help them cope. Talking about things can be very healing and an excellent way of dealing with your worries. You may find that you’re not the only one dealing with this type of fear.

2. Meditate

Meditation is another way of curing your fear of cemeteries and of calming your mind from irrational thoughts. Images in your head of dying and graveyards can be terrifying, as can be the thoughts of no longer existing in this world. The fear can be all-consuming, causing you to either overthink dying or to avoid the idea altogether.

Meditation can teach you to live in the here and now, to concentrate on the present, and stop worrying about what’s coming next. Meditation can also take away thanatophobia (the fear of death), the fear of cemeteries, and feeling scared of death

3. Change your perspective

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one method of treating coimetrophobia. CBT aims to teach a person coping mechanisms as they learn to change how they see and think about their fears and anxieties.

CBT creates a shift in a person’s mindset to start thinking of their worries from a new perspective. It involves rethinking learned behaviors and seeing things from a different perspective. CBT also aims to reduce a person’s fears enough to learn to cope with them and reduce the amount of fear they would’ve ordinarily experienced.

4. Confront your fears

Confronting your fears when it comes to getting over your fear of cemeteries may come in the form of exposure therapy. Facing your fears is a method proven to be effective when dealing with coimetrophobia.

Getting exposed to cemeteries gradually is a proven way of overcoming this irrational fear. This type of treatment aims to get a person to overcome their fears by facing them, experiencing the effects, and becoming desensitized by them over time.

5. Seek treatment

Although there are no specific treatments available for treating coimetrophobia, getting professional help to overcome your fears can be highly beneficial when having difficulty moving past your fears.

A trained professional counselor or therapist can help you find any underlying causes that contribute to this fear so that together you can work on confronting and getting through each.

Treatment for coimetrophobia may come in the form of cognitive-behavioral therapy, talk therapy, or general psychotherapy. Other treatment methods may include yoga, meditation, and mindfulness.

Can You Help a Loved One Be Less Fearful of Cemeteries?

Dissolving your loved one’s fear of cemeteries isn't as easy as giving them facts and figures or forcing them to confront their fears head-on. Some people will need years of therapy and treatment to get over their underlying anxieties. There's no quick fix for getting through phobias.

Talk therapy is one of the most common types of treatment for this type of fear. A grief counselor or therapist can help your loved one overcome coimetrophobia. 

When phobias affect someone you love, it's generally a good idea to help them seek treatment before someone they know and love dies. They won't have enough time to cope with these feelings in the days between the death and memorial service or funeral. The result is that your loved one would miss the funeral, burial, or memorial because of their fears and anxieties.

Here are some ways to help someone be more comfortable around cemeteries.

1. Help them open up about their fears

Giving your loved one's space and permission to talk about their anxieties may help them overcome their fear of cemeteries. Talking about why they might have this attitude toward cemeteries is one way of calming their fears and rationalizing their racing thoughts. 

2. Encourage them to show emotion

Providing someone with a safe environment to share their feelings and emotions is one way of permitting your loved ones to open up and talk about why they might be fearful of cemeteries. Try not to be judgmental when listening.

3. Support them through their fears

Showing support to someone who has a fear of cemeteries will help validate them and what they’re going through. Try not to say things that might make it seem like a bad idea confiding in you. Saying things like, “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” or “You should be more afraid of the living than the dead,” are two examples of what not to say.

4. Explore spirituality

Taking a closer look at your loved one’s spiritual or religious beliefs may lead to the discovery of some of the underlying reasons why your loved one has certain attitudes toward death and dying, in general. Together, you might find that what makes up their fear is what their religious upbringing taught them to think and believe.

5. Suggest therapy

Attending grief therapy or counseling is one way for your loved one to confront their fears head-on. A trained therapist will help reveal some of the root causes of their avoidance of cemeteries or their thanatophobia altogether. You might suggest giving therapy a try to see if it’s right for them. There's plenty of free and low-cost online grief counseling and therapist services available online.

Getting Past Your Fear of Cemeteries

You can go back and forth between your anxiety and acceptance for some time when trying to work past your fear of cemeteries. As unfruitful and frustrating as things may seem, try and stick with working through your setbacks.

It’ll take some time to work out these fears internally, but with each attempt, you’re gradually making internal changes that one day will lead to healing. Your worries will calm down in time, and your death anxieties will reduce, and both will eventually disappear. 

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