Death is a natural part of life and one of the most feared. Almost everyone thinks about death and dying now and then. It's normal to wonder what happens to us when we die, if it hurts, or if we come back as something else in a different lifetime. Some of these questions are spiritual, while others are philosophical without clear answers to these great life mysteries.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Is It OK to Think About Death All of the Time?
- Reasons You May Often Think About Death
- What Can You Do If You Want to Stop Thinking About Death All of the Time?
Certain individuals are more curious than others about death, and they obsess over how they'll die and when. Fixating this much on death can also be normal without cause for concern as there are many different reasons why someone might want to consider death overall.
The problems with overthinking death start to appear when a person can't stop obsessing over death and dying, and it starts negatively affecting different aspects of their lives, such as their work and pleasure.
Is It OK to Think About Death All of the Time?
Being introspective and reflective about death now and then is normal and can be a healthy way of acknowledging one’s mortality. Specifically contemplating one’s death is also a natural part of the thought process when these thoughts are non-intrusive and only happen infrequently.
However, it’s not normal to think of death every day. Sometimes, the events around you cause you to focus more on dying than you usually would. World events such as wars, acts of terrorism, and large-scale natural disasters affect how we think about death and dying. Under these circumstances, it’s not unusual to be preoccupied with death, especially if you’re directly affected by those events.
Having endless thoughts about death can signal a deeper underlying issue unnoticed, such as depression or feeling lonely and isolated. Feelings of sadness and being alone are not uncommon today because of the abrupt changes in how we socialize and work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As things slowly get back to normal, these thoughts should begin subsiding as other activities and events fill your thoughts and subconscious.
Reasons You May Often Think About Death
While often thinking about death is sometimes expected, obsessing over it isn't. You may suddenly begin contemplating your death, which leads to a healthy preoccupation with ensuring your end-of-life planning is in order before disaster strikes. Conscious thoughts about death also benefit you by helping control irrational fears of dying that keep you from having a harmful fixation on mortality. The following are some common reasons you may not stop thinking about dying.
You have death anxiety
Death anxiety stems from being afraid of dying. Individuals who fear death or dying will typically have obsessive or intrusive thoughts about what happens if and when they die. The clinical name for this mental health disorder is thanatophobia, which is feeling scared of death without a rational explanation. These fears tend to subside the more we normalize thinking about death and having meaningful conversations about what happens at life's end.
The more we know about what to expect in any situation, like knowing what happens when we die, helps calm these thoughts in our minds. Death anxiety causes us to overthink the end of life, including not being financially prepared or fearing illness and disease.
Someone close to you died
It’s natural to contemplate death after suffering the loss of a friend or other close loved one. Grief can manifest in many ways, one of which is having a sudden preoccupation with death. Most people won’t deal with mortality or even the idea of one day dying because they aren’t ready to face the fact that they will also die one day.
We may look at our mortality more closely when we experience death, even that of a stranger or someone we’re not particularly close to. Some people will use this time as a jumping point to get their end-of-life affairs in order, while others will freeze in fear of their sudden death.
Death obsession disorder
Two standard identifiers in death obsession disorder are depression and anxiety. Many people who can't stop thinking about death also suffer from grief-related depression. These individuals may constantly think of death and how to die but may not necessarily make plans to end their lives.
While there are acceptable levels of death obsession, a person who has trouble functioning due to this may need to seek therapy. Death obsession differs from the fear of death in thanatophobia in that obsession is found only in certain personality types such as neurosis. Typically, a neurotic person exhibits the following traits:
- Emotional instability
Afraid of this being all there is to life
Some people fixated on death tend to be dissatisfied with at least some aspect of their lives or how life turned out. These feelings aren't always negative. Sometimes a person who's accomplished a lot in life and reached a high level of success at home and in business might feel as if they're ready for whatever's waiting for them on the other side of death. They often feel prepared to graduate to the next level because they think there's nothing more for them to do here on earth in this lifetime.
Fear of losing your parents
As adults get older and closer to retirement age, they think more about their mortality. They may also fixate on a newfound fear of their parents dying when they realize that as they age, so too are their parents. They may face age-related illness or general deterioration of the mind and body for the first time.
The death of a parent can also represent a significant life milestone for some individuals because when a parent dies, the next generation moves up the line of death succession. These life changes can lead to many individuals' deep fears and anxiety about death and dying.
It’s in your personality
A morbid or depressing personality causes individuals to think about death often. This condition doesn’t, by definition, mean that a person is suffering from depression, but it can mean that a person’s psychological makeup makes them more prone to having these thoughts. There’s professional treatment available for this condition.
However, self-help also does wonders to help elevate a person’s mood so that they don’t feel bogged down by these thoughts of death, such as mindfulness meditation, socialization, and picking up a hobby. Anything that helps to distract the mind can stop overthinking about death or intrusive thoughts in your head.
What Can You Do If You Want to Stop Thinking About Death All of the Time?
You can learn how to stop worrying about death all the time and overcome death anxiety by taking charge of your mental health and wellness. Anxiety is a common cause of racing thoughts about death. And although the brain can process millions of bits of information per second, our brain can only handle only a tiny fraction of this before creating an overload of information in our heads.
If you all suffer from racing thoughts about death, here are some tips to help you overcome the fear and anxiety that may be causing it.
Accept that death is a part of life
When you realize that everyone living must die one day, you may begin to see death differently. Researchers and scholars have pinpointed every living person's human life span as only a few short decades. The length varies depending on the gender you were assigned at birth, your diet, and lifestyle, where you live, and what you consume.
Other factors in determining your natural life span come into play, but let's put that number at eighty years. If a person doesn't die by accident or disease within those eighty years, they can expect their life to come to a close naturally as they are near eighty. This estimate takes the mystery of when you can expect to die, allowing you time to plan for it.
Recognize your intrusive thoughts
Learn to distinguish between intrusive thoughts and other thought patterns you may be experiencing. When you sense your anxiety on the rise, this is an excellent time to practice mindfulness by recognizing and acknowledging your thoughts and releasing them as soon as possible.
Letting go of the racing thoughts that lead you to feel fear and anxiety is an excellent way you can stop thinking about death all the time. Ask yourself why a particular idea came up and how it made you feel. Keep a journal on when and why you think it happened and what you did to calm yourself down.
Getting your body into a regular movement routine trains your mind to focus on things other than thoughts about death. Exercise produces chemical reactions in your mind and body that contribute to your overall mental well-being.
Any time you sense these intrusive thoughts popping up, get to moving your body to stop them from manifesting fully. Go for a walk, dance around your living room, or go on a bike ride. The more your body keeps moving, the less idleness your mind has to make up faulty scenarios in your head.
Tune in to your spirituality
Your spiritual or religious upbringing may provide much comfort and reprieve from constant thoughts about death. Try reconnecting to the lessons or scriptures from sacred texts or other scholarly books you’re familiar with to remind yourself what they say about what happens to us when we die.
You may need a refresher on these concepts to help ease your mind and avoid certain fears related to death’s unknown. You may also want to consider spiritual counseling as you look toward your faith for comfort.
Seek professional help
Sometimes, self-help isn’t enough to stop you from racing thoughts about death, and it may start interfering with your everyday life. If none of the self-help ideas here help you, you might need professional counseling or therapy to help you recognize the origins of your fear and anxiety.
There’s nothing wrong with needing and asking for help to shift your mind from racing thoughts to a more balanced thought process. You can find recommendations for therapists online or in your local community.
Thinking About Death Non-Stop
Anyone can develop a healthy relationship with their mind and thoughts to help stop the often debilitating thoughts about death and dying. Whether you’re prone to having a morbid personality or can’t stop imagining your death because of past trauma and experiences, there are steps you can take right now to help release some of those old thinking patterns.