Fear of losing someone you love

Fear of losing someone you love
Written By: Counselling Psychologist
M.Sc. Psychology - Swansea University, UK.
Reviewed By: Clinical Psychologist
National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Visual Disabilities, Dehradun - M.Phil
Last Updated: 15-06-2023

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Fear of losing someone ( Thanatophobia )

Fear of losing someone you love or someone close to you can sometimes develop as an irrational thought or visualization of what will happen if the loved one disappears or die. This thought sometimes impacts daily life, and the present moment and cripples the thinking process. The fear of losing someone or the phobia of losing someone or death anxiety is called Thanatophobia. The extreme thought of dying or fear of losing someone you love is sometimes so intense and cripples in an unhealthy way the daily life.

 

Fear of losing someone you love is natural as we are social beings. Emotional or other forms of dependency are the causal factor of fear of losing loved ones. The phobia of losing someone may also root in the thoughts of "what will I do without them?"

Fear of losing someone is based on not accepting the fact that humans are mortal. Thanatophobia is a severe phobia of dying or death itself. Death anxiety is another name for this condition. Concerns for your demise or the demise of a loved one may be causing you anxiety.

The fear of losing someone you love is very common. The above facts will help you overcome this fear and if it doesn’t help then you might need to seek professional help. Its treatment concentrates on becoming skilled at refocusing the anxieties and talking about your concerns and feelings.

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How does the fear of losing someone build?

It is not unusual for the fear of losing someone you care about to start as a child. Although childhood trauma and loss may not seem to have anything to do with romance and romantic relationships, your early relationships usually serve as the foundation for all of your subsequent relationships, and you frequently carry the scars from your early friendships and relationships with your parents well into adulthood. Parental neglect or abuse is a typical cause of this phobia. Parents who are otherwise excellent frequently aren t even aware of their negligence. This is mainly because some people are unaware that neglect also includes emotional neglect.

Parents who put forth a lot of effort to support their family may feel as though they are raising their children beautifully since they are fed, receive a good education, and have everything they could ever want. However, they could accidentally overlook, minimize, or disregard a child s emotional needs. This may occasionally affect how a person bonds with others or feels, as well as how they handle their emotions.

As a result of a loss, one may experience anxiety about other losses. If a loved one has passed away, or if someone you liked and trusted has abandoned you or deceived you, you may grow quite afraid that it may happen again. These emotions frequently operate as a silent undercurrent in your day-to-day existence and only become apparent once a new relationship has started. They are difficult to define and label. These emotions might manifest as clingy, controlling behavior, placing unreasonable demands on your spouse, and the need for continual contact.

Understanding the two distinctions of the fear of losing someone.

Let s be very specific about the fear of losing someone since anyone with existential anxiety can be stuck circling in the "what ifs." There are two important differences:

First is when you are anxious about the coming death of a loved one who is suffering from a serious illness or is in a high-risk situation. And second, is when you are unable to stop worrying about the death of your loved ones even though they are not really at risk.

Causes of Thanatophobia

Thanatophobia, or the fear of death, can be caused by a variety of factors, both psychological and environmental. Here are some of the most common causes:

  • Traumatic experiences related to death or dying: This could include a near-death experience, witnessing the death of a loved one, or experiencing a personal illness or injury that made you feel close to death.
  • Loss of a loved one: The death of a close friend or family member can trigger thanatophobia, especially if the death was unexpected or traumatic.
  • Religious beliefs: Certain religious beliefs, such as those that teach of eternal punishment after death, can contribute to a fear of death.
  • Illness or injury: Being diagnosed with a serious illness or experiencing a major injury can cause people to focus on their own mortality and develop a fear of death.
  • Existential concerns: As people age, they may begin to contemplate the meaning of life and their own mortality, which can lead to anxiety and fear of death.
  • Anxiety disorders: People with other anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder, are more likely to develop thanatophobia.
  • Genetics: Some research suggests that there may be a genetic predisposition to anxiety disorders, including phobias like thanatophobia.

It is important to note that thanatophobia is a treatable condition. If you are struggling with a fear of death, there are effective treatments available, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and exposure therapy.

Signs and Symptoms of Thanatophobia

There seems to be a slight misunderstanding. While Thanatophobia is related to the fear of death, it doesn t encompass the specific fear of losing someone. The fear of losing someone loved is often associated with separation anxiety or fear of abandonment, which are different conditions.

Here are the signs and symptoms of Thanatophobia (fear of death):

  • Excessive and persistent fear or anxiety about death or dying: This fear can be triggered by thoughts of one s own mortality or the death of loved ones.
  • Physical symptoms of anxiety: When someone with Thanatophobia experiences fear or anxiety, they might also experience physical symptoms like:
  1. Increased heart rate
  2. Difficulty breathing
  3. Dizziness
  4. Sweating
  5. Nausea
  6. Panic attacks
  • Avoidance behaviors: People with Thanatophobia often try to avoid anything that reminds them of death, such as hospitals, funerals, or even talking about death.
  • Intrusive thoughts and images: People with Thanatophobia may have persistent and unwanted thoughts or images related to death and dying.
  • Preoccupation with death: They may spend a significant amount of time thinking about death and the dying process.
  • Difficulty functioning in daily life: The fear and anxiety associated with Thanatophobia can interfere with daily activities, work, and relationships.

If you are experiencing any of these signs and symptoms, it is important to seek professional help. A therapist can help you understand your fear and develop coping mechanisms to manage it.

Effects of Thanatophobia in Relationships

While Thanatophobia itself directly relates to the fear of death, it can indirectly affect relationships through its associated anxieties and behaviors. Here s how:

Emotional Distance:
The constant fear of losing loved ones can lead to emotional withdrawal and difficulty forming deep connections. This prevents individuals from fully opening up and experiencing the vulnerability that comes with close relationships.

Fearful individuals might subconsciously push people away to lessen the emotional pain they anticipate if the person dies. This creates a barrier to intimacy and closeness.

Control Issues:
The overwhelming anxiety can manifest as controlling behavior in relationships. Individuals might try to dictate activities and choices to safeguard their loved ones, even if it restricts their freedom and independence. This can create tension and resentment.

Increased Dependence:
Fearful individuals might become overly reliant on their partners, clinging to them and becoming excessively worried whenever they are apart. This dependence can be suffocating for the partner and create an unhealthy dynamic.

Communication Issues:
Talking about death or illness can be triggering for someone with Thanatophobia. This can lead to difficulty having open and honest communication about important life events and concerns, affecting the overall relationship health.

Impact on Activities:
The fear might limit them from participating in activities that might be perceived as risky, impacting shared experiences and creating limitations in enjoying life together.

It s important to note:
These are not universal experiences, and the severity varies depending on the individual and their coping mechanisms.

Individuals with Thanatophobia are not inherently "bad" partners. They might not always be aware of how their fear affects their relationships and need support and understanding.

Seeking professional help can equip individuals with Thanatophobia with coping mechanisms to manage their anxieties and build healthier relationships. Open communication with their partners can also foster understanding and create a supportive environment to address their concerns.

Few ways to overcome the fear of losing someone.

  • Stop trying to control things while it can be difficult, note that many things in life are out of your control, including fear of failure.

  • Recognition of death and suffering is part of life many things happen to everyone in their lifetime, and coping with death is certainly one of those things.

  • Spend some time alone with yourself. It is going to give you positive energy. Relax and spend a little time on your own to deal with thanatophobia and have the requisite confidence to conquer fear.

  • Trust yourself that you can deal with all of the fear of failure, it must be troubling how you are going to carry on if it happens. However, you must believe in yourself and how strong you are.

It might feel difficult to move on if anything bad happens. Believe that life goes on. It could seem like life ends right there, where there s a loss. Yet life goes on, time goes by, and you are going to go along with it.

Although life is difficult to move on your way. But to make things better, you must understand that the suffering of loved ones is going to happen one day, and whether you like it or not, you are forced to lose your loved ones. The earlier you understand, you will be able to conquer your fear.

Also, remember that it s never too late. Even though you have the worst fear of losing somebody you love, know that they are already alive in your memories and your thoughts. Anything you are doing is inspired by them. In that, you can take real comfort.

Therapy is available! A mental pattern that might be addressed in therapy is the fear of abandonment. In therapy, you can also address trauma, additional issues that may be related to these worries, and other fears that have an impact on your life. There are many different types of therapy, and the one that is best for you will depend on several things, including any prior therapies you may have used, the issue that is most pressing for you at the time you seek help, your personal preferences, your unique diagnosis, and so on.

Summary

The fear of losing someone is also known as Thanatophobia ie, phobia of losing someone, phobia of losing friends, or fear of losing someone you love and can be treated through Online Counseling by the Best Psychologists in India at HopeQure as they have helped thousands of people to overcome this fear, especially after the Covid 19 pandemic. The fear of dying can occasionally develop into irrational fear. For some people, the idea that we will one day cease to exist can be so debilitating that it starts to affect how they live their lives daily. For many people, while having a small amount of fear of dying is normal and good, having a crippling fear that keeps one from living daily life to the fullest is not good and is treatable.

The fear of losing someone you love can be overwhelming and painful. However, if you get the right assistance, you can handle it. Online Couple counseling is a helpful tool for couples dealing with this fear as it allows them to develop a deeper understanding of their relationship and learn healthy communication techniques. For those unable to attend in-person sessions, virtual therapy is a useful alternative that offers convenient, at-home help. It s important to find the right online therapist for your requirements, and HopeQure offers certified therapists that can provide effective and caring therapists in fields like marriage counseling and virtual counseling.

Our Online Therapy sessions will help you to cope with stress, anxiety, or depression. Schedule an appointment with our licensed therapists from the comfort of your home.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why am I so afraid of losing someone?

While we can t definitively answer the personal question of why you specifically fear losing someone, we can offer some potential explanations. This fear could stem from past experiences with loss, anxieties around vulnerability and intimacy, or even deeper existential concerns about mortality. Regardless of the root cause, understanding these fears can be empowering. Talking to a trusted friend, family member, or seeking professional help can equip you with strategies to manage your anxieties and build healthy, fulfilling relationships despite the fear.

What is the fear of losing someone called?

The fear of losing someone is not directly classified under Thanatophobia, which specifically refers to the fear of death. Instead, it aligns more closely with separation anxiety or the fear of abandonment. These terms describe the intense anxiety and distress experienced at the thought of being separated from loved ones, often stemming from a deep-seated need for security and attachment.

How do I get over my fear of losing a loved one?

While overcoming the fear of losing loved ones takes time and effort, here are some starting points: a) Acknowledge your feelings: Accept that this fear is normal and doesn t diminish your love for others. b) Talk about it: Open up to supportive family, friends, or a therapist about your anxieties. c) Focus on the present: Practice mindfulness and cherish the time you have with loved ones. d) Seek professional help: If your fear becomes debilitating, consider cognitive-behavioral therapy or other evidence-based practices. Remember, you don t have to navigate this alone, and seeking help can empower you to build resilience and find peace.

Why am I scared to lose my partner?

Fearing losing your partner is a common concern, and there could be several reasons behind it. It might stem from past experiences with loss, anxieties about your own self-worth, or simply the deep value you place on the relationship. To gain clarity, consider exploring these possibilities or seeking support from a therapist who can guide you towards understanding and overcoming this fear.

Is it normal to fear losing a friend?

Yes, fearing losing a friend is completely normal. It s natural to value close relationships and feel anxious about their potential loss. This fear can stem from the sadness of missing their presence, the uncertainty of the future, or past experiences of losing loved ones. While it s important to acknowledge this fear, focusing on nurturing the friendship and enjoying the present can help manage it and strengthen the bond.

Reference

References

  1. Ansell, E. B. (2005). Love and attachment: Attachment theory and relationship therapy. Routledge. (Chapter 6: Attachment and intimacy)
  2. Baldwin, M. W., & Carrell, P. (1996). Fear of intimacy and vulnerability in close relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70(4), 800-809. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0265407596134002
  3. Bartholomew, K., & Shaver, P. R. (1998). The interpersonal circle: Theory and evidence. Guilford Publications. (Chapter 8: Attributions about partners and close relationships)
  4. Diamond, L. M. (2004). Fear and intimacy: Understanding the role of fear in healthy and unhealthy relationships. American Psychological Association.
  5. Griffin, D. W., & Bartholomew, K. (1994). The experience of self and close relationships: Influences of culture, gender, and attachment style. Psychology Press. (Chapter 4: Attachment styles and the experience of self and close relationships)
  6. Hazan, C., & Shaver, P. R. (1987). Romantic love conceptualized as an attachment process. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52(3), 511-524. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1987-21950-001
  7. Leary, M. R., & Thompson, L. S. (2017). Interpersonal rejection: Concepts and current issues. Taylor & Francis. (Chapter 2: The fear of rejection in close relationships)
  8. Orbuch, N. I., & Bachiochi, D. W. (2004). Premarital couples therapy: Theory and practice. Guilford Publications. (Chapter 2: The foundations of healthy marriage)
  9. Pines, A. M., & Kasen, S. (2010). Coping with stress. SAGE Publications. (Chapter 14: Social support and coping)
  10. Wilson, K. G., & Wright, S. C. (2012). Attachment and close relationships. John Wiley & Sons. (Chapter 4: Attachment and close relationship development)

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