In this short podcast, David and Fabrice address this question submitted by a listener:
Dear Dr. Burns,
I read Feeling Good twenty years ago. It was a wonderful relief and help to me. Your book has helped me live a better and balanced life. The best part was passing the knowledge on to my daughter. I thought I read a wonderful description of how to handle death anxiety in the book. I was describing it to a friend, but could’ find it in the book.
Is it in another book?
Your reply would be considered an act of generosity.
Thank you! Mary
Existential Therapists believe that the fear of death is universal and is at the root of most emotional problems. Dr. Burns argues that the fear of death is actually quite rare, but does occasionally occur and is extremely treatable. In this podcast, David’s describes his quick, three-part “cure” for the fear of death.
Oddly, every patient he treated in this way insisted at the end of the session that it didn’t help. And even stranger is the fact that 100% of them returned the next week and announced that they actually had been cured and were, in fact, no longer afraid of death!
Taken a listen and see what you think!
I loved your podcast. I have a somewhat related question. This is not a fear of death per se, but have you treated anyone with a fear of eternal damnation or offending God in general? I have read that some historical figures like Martin Luther and Ignatius of Loyola had this type of fear (Scrupulosity). This seems like a challenging fear to overcome because the sufferer can never be 100% positive that he will not be condemned.
Yes, Rob, these fears are very common in individuals with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorer). I have had really good luck treating OCD with the methods described in my book, When Panic Attacks. I describe four powerful treatment models for anxiety that will be featured on upcoming podcasts: the cognitive model, the motivational model, the exposure model, and the hidden emotion model. Treatment that integrates all four approaches is, in my experience, by far the most effective. Many therapists get stuck on using just one approach, like Exposure with Response Prevention, and this is a mistake, in my opinion. all the best, david
Dr. Burns, thank you for the very excellent podcast. I’d also like to tell you how grateful I am for the books When Panic Attacks and for Feeling Good. Both have helped me tremendously. Your work in the field of psychology is one of the closest things to a miracle I have experienced over the last 7 years. Thank you very much.
Thanks for the very kind words! All the best, david
My fear is that after I die I will feel depressed and anxious for eternity.
Good point! I had a visitation from God, who wanted me to let people know they are giving out free copies of my books, Feeling Good and Feeling Great now, in heaven, and have organized really cool practice classes, too! warmly, david
You are so on point with this! I am a long time fan of your work, and I have a long history of health anxiety. My therapist tells me that this is really death anxiety. I’m not sure I agree…but do you have any recommendations for someone with health anxiety? ( imaginal exposure therapy has not been helpful) I’d be eternally grateful for any insight.
Read my book, When Panic Attacks, and listen to the anxiety pdocasts or take the free anxietey class. You’ll learn a ton! d
Thanks, will try to include this in an upcoming Ask David podcast, if that’s okay! d
That’s such a welcome explanation. I think my fear just went. I have had this death fear as 3 years ago I lost someone special very suddenly. It still feels like yesterday and has pushed me into wondering constantly about death. Now that you have cured this problem I hope I can get over my anger and sadness of the whole idea of life and death. 💞
Thanks, one step at a time. Would you be less angry if no death. Think about the consequences. No one could die, just get older and more demented, and the earth would fill up with more and more people until there is no room anywhere, and we’d all be shoulder toshoulder, hungry, thirsty, broken and in pain. But no death! Not for me, as they say! david