018: Ask David — Overcoming the Fear of Death

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!

2 thoughts on “018: Ask David — Overcoming the Fear of Death

  1. Hi David,

    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


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