Overcoming the Fear of Death

Hi podcast fans and colleagues,

Many existential therapists believe that the fear of death is at the root of a great deal of anxiety, if not all anxiety. My clinical experience has not been consistent with this notion. I’ve had nearly 40,000 therapy sessions with patients struggling with anxiety, and very few had the fear of death.

But I have seen three kinds of patients who were afraid of death:

  1. Patients with panic disorder who think they’re on the verge of death during their panic attack
  2. Obsessive patients without panic disorder who are preoccupied with the fear of dying.
  3. Patients with terminal illnesses.

In my experience, all of these categories are pretty easy to treat.

Panic Attack Patients: Some individuals have panic attacks that are triggered by the belief that they are about to die or pass out. In my book, When Panic Attacks, I described a woman name Terri who had struggled with terrifying panic attacks for ten years prior to seeking treatment with me in Philadelphia. She was cured in six minutes when I used the Experimental Technique, which is arguably the most powerful technique ever developed for the treatment of anxiety.

The Experimental Technique is simple, but it requires a lot of courage on the part of the patient AND the therapist. You encourage the patient to do a test of the thought that is triggering the depression or anxiety. During each panic attack, Terri told herself that she was on the verge of a massive heart attack and that her windpipe was about to close off so that she wouldn’t be able to breath. If you had thoughts like that, and you believed them, you’d feel panic too!

With Terri’s permission, I induced a massive panic attack in the office, and then persuaded her to test her belief that she was having a heart attack by doing strenuous aerobics in the office. The video is mind blowing, as you see her going from sobbing and terror to uncontrollable laughter in just six minutes. And that ended ten years of misery.

Of course, the Experimental Technique is not a formula, since the experiment that every patient does will be different. That’s because we all have our own, unique negative thoughts when we’re struggling with depression or anxiety. Jumping jacks is NOT a treatment for panic attacks, depression, or anything else!

I hope to show the Terri video in my upcoming, May 19, 2019 workshop on the treatment of anxiety. If you think you might like to attend, you can find some information below.

Panic Disorder has become one of the easiest forms of anxiety to treat. Some panic patients do not fear death, but the fear of losing control and becoming insane. This fear can also be treated quickly with the Experimental Technique, but the experiment will be radically different. IN addition, the Experimental Technique is only one of many techniques that can lead to rapid recovery from all forms of anxiety, and not just panic attacks.

Patients without panic attacks who fear death. These patients can usually be treated rapidly as well. You’ll find out how in this ten-minute podcast on overcoming the fear of death! If you fear death, or have patients who are afraid of death, try the simple and fast method I describe in the podcast. You’ll probably think it couldn’t possibly help—and then you may discover that your fear of death has suddenly disappeared!

Patients with a terminal illness. These patients are usually also very easy to treat, since the thoughts that trigger their feelings of anxiety and depression are nearly always distorted. If you’d like to listen to a live therapy session with a dear colleague who was diagnosed unexpectedly with stage 4 lung cancer, click this link. I think you’ll find the session with Marilyn incredibly inspiring, and surprising as well. Or, to use a term Marilyn used—mind blowing!

Although we treated Marilyn in a single session, we broke it up into three podcasts. Here are the links to the others:

050 Live Session (Marilyn) —
Agenda Setting (Part 2)
051 Live Session (Marilyn) — Methods, Relapse Prevention (Part 3) 89

Below you’ll find descriptions of three upcoming workshops on the treatment of depression and anxiety. I hope to see you at one of them!

One last thing! Although very few of my patients have feared the death that comes at the end of our life, almost all have feared the “Great Death” of the “ego,” or “self,” that happens when we are still alive. There are, in fact, not one but four Great Deaths, and they each lead to a different type of enlightenment that correspond to recovery from depression, anxiety disorders, relationship conflicts, and habits and addictions. I even have a chapter on these four Great Deaths in my new book, which is nearing completion. The chapter is entitled, “How to Join the Grateful Dead!”

If you can’t wait for the new book, you can link to a FB Live show that Mike Christensen and I did on the Four Great Deaths in April of 2018.


* * *

Coming in May, 2019!

TEAM-CBT Methods for Anxiety Disorders–

Step-by-Step Training for Therapists

by David D. Burns, MD and Jill Levitt, PhD

WHEN: Sunday May 19th, 2019, 8:30 am – 4:30 pm PST
(11:30 am-7:30 pm EST)

WHERE: Join us live online or in person
at the Creekside Inn, Palo Alto, CA


7 CE hours available


This workshop counts towards Levels 1, 2 or 3 TEAM-CBT Certification.

WHO CAN ATTEND? Therapists of all levels are welcome

CAN I REGISTER IF I’M NOT A THERAPIST? Sadly, this workshop is geared for therapists. You might want to attend one of my two summer intensives, also listed below. They are geared for therapists, but anyone can benefit from them.

Absolutely! Heal yourself, heal your clients!




You will also:

  • Learn new skills to reduce resistance and boost the motivation to change. This is THE key to the treatment.
  • Learn how to treat all of the anxiety disorders quickly.
  • See actual live videos of the Six-Minute Cure for Severe and Incapacitating Panic Disorder and the Fifteen-Minute Cure for Severe OCD.
  • Practice and master the Externalization of Voices and Acceptance Paradox to overcome your own feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.
  • Master Relapse Prevention Training for lasting results.

You will love this lively, amusing, and immensely useful day of training with Drs. Burns, Levitt and the Feeling Good Institute Staff. The trainers will use a combination of didactic teaching, live demonstrations, videos, and breakout group practice to enhance skill-building.

This wonderful workshop will stream live and is easily accessible from anywhere in the world on any device with WiFi. To join, just click on the link provided before the workshop.

More than twelve expert trainers will be available to assist
the online participants in the small group exercises!

You can attend in person or from home via Live Streaming

Act fast if you want to attend!

Don’t miss out learning from David Burns, MD,
one of the pioneers of Cognitive Therapy,

and Jill Levitt, PhD, Director of Training
at the Feeling Good Institute in Mt. View, CA!

* * *
Coming this Summer

There will be two awesome summer intensives for you this year!

July 15 – 18, 2019
Calgary four-day intensive
Sponsored by Jack Hirose & Assoc.

July 29 – August 1, 2019
South San Francisco four-day intensive
Sponsored by Praxis


If you can join us, they will be even better!