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Taphephobia: The Fear of Being Buried Alive

Definition of Taphephobia or the fear of being buried alive. This article provides information about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of this phobia.

Taphephobia is an intense, irrational fear of being buried alive. People impacted with this phobia, may also cope with Thanatophobia or the fear of dying. While the fear of being buried alive may have been justified in medieval times, when errors in pronouncing a person dead were frequent, the taphephobic individual’s fears are just as paralyzing. In its extreme, the person compromised by Taphephobia may avoid any situation that causes them to “feel” buried or smothered. These individuals may avoid mingling in large, surrounding crowds, for example.

Taphephobia derives from the Greek word, “taphos”, meaning grave and “phobos” meaning fear.

What Causes Taphephobia?

As is the case with all phobias, the taphephobic person has suffered a trauma at some point in their life. That traumatic experience is then consistently and automatically associated with being buried alive.

Maybe the person compromised by Taphephobia has viewed movies about another person being buried alive. Perhaps this individual has heard the urban legends of someone’s grave being opened, years later, only to find the corpse’s hands raised toward the lid of the coffin.

Whatever the cause, the taphephobic person can experience anxiety and emotional turmoil that can be completely disruptive to their ability to function.

What Are the Symptoms of Taphephobia?

The symptoms of Taphephobia are individual and will vary among people. Some people, when confronted with their fear of being buried alive, may begin to perspire, feel slightly uncomfortable or become nauseated. At the opposite end of the spectrum, other people are so severely compromised by this phobia, that they may experience crippling anxiety and/or panic attacks.

Other symptoms of Taphephobia may include:

  • A Dry Mouth
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Numbness
  • Heightened Senses
  • Breathlessness
  • Feeling Dizzy
  • Muscle Tension
  • Hyperventilation
  • Trembling
  • Rapid Heartbeat
  • Feeling Out of Control
  • Feeling Trapped and Unable to Escape
  • Intense Feeling of Impending Disaster

How Is Taphephobia Diagnosed?

The vast majority of cases of Taphephobia are self-diagnosed. The individual realizes that their fear of being buried alive is irrational and is severely compromising their ability to function on a daily basis.

The taphephobic person may discuss their phobia with the primary physician. Rarely would the doctor diagnosis Taphephobia based on that initial discussion with the patient. More routinely, after ruling out any medical reason for this phobia, the doctor will refer the person to a mental health professional for comprehensive assessment and evaluation.

How Is Taphephobia Treated?

When the fear of being buried alive becomes intense enough to disrupt an individual’s ability to function, there are a number of ways to treat Taphephobia.

These can include:

  • A referral from the primary physician to a therapist who specializes in the treatment of phobias.
  • Traditional “talk” therapy that will teach the person to recognize and control their phobia.
  • Hypnotherapy.
  • Exposure Therapy.
  • Self-help techniques such as purposeful muscle relaxation.
  • Support groups with other people who are coping with this specific phobia.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Desensitization Therapy.
  • Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and visualization.
  • In severe cases of Taphephobia, anti-anxiety medication can be prescribed.

Taphephobia is an intense, irrational fear of being buried alive. Sometimes that fear can become so overwhelming as to completely halt a person’s ability to function on a daily basis. Unchecked, Taphephobia can become a debilitating condition that interferes with an individual’s personal life, their social life and job responsibilities. Untreated, Taphephobia can have a devastating impact on every aspect of a person’s life.

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