Fear of Being Buried Alive(Taphophobia): Causes, Symptoms, Treatments

Fear of being buried alive – Taphophobia. It is the irrational fear of being buried alive. It is closely related to other phobias such as fear of death (Thanatophobia), fear of tombstones (Placophobia), fear of cemeteries (Coimetrophobia), and fear of narrow and closed spaces (Claustrophobia), etc. The word Taphophobia comes from the Greek Paphos, which means “graves or graves,” and Phobos which means “deep fear or fear.”

Among the many celebrities and famous people who have this phobia, the poet Edgar Allen Poe, George Washington, the composer F. Chopin, and the writer Hans Christian Anderson is the best known. It is believed that Poe was so obsessed with this fear that he often used it as the subject of his books (The Premature Burial and El Tonel de Amontillado and The Fall of the House of Usher etc.).

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Causes of Taphophobia

  • Throughout history, there are several hundred documented cases of people who have mistakenly died and been buried alive, most due to the unavailability of modern medicines and equipment.
  • Often people in a coma (or those suffering from diseases like cholera, etc.) had no pulse or had passed out and were buried alive.
  • Some woke up on the dissecting or funeral table, while others were discovered when opening the family tomb.
  • Hence the fear of graves or being buried alive was more prevalent in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and it was not surprising that many graves and tombs were fitted with bells to help detect such ‘errors.’
  • This even led to the famous phrase ‘Saved by the Bell.’ Other more modern techniques provided to help the “presumed dead” alert outsiders included the addition of air pipes, oxygen tanks, and glass doors inside the coffins.

Death is so terrifying. It is unknown and unexplored. Nobody knows what awaits us in the afterlife. Therefore, people who already suffer from anxiety or depression are more likely to develop Taphophobia.

Miners who have had a negative experience of being trapped hundreds of feet underground could also develop this phobia. Other harmful or traumatic events like being buried in the sand on the beach for fun and being left for hours could cause the fear of being buried alive phobia.

Parents or other adults may unknowingly instill this fear in children by talking about it to develop a genuine phobic response in the listener.

As mentioned above, many books, movies, and television shows have explored this topic. People who are already afraid of enclosed and restricted spaces can also have Taphophobia.

Symptoms of fear of being buried alive

The idea of ​​being buried alive produces several physical and emotional symptoms in the patient, including:

  • Breathing hard, having a high heart rate, shaking, sweating profusely, etc.
  • Avoidance behavior is another symptom: the phobia avoids closed spaces such as basements, caves, or other underground areas.
  • You can also refuse to visit cemeteries or headstones.
  • The phobia can have a complete panic attack, such as crying, screaming, intense desire to run away, etc.
  • Some who could afford it tend to make elaborate arrangements for their funerals in their will, including the laying of air pipes, oxygen tanks, heart stimulators, and so on in the coffins. Many ask not to be buried for at least three days after their death.

Most ‘normal’ people would not understand what Taphophobe goes through, which often leads to teasing or bullying, to the point where the phobia becomes socially withdrawn.

The constant cinematic images can play through your mind about death and death. The phobia could become so severe that it could require medical intervention.


If the phobia severely affects a person’s daily life, it is better to seek professional help.

  • This includes talk therapy, psychiatric counseling, hypnotherapy, etc.
  • Hypnosis and NLP or neurolinguistic programming are especially beneficial in getting to the bottom of the phobia. Both therapies help reprogram the phobic’s mind to have a more positive response to the object of their fear, in this case, graves or cemeteries.
  • The phobia is also encouraged to adopt lifestyle changes, including daily physical activity, participating in charity/volunteer work, opting for yoga, Tai Chi, deep breathing and meditation, etc. These practices are known to help Mind-body overcome stress and depression that may be triggering the phobia. They can also help to accept death as the ultimate reality and as part of the natural processes of life so that one stops fighting it and learns to get it.
  • Another way to overcome the fear of being buried alive is gradually exposing yourself to cemeteries and graves.
  • One can start by viewing photos, movies, etc., related to the graves and then visit one until they experience no anxiety.

Georgia Tarrant
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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.