Death is a natural part of life, and it’s normal to think about it from time to time. But it’s very common for people experiencing mental illness to think about death more than usual. Thinking about death all the time might feel uncomfortable or scary. You might be wondering why you’re thinking about it so much, wondering if this is normal, or wondering if it will stop. It becomes especially a concern if thinking about dying leads to thoughts about killing yourself.
Where are these thoughts coming from?
There are lots of reasons why you might be thinking about death a lot. Understanding those reasons might give you clues about how to stop. Here are a few examples:
- You’re feeling depressed. A common symptom among people with depression is thinking about death. It might be a fixation on the terrible things in the world, how things will end, or what the purpose is for humans to live. When you’re experiencing depression, it’s very easy to dwell on negative thoughts. When we are depressed, negative thoughts like thoughts about death are “stickier.” Treating the underlying depression can help you focus on more positive thoughts.
- You’re experiencing obsessive or intrusive thoughts. Obsessive thoughts of death can come from anxiety as well as depression. They might include worrying that you or someone you love will die. These intrusive thoughts can start out as harmless passing thoughts, but we become fixated on them because they scare us. If this sounds like you, try our interactive Overcoming Negative Thoughts tool or our worksheet on dealing with negative thoughts.
- You’re grieving. Our natural curiosity about death becomes more personal when we are experiencing grief. Maybe you lost a family member, a friend, or a pet. When someone we care about dies, it’s natural to think about what that means. You might be wondering about what death really is, what’s happened to your loved one… and what will happen to you when you die. Death is a natural part of life, and these are questions everyone has from time to time. Give yourself time to grieve. Many people find comfort in watching TV shows or movies about grief and loss, reading books or poetry about it, or talking to a spiritual leader or anyone else you trust about what you’re going through. Writing down your feelings in a journal can also help you feel better.
When thoughts of death lead to thoughts of suicide
If you’re experiencing intrusive thoughts about suicide or thinking that killing yourself is an option, we really hope you reach out to people around you to find safety and make changes that can help. If you haven’t had treatment for depression or anxiety and you haven’t told someone how you feel, these are steps to take that can make things better.
If you’re not sure who to talk to or how to talk to someone, you can reach the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988 or using the chat box at 988lifeline.org. You can also text “MHA” to 741-741 to reach the Crisis Text Line. Warmlines are an excellent place for non-crisis support.