Death anxiety and its role in psychopathology: Reviewing the status of a transdiagnostic construct

Author(s): Iverach L, Menzies RG, Menzies RE


Death anxiety is considered to be a basic fear underlying the development and maintenance of numerous psychological conditions. Treatment of transdiagnostic constructs, such as death anxiety, may increase treatment efficacy across a range of disorders. Therefore, the purpose of the present review is to: (1) examine the role of Terror Management Theory (TMT) and Experimental Existential Psychology in understanding death anxiety as a transdiagnostic construct, (2) outline inventories used to evaluate the presence and severity of death anxiety, (3) review research evidence pertaining to the assessment and treatment of death anxiety in both non-clinical and clinical populations, and (4) discuss clinical implications and future research directions. Numerous inventories have been developed to evaluate the presence and severity of death anxiety, and research has provided compelling evidence that death anxiety is a significant issue, both theoretically and clinically. In particular, death anxiety appears to be a basic fear at the core of a range of mental disorders, including hypochondriasis, panic disorder, and anxiety and depressive disorders. Large-scale, controlled studies to determine the efficacy of well-established psychological therapies in the treatment of death anxiety as a transdiagnostic construct are warranted.

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