Do you believe in eternal life after death?
For some people, the answer is yes. Many Christians are raised to believe that after you die, you go on to live eternal life in either Heaven or Hell. Islamic tradition also teaches that there is an afterlife, although the existence of heaven or hell is not preached throughout the religion. Maybe the question of eternal life fascinates you. Maybe it bores you. Or maybe it absolutely terrifies you. If the thought of eternity makes you uncomfortable or anxious, you’re not alone. People with apeirophobia may face serious side effects due to their fears of eternity.
What Is Apeirophobia?
Apeirophobia is the fear of infinity or eternity. But it’s typically not associated with living forever on Earth. (Even if you believe in reincarnation, there is a way to end the cycle.) The fear of eternity is more likely to be associated with the belief in eternal life.
How to Pronounce Apeirophobia
Phonetically, aperiophobia sounds like "uh-peer-o-foe-bee-uh."
Infinity and Outer Space
People who don’t believe in an afterlife are not immune to developing apeirophobia. The infinite amount of space, as well as time, may cause people anxiety. Thoughts of the size of the universe or the amount of knowledge to be obtained may also cause the same side effects as thoughts of the afterlife.
Symptoms of Apeirophobia
Apeirophobia is not studied like the fear of snakes, heights, or even death. Information about apeirophobia is more likely to be found on Reddit or Quora than it is in research laboratories. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t real. For some people, the idea of eternal life can cause serious side effects.
These side effects may include panic attacks, loss of control of emotions, or shaking. Some people with apeirophobia may become obsessed with the idea of infinity or eternal life. Others may try everything they can to avoid thinking about it altogether. This can be hard if the person is religious or has a death in the family. In fact, many people believe that they develop apeirophobia after the death of a loved one or while reflecting on their religion’s teachings.
How Common is Apeirophobia?
Apeirophobia is very rare. Even on sites like Reddit, where you can connect with anyone, there are very few people that are seeking help for apierophobia. And while it’s not the most common fear, the study of apeirophobia may offer insight into some larger theories in psychology.
Treatments for Apeirophobia
Although apeirophobia is not a common fear, people who have it can seek help. You can overcome the fear of eternity while still holding onto religious teachings. Many seek solace from their religious leaders, although it may be more beneficial to seek the help of a mental health professional. Apeirophobia, much like other phobias, may be tied to other mental health conditions like anxiety or OCD.
There are support groups online for people with apeirophobia. Psychiatrists can also prescribe anti-anxiety medications or use other methods to help their patients deal with the fear of eternity.
Exposure therapy may help someone deal with their fear of eternity. Of course, you can’t really exposure someone to eternity - but you can expose them to the idea of it. Therapists may ask patients to think about eternity, then implement breathing techniques or other practices to help calm them down as they reflect on eternity. As they continue this therapy, the patient will become calmer, faster, while thinking about infinity.
Connection to Thanatophobia
Apeirophobia is often associated with a more common fear: thanatophobia, or the fear of death. Both fears often stem from religious education or from experiencing death early on.
The fear of death encompasses a lot of fears: the fear of a painful death, the fear of whether or not your religious teachings are correct, or the fear that you cannot control when or how you will die.
This inability to control a situation is very closely linked to apeirophobia. We cannot grasp the concept of infinity. We cannot control it, because it has no end. Similarly, many cannot grasp the idea of not being conscious or alive anymore.
Treatment available for thanatophobia is similar to the treatment for apeirophobia. A mental health professional can help you overcome these fears.
Terror Management Theory
A phobia does not require treatment unless it is affecting your ability to live your life. If the thought of death or eternity results in panic attacks or avoiding certain social situations, it might be time to reach out to a professional. But if you’re just uncomfortable by the idea of death and what comes after, you’re far from alone.
In fact, the Terror Management Theory suggests that a society’s fear of death influences much of the behavior of the members in that society. Think about how your decisions trace back to death and dying. You might wear sunscreen to avoid skin cancer. You might try to work out regularly to avoid a heart attack or obesity. You may try to gain success in this life to have a legacy that outlives you. Sure, you may not be consciously thinking about mortality as you make these decisions. But social psychologists believe that a denial of your fears is right behind these everyday behaviors.
Could Terror Management Theory be connected to apeirophobia? Some argue that it could. A person’s rejection of the religion they grew up with might be rooted in the denial of infinity. Following a religion’s beliefs is likely connected to the fear of spending eternity in a not-so-pleasant place.
There is much to learn about Apeirophobia. One could say that is an infinite amount of knowledge regarding phobia, death, and eternity that we have yet to unlock!