What is Chronophobia?

Chronophobia is an irrational fear of the passage of time.

It is more common in prison inmates and the elderly, but it can manifest in those suffering stress and anxiety. Studies suggest that it is based on chronoperception, or the process of time perception in the brain.

The root word 'chrono' is Greek meaning 'time' and the word 'phobia' comes from the Greek word ‘phóbos’ meaning 'fear.'

If you have this phobia, you most likely have one of these phobias too ›

Symptoms of Chronophobia

  • Extreme Anxiety, Dread

  • Shortness of Breath
  • Rapid Breathing
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Excessive Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dry Mouth
  • Confusion / Inability to Articulate Clearly
  • Lack of Focus
  • Irritability
  • Shaking
  • Feelings of Powerlessness
  • Obsession with the Subject of the Phobia
  • Fear or Feelings of Losing Control
  • Avoidance Behavior
  • Headaches

Learn more about phobia symptoms ›

Causes of Chronophobia

Chronophobia is a specific (or “isolated”) phobia, centered on non-social key factors. Such phobias tend to have some previous trauma (often in childhood and often physically injurious) as a root cause; a fear of bees may stem from an injury in childhood, for instance.

Upbringing can also play a role, such as parental warnings about a direct threat (such as “snakes can bite and kill you”) which is especially notable in cases where a threat is more imminent. An allergy to bees or peanut butter, for instance, would naturally reinforce a real medical concern.

It is thought that genetics and hereditary factors may play a role in specific phobias, especially those related to a danger of injury. A primal “fight or flight” reflex may be more easily triggered in those with a genetic predisposition, for instance.

By contrast, social phobias (like a fear of body odor or touch) are less well understood, are driven by social anxiety, and are broadly labeled as “social anxiety disorder”.

In all kinds of phobias, external experiences and / or reports can further reinforce or develop the fear, such as seeing a family member or friend who is affected. In extreme cases, indirect exposures can be as remote as overhearing a reference in conversation, seeing something in the news, on TV, or in the movies.

This phobia is more common in those in jail, where perceived time moves slowly. It is also more common in the elderly due to end-of-life fears. Additionally, those working on a deadline are naturally concerned with time, possibly reinforcing a phobic condition.

The fear of time also sometimes presents itself in the wake of a severe trauma, such as shipwreck survivors or others trapped in a high-anxiety situation with no easy means of tracking time. The sense of a foreshortened future has also been used as one of the diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Learn more about the causes of phobias ›

Treatments for Chronophobia

  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

  • Habit Strategies To Relax
  • Cognitive Therapy (CT)
  • In Vivo Exposure
  • Response Prevention
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Group Therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Energy Psychology
  • Medication
  • Meditation

Learn more about phobia treatments ›

Book Shelf