Chronophobia is a persistent, intense fear of time or the passage of time. Sometimes it’s simply called “time anxiety.”
People with chronophobia may worry that their time is running out or that they don’t have enough time to do all the things they need to do. They are often distressed when they think about the future or when they are preoccupied with looking at a clock or calendar. They may feel very anxious when thinking about times when they actively avoided social gatherings or milestone events to prevent panic attacks.
Learn more about chronophobia (chronophobia), including characteristics, symptoms, causes and how to seek treatment if necessary.
Chronophobia is a marked, persistent fear of time or the passage of time.This is not a specific diagnosis Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Conversely, chronophobia might be classified as a specific phobia under the broader anxiety disorder.
People with chronophobia may feel anxious about milestones that remind them of the passage of time, such as weddings, anniversaries, or birthdays. They may not be on time at school or work because they avoid checking times or dates. If their fear of time becomes particularly extreme, they may even completely isolate themselves from others.
A person with a strong fear of time may also experience reality. This “out-of-body” feeling includes a sense of detachment, a distorted sense of time, and a sense that the things and people around you are not “real.”
How common are specific phobias?
Specific phobias, such as the fear of tight spaces (claustrophobia) or the fear of heights (acrophobia), are more common than you might think. About 12.5% of adults in the United States will experience a specific phobia at some point in their lives.
What is severe anxiety?
Because Chronophobia is an anxiety disorder, many of its symptoms are the same as the general symptoms of anxiety disorders. These symptoms may include:
- panic attack
- hard to fall asleep
- dry mouth
- Sweaty hands and/or feet
- heart rate too fast
- Feelings of nervousness, panic, restlessness, fear
Someone’s fear of time may also lead to more specific time-related symptoms, including:
- Disorientation, or feeling like time is speeding up or slowing down
- fear of the future
- Feeling like time is passing too fast or too slow
- Avoid milestone events that highlight the passage of time
- Avoid planning for the future
- Difficulty making plans or meeting deadlines
- racing thoughts
- Persistent worries about the future
- Worried that it’s “too late” or that their time will soon be over
How common is it to have anxiety and depression at the same time?
If you suspect you may have time phobia, a qualified mental health provider will ask you about time-related anxiety and how it interferes with your daily life. They may ask about any traumas in your past life, pain in the face of the passage of time, and ways you avoid thinking about the past or the future.
According to the diagnostic criteria in the DSM-5, to be considered a specific phobia, your fear of time must meet the following criteria:
- The fear persisted for at least six months.
- Fear of time interferes with other aspects of daily life, such as social functioning, work or school.
- Any time reminder or passage of time can immediately trigger noticeable anxiety.
Chronophobia is often associated with other mental health disorders, especially post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is when someone has trouble recovering from a very scary event. Your therapist may also evaluate you based on diagnostic criteria for a mental health condition such as PTSD.
Chronophobia and PTSD
Many medical professionals believe that time anxiety is closely related to PTSD. A 2014 study showed that a “feeling of time-shortening” — the belief that someone has no future, or that their life won’t develop according to the typical years of their career, relationships, and family — is a key symptom of trauma.
How is a phobia diagnosed?
While anyone can develop a chronophobia, certain experiences and environmental factors can make someone more prone to developing a strong fear of time. These are some potential causes of chronophobia:
- Incarceration: People who are incarcerated or otherwise confined to small spaces for extended periods of time, especially in solitary confinement (as in solitary confinement), often develop a strong fear of time. They may lose their sense of time and become increasingly disoriented, claustrophobic and panicky. This is sometimes called “prison neurosis”.
- Natural disasters, epidemics, and other emergencies: People who have experienced or are experiencing other types of long-term trauma, such as natural disasters or epidemics that require extended isolation, may also develop chronophobia. Their notions of time are often altered by their unusual, extreme or isolated circumstances.
- Sickness or disability: People who have experienced a life-changing injury or have a chronic or terminal illness sometimes develop a strong fear of time. In some cases, they may feel that each milestone is a reminder of what they missed due to illness or injury. Among others, someone may worry that their time is running out, or that they are wasting precious time.
- Aging: Some older adults may experience time phobia due to fear of death or a limited future. Fear of time is especially common among people who live in “closed settings” such as nursing homes, hospitals, or hospice centers.
- Other mental health conditions: People with time phobia often have other mental health conditions, such as mood disorders such as PTSD, anxiety, or depression.
How to Retrain Your Mind and Stop Catastrophizing
Treatment for time phobia usually includes psychotherapy from a qualified mental health provider. These are the main forms of effective treatment for intense fear of time:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This is typically the therapy of choice for intense fear of time. CBT can help people with chronophobia confront their distorted or negative patterns of thought and behavior about time and the passage of time.
- Medication: Medications such as benzodiazepines or antidepressants may be prescribed to relieve the symptoms of some phobias. However, psychotherapy is usually the main treatment.
What is talk therapy?
In addition to mental health treatment, there are several other ways you can deal with your intense fear of time. Approaches to coping with time phobia may include:
- Relaxation techniques: Anyone with anxiety, panic attacks, or sleep disorders can benefit from using relaxation techniques and tools. These might include activities such as deep breathing exercises, white noise machines, or coloring books for adults.
- Mindfulness Techniques: People with time phobia can have a hard time living in the present moment. Practicing mindfulness techniques, such as yoga and meditation, can help you refocus and remember to stay present.
- Plan for the future: Setting realistic goals for the future can help you face the fear of time head-on. Try to make planning a hopeful, fun activity. You can use a vision board, bullet journal, calendar app, or anything else that helps you see the passage of time in a more positive way.
- Support groups: There are many online and in-person peer support groups that can help you reduce the loneliness of time-related anxiety. Meeting people with similar fears can help you find support and resources.
Chronophobia is an intense, persistent fear of time or the passage of time. According to the DSM-5, this fear is a type of anxiety disorder known as a specific phobia. People with chronophobia experience symptoms of panic and anxiety when faced with reminders of the passage of time. This sometimes causes them to develop avoidant behaviors, such as excluding themselves from social gatherings or milestone events.
Older adults, as well as those who have suffered trauma, severe terminal illness or natural disasters, or have other mental health conditions, are more likely to suffer from time phobia. In some cases, effective treatment includes psychotherapy and medication.
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Like other specific phobias, chronophobia can cause severe distress and can even interfere with your life if left untreated. However, intense fear of time can be treated with the help of a qualified mental health professional.