Chronophobia is the extreme fear of time or time passing. It can cause severe anxiety, feelings of dread, obsessive behaviors and depression. People who are elderly, ill or imprisoned are more likely to develop this anxiety disorder. They may fear their own mortality, obsess over time or worry about their days being limited. Therapy can help.
Chronophobia is an extreme fear of time or the passage of time. People with this anxiety disorder feel intense discomfort or dread when they think about time passing them by. They may be concerned about their own mortality or worry about getting older. Some people become obsessed with watching the clock or marking days off the calendar.
Chronophobia can cause people to have racing thoughts or obsessive behaviors. In severe cases, it can lead to panic attacks, social isolation and problems with relationships. Psychotherapy can help people manage symptoms and improve quality of life.
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Phobias cause people to be afraid of a situation or object that isn’t actually dangerous. People with phobias have illogical, unrealistic fears and unusual reactions to things other people don’t find scary or worrisome.
Chronophobia is a specific phobia disorder. People with specific phobia disorders have extreme reactions to a certain object or situation. They do whatever they can to avoid the thing that causes discomfort, concern or fear. Chronophobia is especially problematic because it isn’t possible to stop the passage of time. People with this condition often feel out of control.
It’s hard knowing exactly how many people have a specific phobia, like chronophobia (fear of time). Many people may keep this fear to themselves or may not recognize they have it. We do know that about 1 in 10 American adults and 1 in 5 teenagers will deal with a specific phobia disorder at some point in their lives, though.
Some people are more likely to have chronophobia. Your risk is higher if you:
Healthcare providers believe chronophobia and other phobias result from a mix of environmental factors and genetics. Being incarcerated, having a terminal illness or surviving a traumatic event can lead to chronophobia.
People who have anxiety problems and mental illness are more likely to develop a phobia. Mental illness, mood disorders and phobias tend to run in families. You have a higher risk of these conditions if you have a relative who has them.
The fear, dread and anxiety of chronophobia can happen for several reasons. Milestones such as holidays, birthdays, graduations and anniversaries can trigger this phobia. These triggers spark concerns about:
People with chronophobia sometimes feel as if they’re detached from their own body. This is a condition called depersonalization/derealization disorder. They may feel like time speeds up or slows down randomly. They may also have:
Healthcare providers use a mental health evaluation to diagnose chronophobia. There isn’t a specific test to diagnose chronophobia. Your healthcare provider will ask you about your symptoms, mental health history and whether you have other phobias. They may refer you to a mental health professional who specializes in phobias and anxiety disorders.
Chronophobia treatments include:
There isn’t a medication to treat chronophobia. But some medications can help control panic attacks or treat mental health disorders. If you have depression or other mood disorders, talk to your healthcare provider about medications that may be right for you.
Untreated, chronophobia can have a serious impact on everyday life. People with severe chronophobia can develop relationship problems. They may find it difficult to be part of their community.
The condition can also worsen mental health issues. People with chronophobia are obsessed with time. And, they may become extremely depressed, anxious and isolated.
Therapy can help you manage chronophobia and improve your quality of life. But the outlook depends on each individual’s situation and health history. As with any mental health disorder, you may need ongoing therapy (or several types of therapy) to relieve your symptoms and feel better.
It’s normal to worry about the passage of time or your own mortality occasionally. But you should talk to healthcare your provider if chronophobia symptoms are severe. Call your healthcare provider right away if anxiety, obsessive behaviors or panic attacks are affecting your everyday life.
To understand this disorder, you may want to ask:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Chronophobia can cause severe anxiety, disordered thoughts, obsessive behaviors and worsening mental health. In serious cases, the condition can cause people to become isolated, leading to problems with work or relationships. As with other types of phobias, therapy can help. Your healthcare provider can teach you techniques to help you control anxiety. Be open and honest with them about your symptoms. Share information about other phobias, mood disorders or mental illness in your family.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/22/2022.
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