Chronophobia (Fear of Time)

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.


What is chronophobia?

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.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

What is a phobia?

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.

How common is chronophobia?

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.


Symptoms and Causes

Who is at risk of chronophobia?

Some people are more likely to have chronophobia. Your risk is higher if you:

  • Are elderly or ill: People who are older and those with terminal medical conditions can be overcome with worry about nearing the end of life. They can become obsessed with the number of days they have to live, causing extreme anxiety.
  • Are in prison: Chronophobia is more common among people who are incarcerated. Healthcare providers call this condition “prison neurosis.” Inmates, especially those serving a long sentence, can become obsessed with time passing. They may feel like time is moving too slowly or too quickly, and they often count down the days until their release. They may also feel claustrophobic while they’re in prison.
  • Had a traumatic experience: Some people get chronophobia following a natural disaster, near-death experience or other traumatic event. They may develop the condition as part of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Healthcare providers saw many people with chronophobia after quarantining during the COVID-19 pandemic. They became obsessed with tracking time or felt as if they didn’t have any control over the passage of time.
  • Have a history of mental illness: People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), a history of panic attacks or panic disorder or other phobias are at a higher risk. You also have an increased risk of a phobia if you have depression or substance abuse disorder.

What causes chronophobia?

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.


What are triggers of chronophobia?

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:

  • Not having control over the fact that time is passing them by.
  • Their own mortality. They may also have an extreme fear of death or dying (thanatophobia).
  • Time feeling “immense” (very big) or overwhelming.
  • Time moving too slowly.

What are the symptoms of chronophobia?

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:

Diagnosis and Tests

How do healthcare providers diagnose chronophobia?

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.

Management and Treatment

How do I manage or treat chronophobia?

Chronophobia treatments include:

  • Psychotherapy, or talk therapy. This is the main treatment for chronophobia anxiety. Your healthcare provider helps you understand your fears and works with you to overcome them.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches you to think about the phobia in a different way. It also helps you gain more control over how you respond to it.
  • Hypnotherapy, which helps you reframe your concerns and manage fear. While your mind is in a calm state, your healthcare provider offers strategies to relax.
  • Meditation and yoga, which can control anxiety. Your healthcare provider may also give you exercises for mindfulness and breathing.

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.

What are the complications of chronophobia?

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.

Outlook / Prognosis

What is the prognosis (outlook) for people who have chronophobia?

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.

Living With

When should I see my healthcare provider about chronophobia?

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.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

To understand this disorder, you may want to ask:

  • What could be causing my symptoms?
  • What type of therapy or treatment is right for me?
  • What experience do you have with psychotherapy, CBT and hypnotherapy?
  • What relaxation techniques can I do on my own to control my anxiety?
  • Does chronophobia increase my chances of developing other anxiety disorders or mental illness?

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.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 03/22/2022.

Learn more about our editorial process.

Appointments 866.588.2264