Chronophobia is a condition where a person fears the passing of time or being unable to keep track of it. With many of us having spent a significant amount of time cooped up in our homes under lockdown restrictions, you may have firsthand experience of chronophobia as you longed to stop watching the days go by from the confines of your flat.
Around 12.5 percent of adults in the United States will experience a specific phobia at some point in their lives, according to Choosing Therapy, with the elderly and terminally ill being more prone to chronophobia in particular. It’s likely the phobia is underpinned by a sense of impending mortality. Chronophobia is also more common among prison populations, where it’s sometimes referred to as “prison neurosis”. For prisoners, chronophobia is more likely to be tied to feelings of claustrophobia and lost potential.
Chronophobia can also emerge in people who have been through a traumatic and potentially fatal experience, as they may have a heightened sense of their mortality and the passing of time as a result. Some people develop chronophobia even after just learning about horrible accidents that have happened to other people.
However, it’s not only people living under extremes that can develop chronophobia. The fear can also emerge in people who feel that their goals are slipping through their grasp and that they may never achieve their dreams with time ticking on so relentlessly.
What are the symptoms of chronophobia?
The symptoms of chronophobia center around feeling uncomfortable with the passing of time, or that it’s going faster or slower than usual. This can then trigger generalized anxiety and depression, as well as a sense of lacking control.
People with chronophobia may also experience:
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid pulse
- Dizziness or fainting
What can be done to treat chronophobia?
If this is sounding uncomfortably relatable, the good news is there are steps that can be taken to lessen the severity of chronophobia. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a tool used to treat many mental health conditions, including chronophobia. By challenging someone to question their preconceived ways of processing situations, or tendency to catastrophize, therapists can help people with chronophobia to restructure the way they think about time. Medication may also be appropriate in some circumstances, and the best treatment plan can differ from one person to another.