Chronophobia or Fear of Passing Time: Risks, Symptoms, Treatment

Chronophobia is a specific phobia characterized by an irrational yet persistent fear of time and of the passing of time.

What is chronophobia?

In Greek, the word chrono means time and the word phobia means fear. Chronophobia is the fear of time. It's characterized by an irrational yet persistent fear of time and of the passing of time.

Chronophobia is related to the rare chronomentrophobia, the irrational fear of timepieces, such as watches and clocks.

Chronophobia is considered a specific phobia. A specific phobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by a powerful, unwarranted fear of something that presents little or no actual danger, but instigates avoidance and anxiety. Usually, the fear is of an object, situation, activity, or person.

There are five specific phobia types:

  • animal (e.g., dogs, spiders)
  • situational (bridges, airplanes)
  • blood, injection, or injury (needles, blood draws)
  • natural environment (heights, storms)
  • other
Symptoms

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of a specific phobia are likely to be:

  • feelings of overwhelming fear, anxiety, and panic
  • awareness that your fears are unwarranted or exaggerated but feeling helpless to manage them
  • difficulty functioning normally because of your fear
  • rapid heart rate
  • sweating
  • difficulty breathing

Symptoms can be triggered when presented with the phobia itself or occur when thinking about the phobia.

For a person with chronophobia, often a specific situation that highlights the passage of time can intensify anxiety, such as a:

  • high school or college graduation
  • wedding anniversary
  • milestone birthday
  • holiday

However, someone with chronophobia may experience anxiety as almost a permanent fixture in their lives.

Who is at risk?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 12.5 percent of U.S. adults, sometime in their lives will experience a specific phobia.

As chronophobia is linked to time, it is logical that:

  • It can be identified in senior citizens and people facing terminal illness, worrying about the time they have left to live.
  • In prison, chronophobia sometimes sets in when inmates contemplate the length of their incarceration. This is commonly referred to as prison neurosis or as stir crazy.
  • It can be experienced in situations, such as a natural disaster, when people are in a prolonged period of anxiety with no familiar means of tracking time.

Also, a sense of a foreshortened future has, according to a 2014 study, been used as a diagnostic criteria for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

Treatment

The National Alliance on Mental Illness suggests that, although each type of anxiety disorder commonly has its own treatment plan, there are types of treatment that are commonly used.

These include psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, and prescription drugs, including antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, such as beta blockers and benzodiazepines.

Suggested complementary and alternative treatments include:

  • relaxation and stress relief techniques, such as focused attention and breathing exercises
  • yoga to manage anxiety with breathing exercises, meditation and physical postures
  • aerobic exercise for stress and anxiety relief
Complications

Specific phobias can lead to other problems, such as:

  • mood disorders
  • social isolation
  • alcohol or drug misuse

Although specific phobias do not always call for treatment, your doctor should have some insights and recommendations to help.

Takeaway

Chronophobia, is specific phobia described as an irrational yet often unrelenting fear of time and of the passage of time.

If chronophobia, or any phobia, interferes with your daily life, discuss the situation with your healthcare provider. They may recommend a mental health specialist to help with a full diagnosis and to plan a course of action for treatment.

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