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Chronophobia is the fear of time. The fear is commonly suffered by prison inmates and elderlies, but it can manifest in any person who has an extreme amounts of stress and anxiety in their life.

Chronophobia comes from the Greek words chronos meaning time, and phobos meaning fear.

Causes and contributing factors[]

In the book Chronophobia: On Time in the Art of the 1960s by Pamela Lee, chronophobia is described as “an experience of unease and anxiety about time, a feeling that events are moving too fast and are thus hard to make sense of.” In Peter PaulAnnas Lichtenstein's review, he reveals it can be caused by a traumatic experience in one’s childhood, genetics, incarceration, or old age. Most traumatic experiences can lead to personal withdrawals from one’s surroundings such as dissociation, depersonalization, or derealisation. A person may be genetically affected after the traumatic experience due to adrenal insufficiency. Those with these insufficiencies are more susceptible to anxiety and fear. When people are incarcerated, they experience a heighten sense of anxiety. The stress of prison makes inmates especially at risk. Inmates start to contemplate time extensively because they are incarcerated for a certain amount of time. It is not uncommon for prison inmates to count-down the days until their release. The elderly also exhibit more of a risk because they feel that death is closer than it had ever been before in their life. The threat of death can cause an overwhelming sensation of chronophobia.


The three main symptoms of chronophobia, and most phobias, are panic, anxiety, and claustrophobia. In some more serious cases, individuals can experience shaking, shortness of breath, excessive sweating, and irregular heartbeats. In the most serious cases individuals can exhibit symptoms of sickening states of mind, inability to articulate words, tunnel vision, and overwhelmingly haunting thoughts.


Mozhi Mani suggests that while no treatment has effectively cured chronophobia, certain methods may ease the individual’s mind.

One of these treatments is hypnotherapy. It is a method that has been considered simple and effective by the American Medical Association since 1958. It involves using hypnosis to open the subconscious mind and change the behavioral patterns of the individual with the phobia.

Arne Ohman and Susan Mineka suggest another treatment that involves Neuro-Linguistic Programming. This method involves the use of psychotherapy to discover how people can create their own reality. A specialist can train a person to “remodel their thoughts and mental associations in order to fix [their] preconceived notions.” Energy can provide treatment for those affected. Such techniques as acupuncture, yoga, t'ai chi ch'uan, pranayama, and energy medicine may prove useful. These practices can cure nausea and may provide some sense of security to those dealing with panic and fear.

There are some medications that can be taken to calm the nerves of those suffering from chronophobia. These prescriptions may cause side effects and do not erase fear but merely suppress symptoms.

A person may also wish to see a psychiatrist. Lloyd Williams assures that psychiatrists may be helpful because they serve as a medium for the patient to express their psychological problems, but without their own desire to overcome fear, the patient may not yield the intended results.

The affected[]

Two main groups are affected by chronophobia. These groups involve prison inmates and the elderly.

Often referred to as Prison Neurosis, chronophobia can affect the incarcerated. Because of the length of time prison inmates spend in their cells, and because of the confined space that they share with others, they can develop psychological symptoms of chronophobia. Some symptoms include delusions, dissatisfaction with life, claustrophobia, depression, and feelings of panic and madness.

The elderly show these symptoms of chronophobia as well. When they feel that their lives are near to the end, they start to fear time because it threatens their existence. This fear is similar to chronoperception because it includes the idea that the speed of brain function depends on the metabolic rate in the hypothalamus. As people get older, their metabolism slows. The elderly may believe that as a result of their slowing metabolism, their brains do not function as well, which makes them more chronophobic.

According to a recent survey about 12% of people have light to severe Chronophobia.


Chronophobia can never really be prevented because it is normally caused by a traumatic experience that is not within one’s power to stop. Some ways to relieve the stress that chronophobia can cause are to prevent anxiety or situations that could cause anxiety, to avoid getting stressed out about time, to be on time, and to participate in an activity that requires meditation, such as yoga or other forms of mild martial arts. Therapists can also help to alleviate this fear.

See also[]