Chronophobia (Fear Of The Future)

Chronophobia is defined as a specific psychological phobia manifesting itself as a persistent, abnormal and unwarranted fear of time or the passing of time. Closely related to this fear is chronomentrophobia, which is the fear of clocks and watches.


The fear of time is something that has been analyzed since it was first diagnosed. Those with high amounts of stress in their life or with a lot of goals tend to be affected by this phobia. This fear is more prevalent in prisoners and the elderly, but there are a surprising amount of young people affected as well.

How is Chronophobia (fear of the future) Diagnosed?

Those suffering from this phobia tend to feel that their life or events in their life, are going too fast and they lack the control to stop them. Derealization occurs when a sufferer feels as if time is speeding up or slowing down depending on the situation they are facing at the moment. For a patient to be diagnosed with chronophobia, they have to at least experience the following:

  • Intense fear or anxiety triggered by the idea of ‘the passing of time’ (phobic element)
  • The phobic element nearly always provokes an immediate response
  • The individual actively resists or tries to avoid the stimulus, with great fear and dread
  • The fear and anxiety is disproportionate compared to the actual threat of the stimulus
  • Fear, anxiety or avoidance that lasts for six months or more
  • Fear, anxiety or avoidance that cause significant distress, and deterioration in social life, work, or other important areas
  • The condition cannot be better explained by any other psychological condition

Chronophobia Symptoms

There are a number of symptoms of chronophobia. Someone experiencing this fear may have a combination or all of these fears at the same time. They are:

  • Panic
  • Uneasiness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Claustrophobia
  • Muscle tension
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shaking
  • Racing thoughts
  • Obsessive-compulsive behavior
  • Circular thought patterns
  • Shortness of breath
  • Excessive sweating
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Sickening states of mind
  • Inability to speak coherently
  • Tunnel vision
  • Overwhelmingly haunting thoughts
  • Derealization

Chronophobia Causes

Not much is known about how chronophobia is caused. It is difficult to establish how time itself can cause trauma in a person’s life to the point that they become afraid of it. Yet, it can be presumed that the causes of this phobia are similar to other closely related phobias. Typically, phobias are created as a response to external situations or stimulus. Determining the specific moment this phobia occurred is difficult, but a negative experience involving time is generally the most likely cause.

How is Chronophobia Treated?

Though the onset of chronophobia is different from other phobias, the treatment of it is similar to them. As it is categorized as a specific anxiety disorder, it can be treated with medication (most severe cases) or psychotherapy (most common treatment method). Cognitive therapy has shown to be one of the best forms of treatment. This treatment entails changing the sufferer’s thoughts of time into a positive thing as opposed to something they should fear. Changing how they think about the passage of time is critical in them working towards overcoming the fear.

Who is Affected by Chronophobia?

Though the onset of this phobia is difficult to determine, there are a few populations that have a greater likelihood of experiencing it than others. These populations are prisoners, catastrophic event survivors and the elderly.

Prisoners have the most common occurrence of chronophobia. So much so, it is referred to as “prison neurosis”. It is understandable for a prisoner to be afraid of time, because of all the various things that can happen. In prison, they could be assaulted or killed at any moment. Outside of prison, their loved ones may be hurt and they cannot protect them or they may pass away before they get the chance to see them when they are released.

Those who have survived plane crashes, deployment or bad car accidents tend to experience this during the event and often after it has passed. This happens during the event because the person never knows how much time they have remaining and they fear the moment they believe their hour has come. They may also have a good stretch where they no longer have this fear, but if there is any disruption of their daily activities, they could immediately return to that place of fear. Some examples include: seeing a plane crash on the news, hearing a car backfire or coming close to getting into another car accident.

Another group of people affected by chronophobia are young people. With the world in front of them and many dreams and aspirations, they set out to achieve all of them. Frustration, anger and fear occur when they start to constantly focus on all they have to do to reach their goals as opposed to what they can actually accomplish. They look up and start to realize they may not have all the time in the world they once believed they did and become fearful of being a failure.

Fear of the future is harmful to people in other ways. Constantly being under the stress of fear can cause headaches, loss of sleep, body aches, irritability and uncharacteristic behaviors. All of these contribute to a negative and repeating cycle of thought patterns that cause a person’s life to be limited in positive experiences. One of the best things a person can do for themselves is to change how they view time. In doing this, they will begin to realize that even though they have not accomplished all they would like to, they still have time to work each day towards their goals. Also, this line of thinking would provide them with some sobering clarity about their goals and hopefully, encourage them to reassess them.

Chronophobia Prevention

Chronophobia’s initial onset is difficult to prevent because it happens as a result of situations out of the person’s control. A person can’t control accidents or calamities because these occur as a result of other people. However, future instances of chronophobia could be better handled with proper mental strategies that change how a person responds to traumatic events.

Last Reviewed:
June 23, 2018
Last Updated:
June 21, 2018