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What Is the Fear of Time?


Updated February 29, 2012

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Question: What Is the Fear of Time?

Chronophobia, or the fear of time, is sometimes known as prison neurosis due to its prevalence in prison populations. It is also relatively common among shipwreck survivors and others who are trapped in a high-anxiety situation with no familiar means of tracking the passage of time. Chronophobia is also reported by some older adults, as well as people facing terminal illnesses who worry that their time on Earth may be limited. Chronophobia sometimes occurs in the wake of a severe trauma such as a natural disaster, particularly if the daily routine is seriously disrupted. The phobia occasionally appears with no known cause, though it is relatively rare on its own.


Symptoms of Chronophobia

Chronophobia is marked by a sense of derealization in which time seems to speed up or slow down. Some people develop circular thought patterns, racing thoughts and symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Prisoners often mark down the days until their release.

Getting Help

In extreme cases, untreated chronophobia can lead to isolation, depression, and even increasingly disordered thinking. It is important to seek advice from a qualified mental health professional as soon as possible. Chronophobia responds well to such standard phobia treatments as cognitive-behavioral therapy and hypnotherapy. As it is closely linked with other disorders, however, it is best to diagnose and treat all concurrent conditions simultaneously.


American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th Ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

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