Chronophobia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

The cronophobia is a type of specific phobia in which the element is feared over time. People with this disorder have an irrational, excessive and uncontrollable fear over time.

It constitutes an anxiety disorder since the phobic fear that people experience causes them high anxiety responses.

Likewise, chronophobia can be a very serious and disabling alteration for the person, since unlike another type of phobia, in chronophobia the person is in constant contact with their feared element.

Time passes permanently, so that the passage of time is an abstract concept that the person with chronophobia can develop at any time, regardless of the characteristics of the situation.

However, it is usual that the anxious and phobic responses of chronophobia are accentuated at specific moments in which the passage of time becomes more noticeable.


For example, making comments such as “how fast time passes” to a person with chronophobia can result in an imminent anxiety response.


Chronophobia is an anxiety disorder. Specifically, it refers to an unusual type of specific phobia.

Unlike other types of specific phobia where the feared element results in a clearly identifiable object or situation (for example spider phobia or phobia of heights) the phobic stimulus of chronophobia is more ambiguous.

In fact, people with chronophobia fear an abstract concept such as the passage of time. The fact that minutes, hours, days, months and years pass causes a high fear of people with chronophobia.

As a result of phobic fear, the person with chronophobia usually develops an anxious state that is maintained more or less permanently during their day to day.

The person with chronophobia does not enjoy the passage of time, but this causes discomfort. For this reason, thoughts about this phenomenon often appear in subjects with chronophobia.

Likewise, it is usually common for certain elements or situations that manifest more or less explicitly the passage of time, trigger more intense anxiety responses in subjects with chronophobia.

These elements may vary in each case and it is generally held that any stimulus that refers to the passage of time can trigger intense anxious symptomatology in the person with chronophobia.


The symptomatology of chronophobia is characterized by being mainly anxious. This appears as a result of the phobic fear of the subject and is highly unpleasant.

The anxiety responses of chronophobia can occur in different situations. Due to the ambiguity of the concept “passage of time” it is sustained that anxious manifestations can appear at any time.

In fact, any stimulus that triggers the idea of ​​”passage of time” in the subject’s mind has the capacity to produce the typical anxiety sensations of the disorder.

The most common manifestations are usually physical symptoms. The phobic fear causes an increase of the autonomic nervous system of the brain that is translated in a series of modifications in the functioning of the organism.

In this sense, it is usual for the person with chronophobia to experience symptoms such as:

  1. Increase in the cardiac rate
  2. Increase in the respiratory rate.
  3. Sensations of suffocation.
  4. Muscle tension.
  5. Body sweating
  6. Pupillary dilation
  7. Dry mouth.
  8. Body tremors
  9. Dizziness, nausea or vomiting.

Likewise, the symptoms of chronophobia are characterized by generating a series of irrational and negative thoughts about the passage of time. These thoughts are fed back with the physical symptoms to generate and increase the state of anxiety of the person.

Also Read: Apiphobia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments


At present, chronophobia has well-established diagnostic criteria that allow determining the presence or absence of the disorder. The criteria that define chronophobia are:

  1. Fear or intense anxiety caused by the idea of ​​”passage of time” (phobic element).
  1. The phobic element almost always causes fear or immediate anxiety.
  1. The phobic element is actively avoided or resisted with fear or intense anxiety.
  1. Fear or anxiety is disproportionate to the real danger posed by the phobic element and the sociocultural context.
  1. Fear, anxiety or avoidance is persistent, and typically lasts six or more months.
  1. Fear, anxiety or avoidance causes clinically significant discomfort or deterioration in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning.
  1. The disturbance is not better explained by the symptoms of another mental disorder.


At present there are no specific data about the etiology of chronophobia. However, it is argued that its causes could be similar to those of other specific phobias.

In this sense, phobias can develop in response to a situation or external stimuli. The specific cause may be difficult to identify, but in general, the experience of negative events related to the passage of time is the most powerful factor for the development of chronophobia.

On the other hand, certain authors suggest that in the case of chronophobia, genetic factors and certain anxious personality traits could also play an important role in the development of mental disorders.


Being a specific fear associated with an anxiety disorder, chronophobia is usually treated in the same way as any other type of specific phobia. In this sense, the treatment can include both medication (in the most severe cases) and psychotherapy (in most cases).

With regard to psychotherapy, the most commonly used tool in the case of chronophobia is usually cognitive therapy. Correcting thoughts and ideas about the passage of time is essential to overcome the phobic fear of pathology.