Have you heard of this term before? Chronophobia or the fear of time mainly affects prisoners or elderly people or those who already suffer from some kind of stress or anxiety issues. But in the Covid-19 pandemic situation, we all are in; this phobia is becoming more prevalent than ever before. What is it really about? What causes chronophobia? What are the symptoms and how to cure chronophobia, all this will be explored in this blog.
What is Chronophobia?
Chronophobia literally means fear of time or fear of the future. The Greek word ‘chronos’ means time and ‘phobia’ means fear. But how someone could fear time, you may ask! Well, chronophobia is essentially characterized by a persistent, irrational feeling that time is passing away too quickly. Or it could be the opposite of this feeling that time is passing away rather too slowly. In both cases, people who suffer from chronophobia are unable to make a sense of time.
The mystery surrounding the nature and existence of time has always been a subject of great interest to so many iconic scientists, writers, poets, philosophers, and mystics. To be really honest, mankind is yet to solve the puzzle of time but still most of the time (pun intended!), people do not care about exploring its intricacies. But if you are in your old age or in prison, or in any other such situation, you might think differently. That’s exactly what happens to most people who suffer from chronophobia. Their sense of time changes. For them, time is no longer just a ‘tick-tock tick-tock’ happening inside the clock. They start obsessing over it and that obsession soon turns into a very real fear of time in their personal experience.
Chronophobia is categorized as a ‘specific phobia’, which means it is an unjustifiable fear of objects or situations that pose little to no danger in reality. These types of phobias cause a strong psychological reaction that may or may not trigger a physical reaction as well. But the anxiety and restlessness caused by a specific phobia stays with you for long durations of time and can have a considerable impact on your ability to function normally in day-to-day life. Other examples of specific phobias include - fear of needles, fear of enclosed spaces, and fear of clowns.
What are its Symptoms?
Chronophobia tends to affect different people in different ways. So, if you have chronophobia and your friend has it too, there’s a good chance that your symptoms won’t match. For instance, an old man might start stressing over - “what’ll happen the next day, what’ll happen the next day!” but a young man who’s still in college, would feel like dropping out to do something exciting because in his experience - “every day looks and feels the same in his college.”
So, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact symptoms of chronophobia, but usually, it can be detected by the following list of symptoms -
- Experiencing a complete detachment from reality.
- Having a panic attack as soon as you start thinking about time.
- Breathlessness, excessive sweating, dizziness, and an increase in the heart rate.
- Feeling completely lost, helpless, and out of control.
- Symptoms similar to obsessive-compulsive disorders.
- Experiencing a blackout in social situations.
- Losing a sense of where you are at the moment and what day or time it is in reality.
- An overwhelming feeling of claustrophobia.
- An urge to run away from reality.
- Uncontrollable crying and trembling.
- Persistent thoughts of death and what happens after death.
- An inability to express how you feel exactly.
Extreme symptoms can also lead to ‘chronomentrophobia’, which is a fear of instruments of time like a wall clock or a wristwatch.
What Causes Chronophobia?
Just like its symptoms, the causes of chronophobia can vary from person to person. In general, it’s because of a traumatic incident like the death of a loved one or battling stress and anxiety continuously over a long period of time causes the development of chronophobia. There could be a number of other reasons are well -
- If you already suffer from depression or anxiety issues, even a simple comment like - “time is just slipping away” can trigger the symptoms of chronophobia in you.
- If you are battling depression you are more prone to get this phobia. Anyone who tends to feel lost or empty is highly susceptible.
- In today’s scenario when we are in the middle of a pandemic, adversities like loss of employment/business, death of someone we knew, domestic disturbances, and uncertainty regarding the future are pretty common. This is one of the main reasons why cases of chronophobia are on a rise like never before.
- Older people are much more likely to develop this phobia. Constantly thinking about their own death and once they are gone what’ll happen to their kids, their businesses, or properties, or anything like that can lead to chronophobia in elders.
- Women are also more likely to develop this phobia especially around the time when they are dealing with the symptoms of menopause.
- This phobia is also sometimes associated with hormonal imbalance and certain ailments like high BP, thyroid, arthritis, diabetes, etc.
- Prisoners are most likely to develop this phobia since they easily lose their sense of time. This condition is called prison neurosis.
- In rare cases, chronophobia can also be triggered because of a traumatic childhood incident.
- It can also be genetic for some people.
How to Overcome Chronophobia?
Essentially, the core of this anxiety disorder lies in over-thinking and being too identified with your mind or its activities. So, most of the treatments for chronophobia are in the form of therapies that help you relax and detach from your own psychological clutter. Four such approaches for treating chronophobia are -
Consulting a qualified hypnotherapist can produce excellent results in a quick manner. Hypnotherapy for chronophobia allows you to locate and then utilize your own inner strengths and skillsets to fight this disorder. This approach is approved by the American Medical Association as a treatment option for a number of psychological disorders.
Three forms of psychotherapies have been proved particularly helpful for treating chronophobia - Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Brain Working Recursive Therapy. All these forms of psychotherapies involve various kinds of processes to identify how you create your own reality by using your thought patterns.
These therapies work towards removing those ‘unhelpful thinking patterns’ that tend to make you feel anxious or stressed. Depending on the severity of your condition, you might need 4 to 12 sessions of these therapies to cure chronophobia.
Yoga and Meditation
Practicing certain aspects of yoga such as pranayamas, and certain kinds of kriyas can help you get rid of chronophobia since these methods work on your energy system directly. Even Tai Chi can be very useful to cure a psychological disorder like this. Meditation can also help you calm down, relax, and come back to reality.
This is so because in its true essence every meditation practice works toward breaking your compulsive thinking patterns. So, as you meditate, your work is to learn how to control your mind or detach from your psychological structure by taking a step back and getting some perspective. If done correctly, even the simplest forms of meditation like Mindfulness, Breath Watching, and Sushanti (progressive relaxation or body scanning) can hugely benefit the patient.
If your symptoms aren’t too severe you can get yourself out of it all by yourself. Start by investing some time to learn all about this phobia, how it came into your life, and what can be done to get rid of it (Yes, reading this article is a great start!) Understand your symptoms and develop a sense of awareness to catch yourself every time you are tempted to drift off into that zone of over-thinking and procrastination.
Keep yourself busy and try to be productive. Especially if you work from home or do not have a lot of friends, invest your energies in doing something creative or learning a new skill or a hobby. Challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone and break some boundaries. You can take small steps in this direction like you can try changing your diet, or start a workout regime of some kind, or listen to music that makes you feel happy. These little changes can help you break those compulsive thinking patterns that make you feel anxious or depressed.
Lastly, we can conclude that chronophobia or the fear of time is an anxiety disorder that makes you feel anxious, stressful, and overwhelmed because you are constantly thinking and worrying about your future. If you think you have the symptoms of chronophobia, try to get yourself out of it or take professional help, especially if you have children around you. Set an example for everyone by constantly working on yourself to become more aware, resilient, and in general - an awesome human being!