What Is Chronomentrophobia?

Chronomentrophobia is the fear of clocks. It is categorised as a specific phobia (an intense and irrational fear of something that poses little to no danger). Chronomentrophobia might manifest in patients as distress when exposed to clocks, including anxiety caused by their appearance and sounds. People suffering from chronomentrophobia may have mild to severe symptoms of the disorder, ranging from uneasiness and discomfort to panic attacks. 


The fear of losing out on time is a relatable experience in today’s fast-paced world. At a point in time when people have busy schedules, time is an important resource. However, the extreme fear of losing time can manifest with severe and distressing symptoms in people who suffer from chronophobia

A related irrational fear is chronomentrophobia, which is the fear of clocks and anything related to clocks. The fear can arise in response to the ticking or chiming of clocks, the digits on a clock face, and even the mechanics and gears inside them. It can extend to anxiety associated with deadlines, schedules, punctuality, and even the fear of approaching death. 

Chronomentrophobia is considered a specific phobia. 

According to diagnostic criteria of the DSM-5 published by the American Psychiatric Association, a specific phobia is a type of anxiety disorder characterised by a marked fear or anxiety about a specific object or situation.1 Specific phobias can be of different types, based on what they are directed at:

  • Animal type (such as dogs or spiders) 
  • Natural environment type (such as thunderstorms or water) 
  • Blood-injection-injury type (such as needles) 
  • Situational type (such as enclosed spaces or public transport)
  • Unspecified type (such as vomiting, or loud noises) 

Specific phobias are not too common. According to the DSM-5, prevalence rates for specific phobias in the USA and European countries are between 6-9%, and 2-4% in Asian, African, and Latin American countries. Specific phobia is prevalent among 5% of children and 16% of teenagers, while older adults have a lower prevalence (between 3-5%). Specific phobias are more common in people assigned female at birth (AFAB) compared to those assigned male at birth (AMAB). Animal, natural environment, and situation-type phobias are greater in AFAB populations, while blood-injection-injury-type phobias are experienced almost equally in both.1

A 2018 study with a sample size of 124,902 adult participants from twenty-two countries revealed that the lifetime prevalence of specific phobias was 7.4%.2 

What are the signs and symptoms of Chronomentrophobia?

On encountering the phobic stimulus, an individual experiences physiological, emotional, and behavioural symptoms. 

Physiological symptoms of specific phobias, including chronomentrophobia, are:

  • Increased heart rate 
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Tightness or pain in the chest
  • Sweating, chills, hot-flushes, or pallor (blood rushing out of your face)
  • Nausea, stomach aches and vomiting 
  • Shaking, trembling, dizziness, or fainting

Emotional symptoms can be:

  • Intense or overwhelming fear
  • Panic and a need to escape 
  • A feeling of threat and immediate danger
  • Dissociation or depersonalisation (a sense of disconnection from your body) 

Behavioural symptoms might be seen as changes in routines, habits, or lifestyle, such as:

  • Going out of your way to avoid anything that might trigger your fear, such as staying away from railway stations or other public places with clocks
  • Making changes in your life to avoid the phobic situation or object, such as covering all the clock faces in your house
  • Avoiding life changes (even positive ones) to avoid encountering triggers, such as rejecting work opportunities in offices which involve an interaction with clocks or similar tools 

What causes Chronomentrophobia? 

Psychological models explaining specific phobias have to do with associations between a stimulus and feelings of anxiety. These associations make a person susceptible to a chronic emotional association between clocks and anxiety.3

Classical Conditioning

Repeated associations between a neutral stimulus (such as a clock) and a fearful situation, or feeling, lead to phobias. For example, a person feels tense about completing a test and is repeatedly looking at a clock to tell the time. They might end up associating that anxiety about their test to the clock, thus developing a phobia.3 


Association can occur through modelling or observational learning, where a person may observe someone else’s reaction and internalise their fears about the dangers of that situation or object. For example, if you witnessed your older brother’s fear of clocks, you might develop a similar fear.3 

Operant Conditioning

Reinforcement, in the form of a positive or negative consequence to an action, determines whether someone will repeat a particular behaviour. In the case of a phobia, a negative consequence of interacting with a situation or object may result in fear. On the other hand, avoiding that triggering stimulus might provide relief and reduce anxiety (a positive consequence), letting the fears persist.4 For example, if wearing a watch makes you anxious about being late to a class, you might stop wearing one to avoid the fear associated with it.

Other factors like life events, experiences, individual factors, and psychological disorders also shape how chronomentrophobia develops and manifests:

  • Genetic predisposition: Some people have a genetic predisposition to anxiety disorders, including specific phobias. A family history of anxiety-related disorders might increase the likelihood of developing chronomentrophobia. It can also be comorbid with other anxiety disorders, being an extension of broader issues associated with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) or social anxiety 
  • Childhood influences: The experiences and situations a person undergoes in their childhood shape their adult personality. The process of association through conditioning starts in childhood. If a child is punished repeatedly for not being punctual, they may associate time-related concepts and objects with emotions of fear and anxiety, developing a phobia
  • Personality traits: Along similar lines, personality traits, such as perfectionism, control, punctuality, and discipline, at excessive levels might manifest as fears related to losing out on time or failing to perform adequately. Thus, resulting in the development of a specific phobia, like chronomentrophobia
  • Traumatic events or negative experiences: The most memorable events in our lives might be ones that were either the best or the worst we’ve experienced. Traumatic experiences associated with an object or situation are often the root causes of a phobia. Similarly, a situation, like missing a deadline or being late to a crucial appointment, might cause chronomentrophobia 
  • Perceived pressure: High-pressure environments, where individuals constantly feel the burden of time constraints and deadlines, can lead to chronomentrophobia. This is common in competitive workplaces or academic settings where there is pressure to meet high standards

Triggers of chronomentrophobia can include:

  • Clocks and Watches: The sight of clocks and watches, especially when ticking audibly, can be a major trigger. The relentless progression of time may intensify a person’s anxiety 
  • Calendars: Calendars, especially those with approaching deadlines or appointments, can trigger fear and anxiety in individuals. Marking dates or seeing upcoming events may cause distress, since they are associated with time passing
  • Deadlines: The pressure associated with deadlines can be an acute trigger for chronomentrophobia. As the deadline draws near, individuals may experience heightened anxiety and fear
  • Time-related conversations: Discussions about time, schedules, or deadlines in social or professional settings can trigger anxiety in those with chronomentrophobia. They may feel a sense of impending doom or inadequacy during such conversations
  • Social expectations: Social expectations to be punctual can trigger fear in individuals with this phobia. The fear of being judged for arriving late to social events or appointments can be overwhelming

How is Chronomentrophobia diagnosed?

 Chronomentrophobia, like any specific phobia, is diagnosed when:1 

  • A particular object or situation, known as the phobic stimulus, provokes immediate and marked fear or anxiety
  • The fear experienced is intense or severe and varies with proximity to the phobic object, occurring in anticipation or in the presence of the phobic object 
  • Fear response is evoked nearly every time the phobic object is encountered, though the degree of fear might vary across situations
  • The person actively avoids the object or situation or faces it with intense anxiety
  • The fear or anxiety experienced is out of proportion of the actual danger that the phobic stimulus presents
  • The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is persistent, typically lasting over 6 or more months
  • The specific phobia causes significant distress or impairment in important areas of functioning 
  • The disturbance cannot be explained by symptoms of another mental disorder 

How is chronomentrophobia treated? 

Managing and treating chronomentrophobia can take many different forms and approaches.

Exposure Therapy

In vivo exposure is considered to be the most effective treatment for specific phobias. It involves patients coming into direct contact with the phobic stimulus. The principle of exposure therapy is used in different approaches to treating chronomentrophobia and other phobias. Rather than exposing the patient to a real phobic object, imaginary exposure is also used. The patient is confronted with computer-generated representations of the phobic object, either through virtual reality (VR) or computer-aided vicarious exposure (CAVE).5  

Systematic Desensitisation

According to Wolpe, who introduced this technique, a person cannot be relaxed and anxious at the same time. So introducing a phobic stimulus when a person is relaxed will help them learn new responses to it. Systematic desensitisation works in three stages. 

  1. The therapist teaches relaxation techniques, like breath control and muscle relaxation
  2. Constructing a progressive fear hierarchy based on intensity, from imagining a situation with clocks to looking at a real clock 
  3. Desensitisation where the therapist will expose the patient to the phobic stimulus along their fear hierarchy while helping them practise relaxation techniques 5

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) 

CBT as a treatment method is used alongside exposure therapy, focusing on the irrational thoughts causing avoidant or anxious behaviours. Patients are taught to identify and alter faulty thought patterns that maintain their fear of the phobic stimulus.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MSBR) 

It is an intensive mindfulness technique that combines physical, behavioural, and emotional awareness with meditation and yoga. It aims to help the patient explore their present experience in relation to thoughts, physical and emotional sensations, and memories to reduce suffering and interference from the environment. 


Techniques, such as applied relaxation (AR) and progressive muscular relaxation (PMR), are used in line with systematic desensitisation, CBT, and exposure therapy. These involve teaching patients specific skills to relax their minds and body and then teaching them how to use those when confronting the phobic stimulus. Meditation also helps the patient clear their worries and fears to face the phobic stimulus. 

Psychiatric Medication 

Psychiatrists may prescribe medication for severe cases of chronomentrophobia. These can be anxiolytics (anti-anxiety) or antidepressant medications. These are usually prescribed alongside therapy. 

Lifestyle changes

Finally, on the individual level, chronomentrophobia can be managed by learning and using time-management techniques, setting flexible and realistic goals, making lifestyle changes, and joining support groups. 

Effectiveness of treatment

Reports suggest that patients suffering from specific phobias, including chronomentrophobia, are often reluctant to seek treatment. They might feel like their symptoms are untreatable or be apprehensive about treatment involving direct confrontation with the phobic stimulus.

However, specific phobias are among the most treatable psychological disorders. New models and methods of treatment allow the patient to overcome their phobias without compromising their comfort.3 

With proper treatment, most people with chronomentrophobia can improve their quality of life and manage their symptoms with short-term and long-term management strategies. 


Chronomentrophobia is the irrational fear of clocks. It is a specific phobia, a category of anxiety disorder which is associated with a specific object or situation. Chronomentrophobia can be caused by negative experiences, traumatic events, personality traits, or genetic predispositions. It can manifest as the fear of clock or watch faces, ticking sounds, or clock mechanisms, as well as anxiety associated with time passing. Chronomentrophobia can be treated by exposure therapy, systematic desensitisation, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), mindfulness-based stress reduction (MSBR), relaxation techniques, and medication.


  1. American Psychiatric Association, American Psychiatric Association, editors. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. 5th ed. Washington, D.C: American Psychiatric Association; 2013. 947 p. Available from: https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/dsm
  2. Wardenaar KJ, Lim CCW, Al-Hamzawi AO, Alonso J, Andrade LH, Benjet C, et al. The cross-national epidemiology of specific phobia in the World Mental Health Surveys. Psychol Med. 2017 Jul;47(10):1744–60. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28222820/
  3. Samra CK, Abdijadid S. Specific phobia. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 [cited 2023 Sep 8]. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499923/
  4. Demi̇r M, Köskün T. Efficacy of virtual reality exposure therapy in the treatment of specific phobias: a systematic review. Psikiyatride Güncel Yaklaşımlar - Current Approaches in Psychiatry [Internet]. 2023 Dec 25 [cited 2023 Sep 8];15(4):562–76. Available from: https://dergipark.org.tr/en/pub/pgy/issue/72960/1192543
  5. Wolitzky-Taylor KB, Horowitz JD, Powers MB, Telch MJ. Psychological approaches in the treatment of specific phobias: A meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review [Internet]. 2008 Jul 1 [cited 2023 Sep 8];28(6):1021–37. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272735808000639
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Anandita Balsavar

Bachelor of Arts, St. Joseph’s University, India

Anandita is a final-year student of Psychology and English with an interest in writing. With experience in content writing and more creative ventures, such as podcasting, she is building her skills in different forms of writing. She wants to develop research-oriented skills in psychology. Presently, Anandita is working at Klarity, focusing on writing about psychological conditions.

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