Chronophobia (fear of passing time): causes, symptoms and treatment

We all age over the years. Over time, people accept that there is nothing we can do to change this situation. However, some people experience the irrational fear of aging, known as gerontophobia or gerascophobia, because they suffer from great anxiety about physical changes and the consequences for a person of reaching old age.

However, other people experience great fear over time, which causes them great discomfort. This phobia is called chronophobia, and in this article we will learn more about its features, causes, symptoms, and treatment.

  • Collection of famous phrases about time

What is chronophobia

Chronophobia is a specific phobia and therefore an anxiety disorder. It is an irrational fear that creates great discomfort and anxiety in the sufferer, which tends to avoid the phobic stimulus in an attempt to reduce the negative symptomatology associated with this disorder.

According to experts, older people and incarcerated people experience it more often. In the latter case, it was coined under the name of “prison neurosis”.

As for the elderly, they are near the end of their life and may experience high levels of anxiety over time which can make them feel like time is running out and they experience strong fear, anxiety. and distress.

Chronophobia can lead to a significant and serious alteration in the lives of people who suffer from it, because they are constantly in contact with the phobic stimulus, that is, the element of which they are afraid. No one can stop time, so this phobia can develop anytime and anywhere. When anxious responses appear, it is difficult for the person to avoid the dreaded situation.

Causes of this phobia

The causes of this phobia are unclear, as the phobic stimulus that causes it is slightly more complex and abstract than other specific phobias, such as fear of flying, fear of clowns, or fear of spiders.

The vast majority of specific phobias are caused by a traumatic experience during childhood. This goes through an associative learning called classical conditioning, because there is an association between a stimulus that elicits a reflex response of fear and one that does not produce it initially, but which with joint exposure ends up producing.

This concept, initially studied by Ivan Pavlov, became known mainly through the experiences of John B. Watson, an American psychologist who conducted a series of studies, which today would be considered unethical, with a young child called Albert. At the start of the experiment, the subject enjoyed the company of a beautiful white rat, but after successive repetitions, he was unable to approach the animal due to the intense fear he suffered from the harmless creature. .

  • To understand how this type of associative learning develops, you can read our article: “Classical conditioning and its most important experiences”

Other causes of this phobic disorder

However, in the case of chronophobia, the development of this irrational fear has a lot to do with the irrational beliefs that the person has, and the individual’s lack of acceptance of what life is like.

Some experts claim that there may also be a genetic origin, for example adrenal insufficiency, which prevents the adrenal glands from producing adequate amounts of hormones such as cortisol or aldosterone, which tends to make a person more susceptible to anxiety and fear. Some people may also have an anxious personality type, which can make it easier to develop the disorder.

On the other hand, other health professionals believe that people are biologically predisposed to suffer from irrational fears, as the fears have to do with the primitive brain, and phobias are caused by such associations and not cognitive, of so that they usually do not react. to logical arguments. This, which may have been very adaptive in the past and has contributed to human survival over the centuries, can cause this type of disorder.

Symptoms of fear over time

Like any phobia, fear of passing time causes a number of characteristic symptoms. The person suffers a lot of anxiety because of their irrational ideas about the passage of time. Confusion, dizziness, lack of concentration, etc. are some of the cognitive symptoms that a person experiences..

In addition, a number of physical and physiological symptoms occur, such as the following:

  • Headache
  • dizzy
  • Shortness of breath
  • suffocation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • tremors
  • dry mouth
  • palpitations

Treatment and therapy

Phobias are common disorders, so there are a large number of studies regarding the effectiveness of treatment. These studies indicate that psychotherapy is really helpful, especially cognitive behavioral therapy.

This type of therapy includes different techniques, but the most important for treating phobic disorders are breathing techniques and exposure techniques (real or imagined). One technique that includes both techniques is systematic desensitization, In which the patient is exposed to his fear and at the same time learns a series of strategies that allow him to manage his irrational fear in the best positive way.

For this type of phobia, moreover, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and acceptance and engagement therapy is also very helpful, which focuses on acceptance, context and how the patient relates. to the situation and the problem.

In severe cases, pharmacological treatment is indicated, but always in combination with psychological therapy.

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