Fear of clocks (chronometrophobia): causes, symptoms and treatment

Humans can develop fears about anything and sometimes those fears are irrational and persistent. It is known as phobia, a disorder that usually develops as a result of a traumatic past experience..

Phobias have many types. Some are very strange as we explained in our article “The 15 rarest phobias that exist”. And can certain phobic disorders surprise many people by the harmlessness of the dreaded stimulus. A clear example is chronometrophobia or the fear of clocks.

Many readers are probably wondering “how is it possible that such a useful and harmless device causes fear?” In this article, we will answer that question and delve deeper into the causes, symptoms, and treatment for this disorder.

What is chronometrophobia

As we said at the beginning of the article, phobias have many types. You can check it out in our article “Types of phobias: exploring fear disorders”.

These irrational fears can be classified as social phobias, agoraphobia or specific or simple phobias. The latter are distinguished from the former because the phobic stimulus is an object, an activity, a situation or an animal. Phobia in clowns (coulrophobia), dogs (cynophobia) and, of course, watching phobia (chronometrophobia) belongs to this type of phobia.

Phobias belong to the group of anxiety disorders, so anxiety, in addition to extreme fear, is one of the characteristic symptoms of this disorder. People who suffer from chronometrophobia, in the presence of clocks or their imagination, experience extreme fear, anxiety, confusion, the need to avoid the dreaded stimulus and many other symptoms that cause discomfort.

The relationship of this phobia with fear of the passage of time or chronophobia

Clocks are objects that tell us the time and allow us to know the time in which we are. For the life of today’s human being, these devices are very useful.

But some people develop these phobias for different reasons. In some cases, this phobia is associated with chronophobia or fear of the passage of time. This disorder is complex and, according to experts, older people and incarcerated people suffer from it more frequently. In the case of inmates, this disorder is called “prison neurosis”.

  • If you want to dive into this pathology, you can read our article: “Chronophobia (fear of passing time): causes, symptoms and treatment”

Causes of phobia in watches

But watch phobia does not manifest itself just because of chronophobia. The most common cause is the result of a traumatic experience, usually during childhood. Chronometrophobia develops by classical conditioning, as it involves the association of a stimulus that initially provokes a reflex response to fear and one that does not initially provoke it. This last stimulus is called a neutral stimulus. After presenting these stimuli together and following the traumatic experience, the neutral stimulus may elicit a fear response.

Ivan Pavlov originally studied this phenomenon; however, the first researcher to develop a phobia in humans was John B. Watson, an American psychologist who conducted a series of studies that are today considered unethical.

  • To learn more about this topic, you can read our article “Classical conditioning and its most important experiences”


However, this phobia also has an effect on the behavior of the subject who, in the presence of clocks, tends to avoid them. The other characteristic symptoms, known as physical symptoms, are:

  • Accelerated heart rate.
  • Heart rate increased.
  • Shortness of breath and hyperventilation.
  • Over-sweating.
  • Dry mouth.
  • intestinal disorders
  • Headache.
  • Tension in the muscles.


Anxiety disorders are very common reasons for consultation in psychology clinics. Among these are phobias, which cause great discomfort. Patients are often aware of the problem they are suffering from, but fear is an emotion that takes place in the primitive brain and not in the neocortex (rational brain), so phobias usually do not respond to logical arguments. The best way to treat a phobia is with exposure therapy, which belongs to the therapeutic model known as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

CBT is a very successful form of psychotherapy that includes other techniques useful for the treatment of phobias such as relaxation techniques, which help the patient to control the symptoms of this condition.

One of the most widely used techniques is systematic desensitization, which includes the previous two, and which consists in exposing the patient, gradually, to the phobic stimulus.. This means that, for example, the patient is first exposed to photographs on which clocks appear, and then, in the later stages of treatment, to be able to have direct contact with the feared stimulus.

Other types of therapy are used successfully today. Some examples are mindfulness-based cognitive therapy or acceptance and engagement therapy. In addition, as we explain in our article “8 applications to treat phobias and fears of your smartphone”, new technologies are also at the service of the treatment of phobic disorders.

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