Who’s Afraid of Clocks? (Fearless February Day 19)

Doomsday ClockChronomentrophobia. The fear of clocks.

No, I don’t mean the Cold Play song. I mean the thing the mouse ran up.

This unusual phobia is not to be confused with Chronophobia, the fear of time (which is much too hard to get your head around), or Gerontophobia, the fear of aging (which is much too easy to get your head around).

station clockChronomentrophobics suffer acute distress in the presence of a clock. Seriously. Even just the sound of ticking or chiming is cause to flee. (Cinderella may have been chronomentrophobic.) 

The digital revolution may have benefited Chronomentrophobics, as numbers are less frightening than clock-faces with hands going round and round eternally. Or maybe it ruined their lives, as every gadget you buy these days comes with its own clock, so we are surrounded by reminders of every single minute that hovers unnappreciated before us.

Time stops for no man, but you can live without a clock. People did that for millennia. (They didn’t hold office jobs or attend pilates classes, but they managed.)

But if your fear of clocks is ruining your life, exposure therapy might begin with one of these:

whatever clock

Or maybe that’s a nightmare for chronomentrophobics. I don’t know. I’ve never met one. So don’t take my advice on how to beat this fear — seek professional help or google it.

28 tricks coverIf you have Chronomentrophobia, please leave a comment on this blog because I would love to hear what this bizarre fear is like. If you leave a comment during Fearless February, you could win a copy of my new middle-grade comedy, 28 Tricks for a Fearless Grade 6. (But be warned, it contains clocks. The very first sentence reads, “When the school bell rang at 3:15…” So take a deep breath before you crack open this scary book.)

Best of luck facing your fears today.

45 Comments on “Who’s Afraid of Clocks? (Fearless February Day 19)

  1. I have a very real yet unique phobia of clock faces with Roman numerals. Not a fear of time, not a fear of chiming, ticking etc. Specifically large clock faces with Roman numerals and the bigger the clock face, the worse it is.

    What is it like you ask?

    It’s like pure fear. Shaking, clammy, wanting to throw up. It’s horrendous. Fortunately, I have a good sense of humour and understand that it’s funny and odd to others. It’s completely irrational, hence it being a phobia.

    I even joke that perhaps I was a clock cleaner for Big Ben and fell off in my past life!

    Never met or heard of any other sufferers yet!

    • Thank you so much for commenting, June. This is just fascinating. The human brain is such a wonder.

      I know exactly what you mean about the feeling of pure fear. My phobia of heights came on suddenly in my thirties. Until then, I’d thought people who had phobias just felt scared, as in uneasy and concerned, regular old scared. But it’s a rush of terror. It’s overwhelming. And knowing you “shouldn’t” feel that way doesn’t help. (Exposure therapy does help – it takes a long time moving along a hierarchy of fear, but eventually you build new paths in your brain and you don’t feel that rush anymore.)

      There are so many odd phobias like yours and we may never know why they originated. Fortunately, for you, clocks with Roman numerals are less common, I think, than they used to be. To the rest of us, they are the loveliest clock faces.

    • I also have a phobia of clock faces, with especially strong reaction to any combination of (i) Roman numerals (ii) high contrast, especially white on black and most of all (iii) cuckoo clocks. My earliest memory is me helpless in the crib and the ominous stark-faced cuckoo clock on the wall.

      • That is just fascinating to me. Since first hearing from someone with a fear of clock faces with Roman numerals on them, I have noticed how often they appear in public spaces – it must be difficult for someone with a phobia. Cuckoo clocks are far less common – I think I’ve only ever seen them in movies (but you’d be completely unprepared for one to pop up – or out – in a scene).

        Exposure therapy really does help, in tiny steps, over a great deal of time, like retraining the brain, but it is not easy.

        Thanks for taking the time to comment here.

    • Dear June, just to let you that I suffer exactly the same thing. Martin.

    • Omg, I have found someone with the same phobia finally! I remember walking into furniture stores as a child and being intensely frightened by the huge clocks with hulking Roman numerals on them, for some reason.

      • There are surprisingly many chronomentrophobics out there. I’m so glad this blog has brought a few of you together. Thanks for adding your voice here. You are not alone. 🙂

    • Ah, yes, they are popular on clock towers, aren’t they? The one you can see from afar, the one you have to pass to get to work, the one you know is waiting for you, you can see it already if you just turn your head a smidge….. Sorry. I don’t notice them at all because I don’t have your phobia – I’m sure they are not so easy to avoid as I might think. Keep your sense of humour handy. 🙂

  2. I just have phobia of chiming and striking clocks, like grandfather clocks.

    • Thank you for sharing that phobia. It’s fascinating to wonder why people can feel terror or dread over such specific harmless things – maybe a clock was chiming when you fell out of a crib as a toddler, of maybe a teacher yelled at you for being late in kindergarten, or maybe you were deeply disturbed by some race against the clock in a movie. Once the connection to fear is made, it’s so ferociously strong, and it gets stronger every time we react with fear. (Even if we do know why we’re phobic, that doesn’t make it easier to cure. I think only habit, the building of new connections, can help.) I hope your phobia is not too hard to live with. Thanks for commenting.

      • Late-to-the-party (4+ years (!) later) reply.

        Didn’t know what exactly triggered my phobia in the first place.
        But in fact I binge watch grandfather clock videos on YouTube occasionally, but still kind of terrified of chiming clocks in the real life.

        On YouTube you can pause the video (chiming), not in real life.

        And to be precise, my exact fear is the “shocking” sudden “bong” of the striking/chiming clock. No such “shock” in real life…

      • Your binge-watching and pausing the chiming of clocks sounds like a form of exposure therapy. Good for you. I’ve done the same type of thing for my fear of heights, which has improved but still lurks within. Thanks for returning here–a few years and a few more chronomentrophic commenters later. You are not alone. 🙂

    • I feel exactly the same way. I came here after watching a video of almost 1000 clocks all chiming at once. It was a tour through a clock shop but consodering the chiming happens on the hour every hour it would be living hell for me. Ticking irritates me moreso than scares me, and I’ve always been terrified of rapid-spinning clock hands in movies (which happened to the mantle clock in our living room once and scared the bejaysus outta me). I suppose it just signifies time continually passing, not really giving a damn whether or not we’re here to see it. But if I walked into a clock shop like that, I wouldn’t. Either I wouldnt be there in the first place or I’d scream, cry and leg it.

  3. I have finally found others with the same phobia! What June and n8chz described is exactly the way the phobia is for me. I’m terrified of clocks with roman numerals on, especially the black&white ones, I can’t look at them withthout feeling as if I may cry/throw up because I’m that scared.

    • I feel for you, Emma. I don’t have any phobias of anything I can’t avoid (heights? I’m just not going up). I’m sure you occasionally run into such clocks and everyone thinks your reaction is crazy. Now that there are three of you who’ve responded here, I’m thinking this particular phobia isn’t as rare as I used to think. I wonder if there’s a similar way it was caused for each of you? Something lost to memory, probably. Thanks for commenting – you and June and n8chz should connect and talk clocks. 🙂

      • Yes! Even people who know of my phobia are still surprised at my reaction when I don’t know there is one nearby. And I haven’t a clue what caused it, all I remember is being very young (around 4) at my primary school, which was next to a church with a clock face on and ever since I first saw it from the playground, my fear began.

      • Unless/until you have a phobia, you don’t really understand what it feels like. You think it’s just an uneasy scared feeling that you could/should be able to control. But it’s a rush of terror, a primal thing. Our bodies just take over. It’s easier socially (judgement-wise) being terrified of something more commonly feared, like snakes or heights or the dark, than something like clocks or newspapers – but I’m sure the experience of a phobia is just the same, whatever prompts it. It’s sheer terror. Doesn’t help one whit to know you ought not to feel it.

  4. I’m not keen on clocks as they look like scary, staring faces, but I can usually cope. Similarly, I don’t like the old-style swimming pool filters that have two screw holes, like eyes. I think they remind me of the Cybermen, cyborgs from a 1960s UK sci-fi series (Dr Who) which had blank, staring eyes and were determined to kill humans. Probably similar to fear of ventriloquist dummies — inanimate objects that might come to life but have no soul.

  5. My 2 year old grandson is afraid of cartoons with clocks in them. So far he’s had the same reaction to two videos. One was a music cartoon video of Hickory Dockery Dock. The other was a show called Umi zoomi where there’s a magician and a bookshelf full of clocks. He starts crying and panicking, turning away and telling me to change it.

    • When my son was six or so, he was terrified of the trailer for the Disney cartoon movie, The Invincibles. The trailer showed a nice cartoon man trying to squeeze into his old red superhero suit–nothing even slightly menacing about it. As soon as it appeared on the TV screen, our son would panic and rush from the room in terror. (Unfortunately, it was a preview in several videos we rented long after the movie had come and gone – every time he had the same phobic reaction.) We never did figure out what exactly frightened him about it. He saw the movie itself and wasn’t afraid of anything in it. It was just that trailer with the man in the red suit. (Santa memories?) Whatever it was, it hasn’t reappeared in his life (yet) because there’s been no similar reaction to anything else. We are a mystery to ourselves sometimes.

  6. Since phobia is associated with manifestation of subconscious actions/ events, maybe this short story of mine could help.

    I actually have no severe symptoms such as puking or what whenever I see clocks randomly in public (or even home). Its just anxiety…intense anxiety. Most of us will actually be terrified if ever the deadline of a certain work comes up, but for me it even intensifies whenever I look up at the clock. Its not the time I am worrying about (well maybe a little), but those “two-wicked arrows” going around and around. It feels like death is running then slice you if did not meet the conditions of those arrows at a certain degree. Its all about the form.

    I was raised in a home where there is an attracting, well placed wall clock inside our house. Going downstairs, walking to the dining area and even going out, there is no possible way to avoid looking at that freaking clock. My father is strict to schedule while my mother is a slacker. Conflict always happen whenever our family had appointments to go. As a kid I am obviously compelled to follow my father’s whim but sadly I have my mother’s trait. Due to this I am always scolded and punished. Fear to these consequences led me to be always aware of the clock.

    How did I cope up with this? I now always look at the time on my phone or laptop. Trust me, knowing you only had 2 more hours of sleep is better than knowing it if you look it at the clock (anxiety = insomnia).

    Lastly is to list where or when I could have possibly get this phobia. Like other phobias, it is related to your childhood. Next is it might be cognitive. Looking at a thing which is constantly moving actually triggers attentiveness. Its a method of survival after all. And another one is might be the “anticipation” of expected outcomes. Hope this helps!

    P.S a running clock is always frightening than a still clock

    • Sorry to hear about your anxiety. I have felt anxiety over impending deadlines and impending events I didn’t want to face, for sure. And I suppose clocks remind us that we are on our way to the ultimate impending deadline of death, eventually, and it’s closer every moment, alas. I wonder what it would be like to live without clocks–until recently, that was the way all people lived. Time was marked, certainly, but not every second of it. Thanks for commenting here.

  7. Just found this site and thought i’d add my own phobia.
    Grandfather clocks in particular scare the living daylights out of me and if i see one anywhere i have to immediately run away. I also can’t listen to a grandfather clock chime, i specify grandfather clocks because my nan has an old wall mounted chiming clock and thats fine but there is something about GrFr clocks that brings out extreme anxiety. I haven’t really tested out what other types of clocks i am phobic of because generally i avoid them and its rare to find really old clocks for me. Also weirdly enough old furniture makes me nervous and i can’t be near them long, so i generally avoid all vintage and second hand shops.

    But normal round wall mounted clocks are fine and Roman numerals have no negative effect on me. Also i have no fear of time passing or anything like that.

    • I find old furniture a little creepy, too (but for me I think it’s a fear of mould and mildew rather than any type of phobia). I’m much more comfortable in modern surroundings.

      I’m just so fascinated by this rare phobia — thanks for adding your story to the comments. I would love to know more about how these fears arise. Such a strange mystery.

  8. Mine is simply the ticking of the clock–the noise it makes. We used to have one in the bathroom and I would have to turn the fan on or make some other noise to cover it. It gives me bad anxiety but I haven’t had panic attacks or anything. School was hell!

    • Fascinating. Does the ticking of a bomb clock counting down in movies cause the same anxiety as a clock ticking in real life? (If so, those scenes must be even more tense for you than the rest of us!) Thanks for sharing your phobia here. 🙂

  9. Oh my god, I’m not the only one! It feels so silly, but I also dislike large clocks with roman numerals on them with a passion. Literally, I see them and I walk away as fast as possible and I feel oddly dizzy and lightheaded, and sort of weak when I see them. The other day I was at our local museum and there’s a grandfather clock in one of the rooms and oh, man, I thought I was gonna pass out. I managed to get within a few feet of it but I shuddered and walked away as fast as I could. The only thing I can think of that instilled this fear within me is when I was only 2 and visited my uncle’s and aunt’s house because their daughter was getting married and they had a grandfather clock in their house and I just remember it being so loud and tall and I was so small and I’ve been skittish of them ever since. It’s weird, but I can’t help it, haha. Thanks for this, though, I’m glad to know I’m not the only one (though I guess it was probably silly for me to think that, what with billions of people on this planet, lol).

    • You are not alone! 😊 Even with the billions of potential phobic folk, I continue to be surprised by how many people are afraid of clocks. It’s more common than I thought.

  10. My son and I both have a fear of clocks. Our fear is not of time passing or of mortality but of clocks themselves. Specifically those that tick. The worst fear and anxiety comes from grandfather clocks or cuckoo clocks. My son is only 4 and he expressed his fear of clocks from the time he is 18 months. I was careful not to show my anxiety to him, so I was shocked when he had the same fear as me at such a young age and it seemed even more pronounced. If he’s at a house and they have a clock that audibly ticks, he will become spooked and leave. Clocks have made me anxious since I was a child.

    • Fascinating! I can’t believe how common this is. What a difficult fear to live with. Thanks for sharing your story. I wish I knew more about this fear and whether anyone has conquered it.

  11. I’m not so much afraid of normal clock that you would find in a room I’m more or less afraid of a grandfather clock because for some reason I have a sneaky suspicion that there’s something hiding inside of them

  12. It’s grandfather clocks for me too – particularly the very old dark ones with ‘horns’ on the top. I think mine started when visiting Queen Charlotte’s Cottage at Kew Gardens aged about 3 and being terrified of the large grandfather clock. My Dad lifted me up into its face and said ‘It’s only a clock’. Since then, I have had extreme difficulties visiting department stores that have a clock department and jewellery shops where there are grandfather clocks. The absolute worst are palaces, stately homes and museums. I remember my Mum phoning Hampton Court Palace before a school trip to find out which rooms had grandfather clocks in so my teacher could be prepared to hide me under her jacket and rush me through them. The National Maritime Museum has a longcase clock collection. I distinctly remember the panic when my parents took me there and my Mum stuffing me under her coat and running through faster than Usain Bolt. The trouble is, I am now 50 years old and the fear is just as great. I just stayed in a hotel over Christmas where there was a huge one round the corner from reception. For me, the fear manifests itself in extreme panic, feeling hot and cold and a bit dizzy, sweaty palms, sometimes being totally routed to the spot. I just cannot look at them. My daughters always take pictures of them, and I even find it difficult to look at them afterwards. For me, it seems they are always hiding round corners or behind doors so you don’t see them until you have passed the point of no return! There is a particularly annoying one in a hotel in Helsinki. They keep moving it. Sometimes, it is in a corridor on the way to the guest rooms, sometimes it’s in the dining room. I never know where it’s going to be which adds to the panic. Has anyone had any ‘immersion therapy’ or hypnosis to try and conquer their fear? I would be interested as this is still having a profound impact on my life and I feel very stupid asking my family or colleagues to check rooms out before I can go in.

    • Thanks so much for sharing your story here, Ros. I haven’t heard from anyone who has conquered their fear of clocks, but I do know people, including myself, who have at least lessened a phobia with gentle and long therapy. There’s a good book, How to Cure Animal Phobias (https://www.amazon.ca/Overcoming-Animal-Insect-Phobias-Conquer/dp/1572243880) that has methods that might be applicable to clocks. The key is to limit the exposure, at whichever stage you’re attempting, until it doesn’t totally stress you. You mentioned looking at pictures–that’s where to start, and stay with that stage for a long time until you’re somewhat relaxed with a picture (I don’t mean minutes; I mean weeks of short daily sessions). Then touch the pictures, staying at that stage until you’re okay. Then work up from there–but it takes a VERY long time and you have to be really gentle with yourself. You’re retraining your brain, building new patterns, not putting yourself in situations where you keep connecting clocks and fear.

      I wish you the best with it. It’s tough to have a phobia that others are so unsympathetic to–it’s much easier to be afraid of heights or snakes (and you can avoid them easier, too).

  13. And here comes another one with fear of clocks!. I don’t mind ageing, so the fear has nothing to do with time passing. I think that I as a very young child was close to a longcase clock when it stroke. No wonder they scare you! They look like evil human beings. They sound and they move. And in the English language the words for some of the parts of the clock are “face” and “hands”. They are almost human.

    I have seen a psychologist 10 times but realized that every clock model would take 10 sessions, so I gave up. I feel disabled and it is a huge problem to me in every day life. Staying in a hotel for instance. You never know where to expect a clock.

    Eva
    Sweden

  14. I’m sorry to hear how disabling this fear is, Eva. I hope it helps that many clocks are digital in hotels now. But clocks with faces and hands are still all over so they would be hard to avoid. Maybe I am lucky with my fear of heights.

  15. Always good to know I’m not the only one who has this fear. Since I was young I’ve been afraid of clocks, especially those old looking ones by your bedside in hotel rooms, even the slightest sight of clocks (especially old looking ones) scares me. I often feel shaky around them and sometimes feel like throwing up, worried that I’ll have nightmares after seeing them.

    Nowadays I have to try to avoid staying at traditional well known (and usually) five star hotels, having the impression that rooms there have the highest chance of having one of those on the table, which makes the whole experience of staying there fearful in some way. A significant part of my hotel searches surrounds trying to figure out whether the hotel uses older clocks or digital ones. Luckily newer, hotels (most of them) are now moving to digital clocks, whilst I’d prefer no clock at all(think smartphones will do), at least i feel slightly better being in the room.

    • Thanks for adding your experience here, Stewart. There’s such a surprising variety to this fear! I’m glad you know you’re not alone, and that the digital revolution is giving you some relief.

  16. I possibly have a different version of this fear, for me it’s only Grandfather and Grandmother clocks. It’s not the concept of time or any other type of clock but those have scared me since I was little. The fact that I’m only 5 feet tall, and almost all of them are 6 feet or taller, and that they’re very old and loud. I don’t know why I have this fear but I almost go into a panic if I’m around one for too long or if I’m too close to one. If there was a miniature one I’d be fine just the life size one scares me. I also have a specific fear of heights pertaining to falling. Being up high doesn’t bother me nearly as much as if I were to bungee jump or even go on a drop tower. Appreciate the findings!

    • Interesting–so many variations on the clock fear! (As for your fear of falling, that sounds completely rational to me; I would not recommend trying to overcome it.) Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story. 🙂

  17. I hafe a phobia of Grandfather clocks, it’s the actual ticking chiming and the presents of the clock it self. Also other similar clocks. I have no idea why, it started as a child. I freeze, get cold shivers, a sense of fear and tend to take flight.
    I remember my husband booked us into a guest house for a short break. Everything was fine until I went upstairs to our room, the grandfather click was on the landing. I instantly took flight, ran down the stairs and out of the house to both my husbands and the owners suprise. We didn’t stay.
    I’m fine with time and other clocks.

    • Thanks for commenting. I just met someone else with your phobia, a boy in one of my writing workshops. He is the first person I’ve met in the flesh with chronomentrophobia and, like you, it was grandfather clocks that he feared. Fascinating. Hopefully you don’t have to change your travel plans very often to avoid them. 🙂

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