How Time-Blindness Affects Mental Health
If you've never heard of the term "time-blindness," you aren't alone. I've been researching and writing about mental health for nearly 10 years, and I only heard the term last year, even though it is a major problem for a lot of people, especially those with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Typically on this blog, I talk about how I am recovering from depression and anxiety, but I have strongly identified with the symptoms of ADHD for a few years now, ever since I started reading resources on what ADHD looks like in girls and adults. Once this pandemic is over, I plan on being professionally evaluated to see if I actually have ADHD or if my ADHD symptoms are connected to something else. Regardless of a diagnosis, I definitely experience time-blindness, and it makes life in general difficult, but it can also create big problems for my mental health.
What Is Time-Blindness?
The easiest way to explain time-blindness is to compare it to colorblindness. Like people who are colorblind, those of us who are time-blind simply do not perceive the passing of time. If you are not time-blind, then this might sound impossible, but I assure you it is just as real as colorblindness.
For me, time-blindness means that sometimes I will look at the clock at 11 a.m. and then check it again an hour later, only to find that only 10 minutes have passed. Or sometimes I will start a task at 3 p.m. and by the time I think to check the clock again, it's nearly 7 p.m. I simply do not notice time passing and because of that, I don't always think to check the clock, which makes it even harder for me to have a clear sense of time.
As you can imagine, this presents a challenge for many normal daily activities like cooking, cleaning, and working. But it can also have a serious impact on my mental health.
How Time-Blindness Affects Mental Health
I'm not sure if this is the case for everyone who experiences time-blindness, but I've found that my time-blindness gets much worse when I'm depressed. Recently, I experienced one of the worst (but thankfully brief) depressive episodes I've had in a while; and for several days, it felt like time was smoke, swirling around me, impossible to hold onto. Sometimes time would fly by at impossible speeds, but other times it would drag so slowly, I wanted to sleep just to make time pass faster. So my depression clearly impacts my time-blindness, but it also works the other way around.
When I'm depressed, the best way for me to take care of myself is with a gentle combination of rest and activity. Too much rest and I get overwhelmed by how much I'm going to have to catch up on once I finally feel better, but too much activity and I get so exhausted that I just start crying. But it's hard to balance rest and activity when I can't tell how much time is passing. When I'm depressed, I tend to rest far too long, leaving too little time to get things done that will make me feel better.
3 Tips for Coping with Time-Blindness
Like colorblindness, time-blindness can't be cured. I will probably never perceive time accurately, but that doesn't mean I am powerless. There are several ways to cope with time-blindness.
- Wear an analog watch or a smartwatch. Analog watches present time in a more visual way than a digital watch which may help some people with ADHD perceive time passing more accurately. Smartwatches can also be a helpful tool to keep you from being late, especially if you set your clock face to show your next upcoming event.
- Set alarms at regular intervals. Some people find it helpful to set an alarm to go off every 20 minutes or so to remind you of how much time is passing. Others might find these constant alarms distracting, in which case, the final tip may be more helpful.
- Keep a lot of different clocks in your eyesight when possible. People who experience time-blindness typically check the clock less often than those without time-blindness because we just don't feel time passing, so it doesn't occur to us to check the clock. You can overcome this need to check by making sure that clocks are all around you. Make the clock on your phone prominent and hang several clocks in your living room, bedroom, or wherever you spend most of your time.
Do you deal with time-blindness? How have you learned to cope with it? Does it interfere with your mental health? Let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear from others who experience this mental health obstacle.
Griffith, M. (2020, June 30). How Time-Blindness Affects Mental Health, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, December 1 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2020/6/how-time-blindness-affects-mental-health
Author: Megan Griffith
i already have an analog watch (how funny my subconscious came up with a coping mechanism all on its own) that i am ABSOLUTELY lost without if i forget to put in on in the morning & i'm absolutely going to put clocks EVERYWHERE and set alarms on my phone. thank you so much for writing this--from one chronically depressed/anxious/adhd chick to another... cheers to helping each other and hoping to function! please email me if you wanna be buddies :)
The way I have learned to cope with time blindness is simply not care. It causes some issues with others who are in my life, no doubt. But I was always stressed out beyond anything bcuz of it. And I was always rushing around worrying about not making somewhere on time etc, and basically killing myself to fit all the things I needed want to do into a space of time that just doesn't fit my life or my mind space. So I decided I'm doing wat I need and want and if it takes a thousand years to do one thing so be it. And I've pretty much let every one know that's what I'm doing about it right now. Everyone is really pissed at me a lot of the time but it doesn't matter right now. This is my life not theirs and maybe I'm being a bit selfish or AGGRESSIVE in my ways right now, but it's just something I'm trying out. I'll find a happy medium eventually ..... They hope.
I LOVE THIS ATTITUDE!!! that's me right now currently stressed beyond belief because i simply cannot get myself to be on time to even the most "important" of things and it causes me extreme anxiety but i want to build a life in which i am free from these menial restraints we call "time" ya know...
but just out of curiosity, would you mind sharing what you do for a living? i've been fired from multiple jobs for consistently being late which heavily contributed to my last extreme depressive phase but i like to think i'm on the other side of the hill with that one.
thank you for making me feel better.
This just goes to show we can never really know what other people are facing! Perhaps that person who seems to "take forever" on a task simply isn't aware of the time that is passing. This was an informative and insightful read. I think your suggestions are wonderful for helping those with time-blindness to create some structure around it. These days, so many people are finding their normal schedules and routines upended that these tips can also be helpful for people just looking to create a new sense of structure. Thank you for sharing!