Psychological Trauma; E. Alison Holman, Nickolas M. Jones, Dana Rose Garfin, Roxane Cohen Silver; published August 4, 2022; DOI: 10.1037/tra0001326



During the protracted collective trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic, lay of distorted perceptions of time (e.g., time slowing, days blurring together, uncertainty about the future) have been widespread. Known as “temporal disintegration” in psychiatric literature, these distortions are associated with negative mental health consequences. However, the prevalence and predictors of temporal disintegration are poorly understood. We examined perceptions of time passing and their associations with lifetime stress and trauma and pandemic-related secondary stress as COVID-19 spread across the United States.


A probability-based national sample (N = 5,661) from the NORC AmeriSpeak online panel, which had completed a mental and physical health survey prior to the pandemic, completed two surveys online during March 18-April 18, 2020, and September 26-October 16, 2020. Distorted time perceptions and other pandemic-related experiences were assessed.


Present focus, blurring weekdays and weekdays together, and uncertainty about the future were common experiences reported by over 65% of the sample 6 months into the pandemic. Half of the sample reported time speeding up or slowing down. Predictors of temporal disintegration include prepandemic mental health diagnoses, daily pandemic-related media exposure and secondary stress (e.g., school closures, lockdown), financial stress, and lifetime stress and trauma exposure.


During the first 6 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, distortions in time perception were very common and associated with prepandemic mental health, lifetime stress and trauma exposure, and pandemic-related media exposure and stressors. Given that temporal disintegration is a risk factor for mental health challenges, these findings have potential implications for public mental health. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).