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Atelophobia is the fear of not being good enough or imperfection.[1] Atelophobia is classified as an anxiety disorder that can affect relationships and makes the afflicted person feel like everything they do is wrong. The term comes from the Greek: ατελής atelès, meaning "imperfect" or "incomplete" and φόβος, phóbos, "fear".


Symptoms of atelophobia can be mental, emotional, and physical. The severity of the symptoms varies, but because atelophobia is a mental illness, problems are created in the mind and the body reacts with physical symptoms such as sweating. Following is a list of various symptoms:


  • Difficulty thinking about anything other than the fear
  • Feelings of unreality or of being detached from oneself
  • Fear of failing
  • Pessimistic view on the outcome of situations before it happens
  • Low self-esteem
  • Extreme disappointment if one fails at something
  • Responding unrealistically to a situation
  • Depression


  • Constant worrying about upcoming activities
  • An overbearing amount of fear
  • Unhealthy excessive emotions, such as anger, sadness, jealousy and hurt
  • The desire to abruptly leave the situation


  • Perspiration due to stress
  • Nausea
  • Panic attacks
  • Dizziness
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Chest pains
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Numbness or tingling feelings
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Insomnia
  • Increased muscle tension
  • Constant restlessness
  • Nervous mannerism

These symptoms are important to pay attention to because mental illness is harder to recognize within patients than physical ailments. In order to diagnose a person with atelophobia, it is important to observe their reactions to failure.[citation needed]


When a patient suspects that they have a phobia the first step to recovery is talking to a health care professional. To help a patient deal with their mental disorder there are an array of methods.

Exposure therapy[edit]

The type of therapy most often used in the treatment of phobias is called exposure therapy.[citation needed]

Exposure therapy is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy. The treatment involves the patient exposing themselves to highly stressful situations involving the distinct phobia to overcome their anxiety. The technique involves five steps; evaluations, feedback, develop fear hierarchy, exposure and building. The evaluation step involves describing the specific fear to a therapist and recollecting events in their past that may have contributed to it. Next the therapist offers an evaluation of the particular phobia and proposes a plan for treatment. The patient then needs to develop fear hierarchy. This is when the patient and therapist create a list of scenarios involving the fear, each more intense than the last. The exposure step is when patients expose themselves to their lists of fears with the hope that encountering them one by one will lessen the panic they feel. Lastly, a patient builds upon their skills by facing more difficult situations as their tolerance grows. The effectiveness of exposure therapy is dependent on the patient, the therapist, and their working relationship, but with time many people are successful. The difficulty with this therapy is finding a trustworthy therapist who can help the patient through these intensely difficult situations. Using additional cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques can help. Therapists can help patients through breathing and relaxation exercises to reduce fear while teaching them that their thoughts of perfection are unrealistic.

The problems with exposure therapy are the techniques used may be unnecessary and cruel and in certain patients become more paranoid. Other therapies available are self-help, talk therapy, behavioral therapy and medication. Self-help is when people take their problem into their own hands. The benefit of this is that the patient is the only person who can cure their disease, rather than a temporary fix. Talk therapy is when the patient talks out their problems to a psychiatrist.

Behavior therapy[edit]

Behavior therapy involves exercises to alter the patient’s inappropriate patterns of thinking they have developed and the behavior that stems from them. Lastly, if all else fails patients can turn to medication monitored by a medical professional.


Like any other phobia, atelophobia is an obstacle in the path of normal life. While normal people compete with others, win and lose, show off their talents and communicate with one another with ease, an atelophobic person finds their life in jeopardy when they have to face other people. This makes living with atelophobia very difficult.

While competition may be considered a natural thing for most people, it may be problematic for an atelophobic person. When a normal person loses, they may be disappointed, but they overcome it and are able to control their feelings. When a person living with atelophobia faces a failure, they are unable to bear it. They become extremely disappointed and start doubting their own abilities. They start to think that they will never be able to do that thing properly. They consider themselves to be stupid and to not have the capability to do anything properly. This doubt further masks their abilities. While an atelophobic person might have talents and intelligence, this lack of self-confidence negates them. A person with atelophobia will hold grudges and will be hurt, mad, and depressed. A person afflicted with atelophobia is able to do little to help themselves as they move further into depression with every disappointment.

Living with atelophobia gets worse as the person is unable to cope with other people in their surrounding and cannot communicate with friends or relatives, thus relationships end up in a state of disrepair.[citation needed]

Dealing with atelophobia does not mean that it is unrecoverable. Through continuous attempts at treatment peaple learn to manage their expectations and self perceptions.


  1. Hryniszak, Ruby. "Feature: the non-glamorous reality of eating disorders". Harborough Mail. Retrieved 29 July 2015.

External links[edit]

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