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Atophobia (phobia of imperfection): symptoms, causes and treatment

Atophobia (phobia of imperfection): symptoms, causes and treatment

July 14, 2024

We all know that today we live in a competitive world in which there is a high level of competence and demands on our actions. At work level we are asked to be productive, efficient, proactive, adaptable, able to work as a team, good colleagues and organized. And this not only at the job level, but also in facets such as the couple we find a high level of demand and competitiveness.

This frenetic pace makes some people come to think that not only do they have to be good but they must always seek excellence, and even perfection in everything they are or what they do. And even, in some cases, even phobic symptomatology may appear not to reach perfection. This is the case of those suffering from atelophobia , a peculiar phobia of which we are going to talk about in this article.

  • Related article: "Types of phobias: exploring the disorders of fear"

What is atelophobia?

Atelophobia is a rare phobia, which we could consider specific, although its phobic object is rather subjective and can vary greatly from one person to another. As a phobia, we are not talking about a simple malaise, but about the existence of an irrational and disproportionate fear and panic to the presence of an object, being or concrete situation (to the point of being able to trigger panic attacks), generating this fear the avoidance of the phobic stimulus or of situations in which it may appear.

In the specific case of atelophobia the phobic stimulus is imperfection , or rather not achieve perfection with their actions, ideas or beliefs. In some cases this can also extend to the behavior of others and not only to their own.

It is easy to think of atelophobia as perfectionism, but we must bear in mind that it is not limited to it: there is an authentic anxiety and somatic and behavioral reactions that are out of the ordinary and disproportionate in relation to the possible risk that could result.

This means that the person with atelophobia will feel dread of the idea of ​​doing something that is not perfect, avoiding situations in which he can do it or spending a great deal of time trying to make things perfect. The symptomatology does not end there, but rather the presence of some type of imperfection can generate the appearance of tachycardia, hyperventilation, tremors , nausea and vomiting or cold sweats, among others, being a reflection of psychic discomfort or anxiety caused by the presence of the feared stimulus.

  • Maybe you're interested: "Perfectionist personality: the disadvantages of perfectionism"


The above described symptoms can suppose a high level of interference, being generally much greater than that of other phobias. And it is that in the first place, the atelofobia supposes a fear to the imperfection that it can happen at any time, place and situation, with which the tension is more permanent . And also, it has a direct implication for self-esteem and personal self-concept.

Thus, it is usual that people who have this type of phobia are never satisfied with themselves and have a very low self-concept and self-esteem. They will also have a high level of demand regarding their own behavior, never being anything they do good enough and always comparing their performance with those who do best. This malaise causes them to generally present depressive symptoms and even some irritability and hostility .

And not only with themselves: they also demand a lot from others. This can cause these people to have severe difficulties in their social, work and couple relationships when considering that their relationships and performance with all of them, and theirs with him / her, should be perfect. Added to this is the continuous self-criticism, which can generate a certain refusal to be present permanently.

At work, in addition to social difficulties, they can also waste a great deal of time trying to improve or refine results that were already good, losing efficiency and productivity.

In some cases this problem can also generate problems with the body itself, although it is not as usual since fear itself is usually that our behavior and results are not perfect, being quite specific in the sense that it is " what we do, think or believe "what is usually judged and not so much the physical.

But nevertheless, there are cases in which it has also been linked to the presence of eating disorders Problems may appear when atelophobia is mixed with exercise or diets to the point of losing quality of life and damaging one's health.

In addition to all this, we must remember that the subject will tend to avoid situations in which it is easy for their acts are not perfect, which can lead to isolation and cessation of a large number of both work and leisure activities. Attempts to try new things or train in the consolidation of a skill by avoiding exposure to the risk of not being good can also be eliminated.


The origin of atelophobia, as occurs in most mental disorders, is not entirely clear. And is that there are multiple factors that interact when a mental health problem arises .

First, there may be a certain biological predisposition, such as a threshold of low physiological activation or the inheritance of somewhat perfectionist personality traits. This predisposition or vulnerability is only such, but the experience of certain events or the learning of certain ways of acting can converge with it to favor the appearance of atelophobia.

At a less generic level, it has been observed that people who suffer from atelophobia have had a restrictive education or throughout their childhood have received a high level of criticism, never being enough to please their environment. An excessively demanding and rigid education It can lead to the thought that they will never be good enough.

It can also appear in cases in which it has been experienced that not achieving something well enough has had severe consequences in their lives, something that may have led them to generalize in such a way that it is feared that not being perfect will have consequences.

Linkage with other disorders

Atelophobia is a difficult disorder to diagnose, which can be confused with the already mentioned perfectionism that can enter into a typical behavior, or that could also be easily confused with various disorders.

It is possible to observe a certain connection with a very specific group of disorders: obsessive disorders . The best known of these is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or OCD, specifically resembling more in those cases whose obsessions are linked to aspects such as cleanliness, order, checking or morality. In both cases there is concern about the actions themselves and there is a high level of self-demand. The worry and anxiety that in both cases they feel can lead them to compensatory acts, and they dedicate great part of the time to these concerns. However, in atelophobia do not appear obsessions or compulsions as such.

Possibly the most similar to atelophobia is with a disorder similar to the previous one: Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (although the name is similar to OCD, here there are no proper obsessions or compulsions, it is more stable and the characteristics of the disorder they are integrated into the personality), in which the aforementioned perfectionism is present in a persistent way and that can generate a high level of maladaptation and suffering, both of one's own and one's own, as the individual requires that everything be ordered and well done.

It is usual that there are problems of social adjustment and even a certain anxiety . The truth is that atelophobia could appear in a person with this type of personality and in fact these types of people are much more inclined, but they should not be identified. First of all, because atelophobia is a more specific disorder that does not have to be part of the person's identity, in addition to the fact that the fear of failing does not have to generate physiological symptoms in the obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.

Another aspect to take into account is the possibility that the atelofobia is linked to the physical aspect, and may pose a serious risk of suffering from some type of eating disorder or body dysmorphic disorder.

Treatment of the imperfection phobia

The treatment of atelophobia shares with that of most phobias the fact of relying on exposure to feared stimuli. Thus, it is intended that the subject be able, either by exposure or systematic desensitization, not to manifest an anxious response to imperfection. Realize a hierarchy of especially phobic situations and working progressively in that the subject remains in the situation or generates a response incompatible with the anxious response is one of the most common therapies, and must be carried out through a negotiation between professional and patient.

Likewise, in this case, it is essential to work through cognitive restructuring, through which we can try to modify beliefs about personal efficacy and the need to make everything perfect. For this it may be useful to work previously on the origin of this fear, which meant then and what it means now, what meaning the patient gives him, how it affects him and when it appears.

Likewise, it will be necessary to work on the level of self-expectation and the existence of cognitive distortions. Therapies in which self-gratification and self-esteem are worked They will also be of great help to improve the emotional situation of the patient.If the anxiety is unaffordable for the patient, it is possible to use some antianxiety drugs in such a way that the symptoms are reduced and psychological work can begin.

PHOBIA RDA - Vandy Vape & Alex Vapers MD / sumando detalles interesantes / revisión (July 2024).

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