What is Atychiphobia?

Atychiphobia is the extreme or irrational fear of failure. Related to Atelophobia, the difference is that Atelophobia is the fear of “imperfection” and can include criticism of the environment as well as self-criticism.

The fear of personal failure is a common concern, and when present as a phobia may itself become a root cause of failure as it interferes with efforts to succeed. An atychiphobe will avoid all situations, projects, or endeavours where success is not 100% guaranteed, or where they do not feel totally confident in their ability to succeed. Extremely low self-esteem or lack of confidence in oneself may be an underlying factor.

A fear of ridicule or lack of support from others could motivate a phobic’s fears. This fear is often linked to an irrational fear of success, known as achievemephobia. Phobics may become so concerned about failing that they will avoid any activity. Left untreated by a mental health practitioner, an irrational fear of failure may diminish the phobic’s capacity to achieve a fulfilling life. The root word “atyches” is Greek meaning “unfortunate”.

Atychiphobia extends to all facets of the phobic’s life, such as the workplace, where the phobic is terrified of making a mistake, which may fluster them, leading to a loss of productivity. Terrified of failing at their job, atychiphobes may be too overwhelmed to work, which could cost them their employment. The cyclical effect of Atychiphobia could likely deepen a phobic’s fear and hatred of failure, in which case, therapy is crucial.

If you know someone suffering from an irrational fear of failure, it may be tempting to try to help them overcome their fear by exposing them to the possibility of failure. Do not try to “cure” someone with Atychiphobia unless you are a mental health practitioner. Phobias are intense fears and hatreds compounded by physical side effects, which could be dangerous for the phobic.

It is likely that they are aware of the irrationality of their fear, however, this realization is not enough to overcome it. It can be hard to relate to someone with an irrational or extreme phobia, and so wanting to help or understand the sufferer is only natural. Treatment, even exposure-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is possible, but should only be carried out by mental health practitioners with experience in helping sufferers overcome their phobias. Fortunately, professional help is not hard to find.

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Symptoms of Atychiphobia

  • Extreme Anxiety, Dread

  • Shortness of Breath
  • Rapid Breathing
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Excessive Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dry Mouth
  • Confusion / Inability to Articulate Clearly
  • Lack of Focus
  • Irritability
  • Shaking
  • Feelings of Powerlessness
  • Obsession with the Subject of the Phobia
  • Fear or Feelings of Losing Control
  • Avoidance Behavior
  • Headaches

Learn more about phobia symptoms ›

Causes of Atychiphobia

Atychiphobia is a specific (or “isolated”) phobia, centered on non-social key factors. Isolated phobias tend to have some previous trauma (often in childhood and often physically injurious) as a root cause; a fear of bees may stem from an injury in childhood, for instance.

Upbringing can also play a role, such as parental warnings about a direct threat (such as “snakes can bite and kill you”) which is especially notable in cases where a threat is more imminent. (An allergy to bees or peanut butter, for instance, would naturally reinforce a real medical concern.) No two people’s Atychiphobia are caused by the same traumatic events. Examples of unresolved traumatic events could be childhood ridicule, lack of parental support, being taught that failure is unnatural or bad. Other anxiety disorders may be present.

It is thought that genetics and hereditary factors may play a role in specific phobias, especially those related to a danger of injury. (A primal “fight or flight” reflex may be more easily triggered in those with a genetic predisposition, for instance.)

By contrast, social phobias (like a fear of body odor or touch) are less well understood, are driven by social anxiety and are broadly labeled as “social anxiety disorder”.

In all kinds of phobias, external experiences and / or reports can further reinforce or develop the fear, such as seeing a family member or friend who is affected. In extreme cases, indirect exposures can be as remote as overhearing a reference in conversation, seeing something in the news, on TV, or in the movies.

Atychiphobia, like most phobias, stems from a subconscious overprotection mechanism, and as with many phobias can also be rooted in an unresolved emotional conflict.

Learn more about the causes of phobias ›

Treatments for Atychiphobia

  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

  • Habit Strategies To Relax
  • Cognitive Therapy (CT)
  • In Vivo Exposure
  • Response Prevention
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Group Therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Energy Psychology
  • Medication
  • Meditation

Learn more about phobia treatments ›

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