Atelophobia is an obsessive fear of imperfection. Someone with this condition is terrified of making mistakes. They tend to avoid any situation where they feel they won’t succeed. Atelophobia can lead to anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.
Atelophobia is an overwhelming fear of imperfection. People with atelophobia judge themselves very harshly, often setting unrealistic goals. They may get upset about mistakes they’ve made in the past or mistakes they’re afraid of making in the future. Atelophobia often leads to extreme anxiety, depression, low self-esteem or panic attacks.
Atelophobia is different than atychiphobia, which is a fear of failure.
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Atelophobia and perfectionism are different. Perfectionism is a personality trait. You hold yourself to extremely high standards and strive to be flawless. Atelophobia is an actual fear of flaws. Someone with atelophobia may avoid a situation in which they think they could make a mistake, seeing it as threatening. The fear can affect every aspect of their lives, from school and work to family life and social situations.
A phobia is an extreme fear or sense of panic about certain activities, objects or situations. Phobias are a type of anxiety disorder. Examples of common phobias include claustrophobia (fear of crowded, confined spaces) and ophidiophobia (fear of snakes).
There are few studies about the prevalence of atelophobia, but phobic disorders are fairly common. Research suggests that about 12% of adults and 19% of adolescents in the U.S. experience a specific phobia at some point in their lives. They’re about twice as common in females as they are in males.
Most phobic disorders don’t have a specific cause. You may be more likely to have atelophobia if you:
Atelophobia can cause a wide range of psychological and physical symptoms. People with a fear of imperfection may exhibit:
Atelophobia can also cause panic attacks, which may lead to:
There’s no specific test for atelophobia. Your healthcare provider will evaluate your symptoms and ask you detailed questions about your fear of imperfection. It’s important to provide as much detail as possible about your anxiety and what triggers it. In some cases, your provider will ask about your medical history, perform a complete physical and may order other tests to check for underlying health conditions.
Your provider may diagnose you with atelophobia if you:
People with atelophobia may also have other mental health conditions, such as
There are a variety of ways to manage a fear of imperfection, including:
There’s no way to prevent atelophobia, but you can take steps to reduce the negative effects it has on your life. You may benefit from:
Most people respond well to treatments such as psychotherapy, lifestyle adjustments or medication. You may be able to stop treatment once your symptoms improve, but talk to your healthcare provider before making any changes.
Contact your healthcare provider if you experience:
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Atelophobia is an extreme fear of imperfection. Someone with this disorder may be terrified of making mistakes, or go to great lengths to avoid new situations because they can’t guarantee that they’ll succeed. It can lead to depression, anxiety, panic attacks and a negative outlook on life. If you think you may have atelophobia, talk to your healthcare provider. Most people can overcome this fear with the right combination of psychotherapy, lifestyle adjustments and medication.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/22/2021.
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