Atelophobia is a condition in which an individual exhibits an extreme fear of failing to achieve perfection in any of their actions, ideas, or beliefs. This highly sensitized and fearful aversion to any type of imperfection can cause people to become highly critical of anything they say or do, always fearing that their offerings are flawed and not good enough. The fear of imperfection goes far beyond wanting to do things as competently as possible; in cases where there is a true phobia, the condition becomes an obsession that effectively ruins relationships and makes it almost impossible to function in society.
As with a number of phobias, people who develop atelophobia are often highly intelligent and possess many talents and capabilities. Unlike many people who measure their competency in relation to others with similar talents, the true atelophobic sets a standard for perfection that is impossible to reach. Because of this impossible personal standard, an individual suffering with this condition will constantly be attempting to refine, rework or improve something that is already highly regarded by those around them.
Symptoms of this phobia include a high degree of irrational irritability aimed at the self and sometimes manifested toward others. The atelophobic is often so scared of failing to measure up that he or she becomes immobilized by the fear and is unable to complete projects or will not turn them in for fear they are not good enough. A high degree of excitability is common, as well as insomnia and an inability to relax for even a couple of moments. The patient is constantly on edge and feels pressure to continue working until perfection is reached.
Owing to the complexity of the factors that go into the condition, a psychologist or therapist is needed to truly identify and define atelophobia. The therapist can help the patient come to terms with this irrational fear of failing to achieve perfection and find ways to reverse the tendency. As part of the course of treatment, the therapist may recommend the use of anti-anxiety medication in order to assist the patient to relax for brief periods. Ongoing therapy is helpful in restoring a balance to life that does not eliminate the positive aspects of competition or stifle the creativity of the individual. Instead, the frustration of failing to be perfect is replaced with a sense of accomplishment for a job well done that is worthy of admiration by everyone, including the individual who envisioned and completed the task.