What is atychiphobia?

It is the fear of failure.
Atychiphobia is a persistent, abnormal fear of failure. Sometimes referred to as kakorrhaphiophobia, failure phobia and the fear of failing or failure, atychiphobics have much more than just "butterflies". Their fear can be so debilitating, it keeps them from functioning.

Common symptoms include feelings of dread, nausea, shaking, and the inability to speak or think clearly when faced with the thought of failure. Full blown anxiety attacks are another characteristic symptom of atychiphobia. Many times suffers will be so paralyzed by fear, that they will not even attempt new activities. This creates a vicious cycle where they continually ensure their own failure, further reinforcing their phobia.

Many times this phobia is traced to early life events or traumas, such as being regularly demeaned by a parent or family member, or an event which resulted in severe embarrassment 'even if caused by a small failure'. As with many phobias, the root cause is therefore believed to lie within the subconscious mind.

The fear of failure continues to build within the subconscious, over time, with every small failure or embarrassment. By the time the individual realizes it, they have developed a failure phobia which severely disrupts their daily lives by interfering with work, school, and social relationships.

Although there are medications which can be prescribed to help control symptoms, the most successful treatment for atychiphobia, or kakorrhaphiophobia, is talk or self-help therapy which attempts to retrain the subconscious. Fear persists because the subconscious mind attaches the idea of failure to negative emotions. The methodology of atychiphobia treatment is to reprogram those connections so that negative emotions do not bring on the anticipation of inevitable failure.

Frequently, therapy includes gradually facing the specific things feared, breaking the fearful activities into smaller more manageable pieces. This allows sufferers to increase their comfort level until they're comfortable enough to take the next more fearful step. For instance if they fear failing tests, they would start by taking multiple tests where the results don't matter until they're comfortable with the process. Then they would move on to tests where the results matter only slightly, gradually increasing the importance of the testing until they're able to take important, necessary tests.

Although there's no instant cure, over time sufferers can learn to manage their anxiety and symptoms. It's important to remember that perfection is an illusion which can rarely be achieved and each failure brings us closer to success.