Does the word “atelophobia” ring a bell? It consists of the phobia of imperfections.. It is an infrequent and very subjective phobia, since not all of us have the same idea of “perfection”.
On the other hand, as we will see, this “obsession with perfection” goes beyond mere perfectionism, since we are talking about a real anxiety disorder.
In this article we will know what is atelophobia, what are its causes, symptoms and psychological treatments that can be performed with people who suffer from it.
- Recommended article: “The 6 differences between personality, character and temperament”.
Atelophobia: a specific phobia
Atelophobia is a specific phobia, where the feared stimulus is imperfection. What does that mean? Let’s be a little more specific.
Let us remember that specific phobias are irrational, disproportionate and intense fears of a specific stimulus or situation. Sometimes, instead of fear, what appears is intense anxiety, hyperactivation of the organism, associated discomfort, etc.
That is to say, in the case of atelophobia, it does not always have to be fear, but there are many people who feel high anxiety, rejection or discomfort before imperfect things (or objects, situations, etc.).
In reality, this goes beyond simple things or objects, and can be extrapolated to behaviors and actions, either of the individual with atelophobia or of people in the environment (friends, acquaintances, strangers, family members…).
Curiously, in this type of phobia, the stimulus “feared” or that generates anxiety is something really subjective sometimes (since there are people who may consider something imperfect and others may not).
In extreme cases, in atelophobia (as in other specific phobias) panic attacks may even appear associated with the initial anxiety. The symptoms of atelophobia interfere in the daily life of the individual, producing a deterioration in the different spheres of his life.
Atelophobia is a phobia that goes far beyond mere perfectionism, a characteristic trait of some people.Thus, people with atelophobia are not limited to being perfectionists, but their discomfort in the face of imperfect things or actions goes beyond that, causing them great suffering.
In perfectionists, on the other hand, this suffering is not so exaggerated (they are simply people who are a bit “obsessive”, who like things “perfect”, etc.). In fact, if there were no such suffering or interference in life, we would not be talking about a specific phobia (an anxiety disorder).
- You may be interested in: “Human temperaments: the 4 types and their characteristics”.
What are the main symptoms of atelophobia? These correspond to the characteristic symptoms of a specific phobia. Let’s see them in a summarized form.
Intense fear or anxiety
The main symptom of atelophobia is a fear or high anxiety before the imperfections. These imperfections, as we said, can appear in one’s own behaviors or actions, in objects, life situations, etc.
2. Avoidance of imperfection
The person with atelophobia will avoid situations that may trigger the anguish he/she feels about imperfection; that is, he/she avoids it at all costs. They may also spend a great deal of time trying to make things perfect (a symptom shared with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder).
3. Psychophysiological symptoms
In the atelophobia can also appear physical symptoms, of the own organism, such as: tremors, hyperventilation, nausea, vomiting, tension, excessive sweating, etc. That is to say, symptoms typical of a panic attack (even if it does not manifest itself).
In short, the organism is overactivated, before the stimulus that generates anxiety and discomfort. All these symptoms reflect anxiety or worry about not finding perfection.
What can cause atelophobia? Actually, its causes are not entirely known. Surely the etiology is multicausal, as with most phobias and even mental disorders. and even mental disorders.
On the one hand, as with many other anxiety disorders, there may be a biological vulnerability in the individual. It may also be that the individual manifests a perfectionist personality trait, but taken to the extreme.
Traumatic or negative experiences related to “imperfection”, or to some mistake or error on the part of oneself or others (which has involved very negative consequences), can also influence the origin of atelophobia.
The role of education may also play a key role in this very rare phobia; for example, having received a very strict and rigid education may also be at the origin (along with other causes) of atelophobia. On the other hand, the fact of having suffered harassment, or very negative criticism for not reaching perfection (especially from parents), can also be causal factors of the disorder.
That is to say, in this last case, we are talking about the fact that the parents have demanded a lot from the child and from very early ages (perhaps in evolutionary moments too early for the child’s development). It may be that in these cases the person feels that he/she is never too good or “perfect”, that he/she is never enough.
How do we treat atelophobia? From a psychological point of view, it will be fundamental to treat the dysfunctional (and erroneous) thoughts of baseassociated with the concept of perfection and imperfection.
In other words, we should go to the root of the problem and analyze with the patient what he/she understands by perfection and what he/she understands by imperfection, since he/she may have extremely rigid (or simply extreme) concepts.
The aim is for the patient to have a more realistic view of things, and to relativize the importance of perfection. Thus, the treatment that is usually recommended is a cognitive therapy, based on cognitive restructuring.
Once these anomalous thoughts have been detected, we will work to help the patient find alternative thoughts to them (these being more realistic, positive and functional). We must also analyze the degree of pressure that the patient puts on him/herself, behaviorally, affectively, socially…
2. Triggering stimuli
To do this, however, we must first know which stimuli specifically cause anxiety in the patient (i.e., it is not the same to always look for perfection in oneself as it is to look for it in others, etc.). On the other hand, it is not the same to feel anxiety before imperfect things as before imperfect situations.
Based on these data, a therapy should be designed according to the patient’s symptoms, not so much to the symptoms of atelophobia itself. In the end, each patient is unique and will manifest the disorder in an idiosyncratic way.