Atelophobia (phobia of blemishes): symptoms, causes and treatment

We all know that today we live in a competitive world in which there is a high level of competition and demand for our actions. At the job level, we are asked to be productive, efficient, proactive, adaptable, able to work in a good team and an organized team. And this not only in terms of employment, but also in facets such as the couple, we find a high level of demand and competitiveness.

This hectic pace makes some people think that not only must they be good, but that they must always strive for excellence, and even perfection in everything they are or do. And even in some cases, even phobic symptoms can result from not achieving perfection. This is the case of those who suffer from atelophobia, A particular phobia which we will discuss in this article.

    What is atelophobia?

    Atelophobia is a rare phobia, which we might consider specific even though its phobic object is quite subjective and can vary greatly from person to person. As a phobia, we are not talking about simple discomfort, but the existence of irrational and disproportionate fear and panic the presence of an object, a being or a specific situation (to the point of being able to trigger panic attacks), generating this fear by avoiding the phobic stimulus or the situations in which it can appear.

    In the specific case of atelophobia the phobic stimulus is an imperfectionOr rather fail to achieve perfection with your actions, ideas or beliefs. In some cases, this can also be extended to the behavior of others and not just his own.

    It is easy to think of atelophobia as perfectionism, but keep in mind that it is not limited to it: there is real anxiety and somatic and behavioral reactions that are out of the ordinary and out of proportion to the possible risk. that she could pose.

    This means that the person with atelophobia is going to be afraid of doing something that is not perfect, avoiding situations where they can do it or spending a lot of time trying to make things perfect. The symptoms don’t end there, but the presence of some kind of imperfection can lead to the appearance of tachycardia, hyperventilation, tremors, Nausea and vomiting or cold sweats, among others, reflecting mental discomfort or anxiety caused by the presence of the feared stimulus.


      The symptoms described above can lead to a high level of interference, usually much higher than that of other phobias. And it is that in the first place, atelophobia supposes a fear of the imperfection which it can happen at any time, place or situation, so the tension is more permanent. And in addition, it has a direct implication on self-esteem and personal self-concept.

      So, it is common for people who have this type of phobia to never be satisfied with themselves and have very low self-esteem and very low self-esteem. They’re also going to have a high level of demand for their own behavior, and it’s never something that they do well enough and they always benchmark their performance against those who do the best. This discomfort causes them to generally present depressive symptoms and even some irritability and hostility.

      And not only with themselves: they also demand a lot from others. This can cause these people to have serious difficulties in their social, professional and marital relationships, as their relationships and performance with all of them, and theirs with him / her, should be perfect. To this is also added continuous self-criticism, which can lead to a certain refusal to be present at all times.

      At work, in addition to social difficulties, they can also waste a lot of time trying to improve or perfect already good results, losing efficiency and productivity.

      In some cases, this problem can also cause issues with the body itself, although it is not so common that fear itself is usually what our behavior and its results are not perfect for, being quite specific. in the sense that it is “what we do, think or believe” that is usually judged and not so much the physical.

      however, there are cases in which it has also been linked to the presence of eating disorders: Problems can arise when atelophobia is mixed with exercise or diet to the point of loss of quality of life and damage to health.

      In addition to all this, it should be remembered that the subject will tend to avoid situations in which it is easy for his actions not to be perfect, which can lead to the isolation and cessation of a large number of both work and oci activities. Attempts to try new things or practice building a skill without exposing yourself to the risk of not being good can also be eliminated.

      the causes

      The origin of atelophobia, as in most mental disorders, is not entirely clear. And this is it there are many factors that interact when a mental health problem arises.

      First, there may be some biological predisposition, such as a low physiological activation threshold or the inheritance of somewhat perfectionist personality traits. This predisposition or vulnerability is only such, but the experience of certain events or the learning of certain ways of acting can converge with it to favor the appearance of atelophobia.

      On a less generic level, it has been observed that it is common for people with atelophobia to have had a restrictive upbringing or to have received a high level of criticism throughout their childhood, and this is not the case. is never their performance sufficient to please their environment. . An education that is too demanding and rigid this may suggest that they will never be good enough.

      It may also appear in cases where they have experienced that not being able to do something well enough has had serious consequences in their life, which may have led them to generalize in such a way that it is feared that not being perfect has consequences.

      Link to other disorders

      Atelophobia is a difficult disorder to diagnose, which can be mistaken for the aforementioned perfectionism which can fit into typical behavior, or it could also be easily mistaken for various disorders.

      It is possible to observe a link with a very specific group of disorders: obsessive-compulsive disorder. The best known of these is obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, which is particularly similar to cases in which the obsessions are related to aspects such as cleanliness, order, checking or morale. In both cases, one is worried about one’s own actions and there is a strong personal demand. The worry and anxiety they feel in either case can lead them to compensatory acts and they devote a great deal of their time to these worries. However, in atelophobia, no obsession or compulsion arises as such.

      Perhaps the one that most resembles atelophobia is with a disorder similar to the previous one: Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (although the name is similar to OCD, here there are no obsessions and compulsions, it is more stable and the characteristics of the disorder are integrated into the personality), in which the aforementioned perfectionism is persistently present and which can generate a high level of maladaptation and suffering both own and outside the demands of the individual who everything is tidy and well done.

      It is common to have social adjustment problems and even some anxiety. The truth is, atelophobia could show up in a person with this type of personality and in fact these types of people are much more prone to it, but they don’t have to identify with themselves. First, because atelophobia is a more specific disorder that shouldn’t be part of a person’s identity, and the fear of failure shouldn’t generate physiological symptoms in obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.

      Another aspect to consider is the possibility that atelophobia is related to physical appearance and could pose a serious risk of suffering from some type of eating disorder or body dysmorphic disorder.

      Treatment of phobia with imperfection

      the treatment of atelophobia shares with that of most phobias the fact of relying on exposure to feared stimuli. Thus, the subject is believed to be able, either by exposure or by systematic desensitization, not to manifest an anxious response to the imperfection. Make a hierarchy of particularly phobic situations and working gradually in which the subject remains in the situation or generates a response incompatible with the anxiety response is one of the most common therapies, and must be carried out through negotiation between the professional and the patient.

      Also in this case it is essential to work through cognitive restructuring, through which we can try to change beliefs about our own personal effectiveness and the need to make everything perfect. For that it can be useful to work beforehand on the origin of this fear, which meant then and which means now, what meaning the patient gives to it, how it affects it and when it appears.

      It will also be necessary to work on the level of self-expectation and the existence of cognitive distortions. Therapies that work on self-satisfaction and self-esteem they will also be of great help in improving the emotional state of the patient. If the anxiety is unbearable for the patient, it is possible to use certain anti-anxiety drugs so that the symptoms are alleviated and labor can begin psychologically.

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