10 Minutes

Edited & medically reviewed by THE BALANCE Team
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Have you ever felt like you couldn’t pursue your goals or try new things because you were afraid of failing? If so, you may have atychiphobia, also known as the fear of failure [1]. Atychiphobia is a common condition that affects people of all ages and backgrounds, and it can have a significant impact on your mental health and quality of life. It’s a psychological phenomenon that can hold individuals back from achieving their full potential, causing them to shy away from challenges and opportunities. 

Atychiphobia can manifest in a variety of ways, such as procrastination, self-doubt, and even physical symptoms like increased heart rate and sweating. Despite its prevalence, the fear of failure can be overcome with the right mindset and strategies. 

Let’s delve deeper into the concept of atychiphobia, its causes, symptoms, and treatments, and provide actionable tips for conquering this fear and achieving success in all areas of life.

Atychiphobia is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by an intense fear of failure or the possibility of failure [2]. People with atychiphobia often avoid taking risks or pursuing their goals because they are afraid of failing, even if they have the skills and resources necessary to succeed [3]. Atychiphobia can also manifest as a fear of making mistakes or being criticized by others, as these experiences can be perceived as forms of failure.

What Does Atychiphobia Involve?

Atychiphobia involves more than just a fear of failure. It can also involve feelings of shame, embarrassment, and low self-esteem

People with atychiphobia may feel like they are not good enough or that they will never measure up to the expectations of others. They may also be excessively self-critical and have a negative outlook on life [4].

The Effects of Atychiphobia

Atychiphobia can have a wide range of negative effects on a person’s life. It can limit their opportunities for growth and success, as they may avoid taking on new challenges or pursuing their goals [5]. Atychiphobia can also lead to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, as people with this condition may feel like they will never be able to overcome their fear of failure.

Atychiphobia can also have a significant impact on a person’s mental health. It can lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach problems, and fatigue [2]. People with atychiphobia may also experience social isolation and relationship problems, as their fear of failure may prevent them from engaging in social activities or forming close connections with others [3].

Who is at Risk for Atychiphobia?

Atychiphobia can affect people of all ages and backgrounds, but certain factors may increase a person’s risk of developing this condition. For example:

  • People who have experienced significant failures or setbacks in the past [4].
  • Individuals who have been criticized or shamed for their mistakes or failures.
  • Those with a history of anxiety or depression.
  • People with a perfectionistic personality.
  • Individuals who lack social support [1]. 

Fear of failure, also known as atychiphobia, can stem from various underlying factors, including personal experiences, societal pressures, and biological factors. Here are some of the main causes of fear of failure:

Past Traumatic Experiences 

One of the main causes of fear of failure is a past traumatic experience related to failure. If someone has experienced failure in the past, such as being fired from a job or failing an important exam, it can leave a deep impact on their psyche. 

The fear of experiencing that same feeling of disappointment, embarrassment, and shame again can lead to a fear of trying and taking risks [1, 3].

Unrealistic Expectations 

Another cause of fear of failure is unrealistic expectations set by oneself or others. If someone sets unrealistic expectations for themselves, such as expecting to always get perfect grades or to never make a mistake, it can lead to fear of failure. 

Similarly, if someone is pressured by others to always be successful and achieve certain milestones, it can also contribute to fear of failure [2, 5].


Perfectionism can also be a cause of fear of failure. People who are perfectionists tend to have high standards for themselves and feel a strong need to succeed in everything they do. 

When they inevitably encounter failure, it can be difficult for them to accept and move on. This can lead to a fear of failure and avoiding new challenges [3, 5].

Negative Self-Talk 

Negative self-talk, or the habit of criticizing oneself and focusing on weaknesses and shortcomings, can also contribute to fear of failure. 

When someone constantly tells themselves that they’re not good enough or that they will fail, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The fear of failure can prevent them from taking action and trying new things [1, 4].

Environmental Factors 

Environmental factors such as family, culture, and societal expectations can also contribute to fear of failure. 

If someone grew up in an environment where failure was punished or shamed, it can leave a lasting impact on their mindset. Similarly, cultural values and societal pressures can create a fear of failure if there is a high emphasis on success and achievement [2, 6].

Personal beliefs

Personal beliefs can also contribute to fear of failure. For example, if an individual believes that failure is a sign of weakness or incompetence, they may become fearful of failing. Similarly, if an individual believes that success is the only measure of their worth or value, they may become fearful of not being successful.

Imposter Syndrome 

Imposter syndrome is a feeling of inadequacy or fraudulence, even in the face of success. 

People with imposter syndrome may feel like they don’t deserve their achievements and that they are just lucky which can aggravate fear of failure. This can lead to a constant fear of being exposed as a fraud [2, 5].

Anxiety and Depression 

Anxiety and depression can contribute to fear of failure. People with constant worry and stress related to their work or life issues may experience fear of failure [1, 2].

Atychiphobia, or the fear of failure, can have a significant impact on a person’s mental and emotional well-being. Here are 10 common symptoms of atychiphobia, along with descriptions of each and examples of how they might manifest in real-life situations.

Avoidance of challenges or opportunities: People with atychiphobia may avoid taking on new challenges or pursuing opportunities for fear of failure. For example, they may turn down a job promotion because they fear they won’t be able to handle the added responsibilities [1].

Procrastination: Procrastination is a common symptom of atychiphobia. Individuals may delay tasks or responsibilities because they are afraid of failing. This can lead to a cycle of increased failure anxiety and decreased self-esteem [3].

Self-doubt and negative self-talk: Those with atychiphobia may engage in negative self-talk, constantly doubting their abilities and potential for success. This can lead to feelings of self-doubt, low self-esteem, and a lack of confidence [2].

Perfectionism: People with atychiphobia may set impossibly high standards for themselves, leading to an intense fear of failure. This perfectionism can lead to self-criticism and self-doubt, which can exacerbate their fear of failure [2].

Fear of judgment and criticism: Those with atychiphobia may be afraid of judgment or criticism from others. They may avoid sharing their ideas or opinions, fearing that they will be rejected or criticized. This can lead to social isolation and loneliness [5].

Physical symptoms: The fear of failure can trigger physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, and increased heart rate. These symptoms may become more severe in situations where failure is perceived to be more likely [1].

Avoidance of risks: People with atychiphobia may avoid taking risks, even if the potential rewards are high. This can lead to missed opportunities for personal growth and success [3].

Low self-esteem: Individuals with atychiphobia may have low self-esteem, which can lead to feelings of worthlessness and a lack of confidence. This can make it difficult for them to pursue their goals and reach their full potential [4].

Depression: Chronic fear of failure can lead to feelings of depression and hopelessness. These feelings may be especially pronounced if the individual has experienced significant failures or setbacks in the past [2].

Self-sabotage: People with atychiphobia may engage in self-sabotaging behaviors, such as avoiding responsibility or making excuses. This can lead to missed opportunities and a cycle of increased anxiety and decreased self-esteem [5].

Real-life examples of how atychiphobia may manifest include:

  • A student who avoids taking challenging courses or participating in extracurricular activities because they fear failure and being judged by their peers.
  • An athlete who avoids trying out for a competitive team because they fear they won’t cut.
  • An employee who avoids taking on additional responsibilities at work for fear of not being able to meet expectations or failing in their role.
  • The writer is afraid to share their work with others because they fear criticism or rejection.
  • A person who avoids pursuing a romantic relationship because they fear rejection or the possibility of the relationship failing.

It’s important to note that experiencing occasional fear of failure is normal and can even be motivating in some situations. However, when this fear becomes pervasive and interferes with a person’s daily life and functioning, it may be a sign of atychiphobia.

Overcoming the fear of failure, or atychiphobia is possible with the right mindset, strategies, and support. Here are some methods, strategies, and tips that can help:

Recognize and acknowledge your fear: The first step in overcoming atychiphobia is to recognize and acknowledge that you have a fear of failure. This can help you become more self-aware of the thoughts and feelings that contribute to your fear [2].

Change your mindset: Instead of seeing failure as a negative experience, try to see it as an opportunity for growth and learning. Remember that everyone fails at some point, and it’s a normal part of the learning process [5].

Set realistic goals: Setting achievable goals can help you build confidence and avoid overwhelming yourself. Start small and gradually increase the difficulty of your goals as you gain more confidence [7].

Break tasks into smaller parts: Breaking a task into smaller parts can help make it more manageable and less overwhelming. This can also help you build momentum and confidence as you complete each part [2].

Practice self-compassion: It’s important to be kind and compassionate to yourself, especially when you experience failure. Remember that everyone makes mistakes, and it’s okay to not be perfect [3].

Seek support: Talking to friends, family, or a therapist can provide support and guidance as you work to overcome your fear of failure. It’s important to have a support system that can encourage you and help you stay motivated [8].

Challenge negative thoughts: Negative thoughts can contribute to atychiphobia, so it’s important to challenge them when they arise. Ask yourself if the thoughts are true, and try to reframe them more positively and realistically [5].

Take action: Taking action can help you confront your fear and build confidence. Start with small steps, and gradually work your way up to more challenging tasks [4].

Learn from your failures: When you experience failure, take the time to reflect on what went wrong and what you can learn from the experience. This can help you avoid making the same mistakes in the future [1].

Practice relaxation techniques: Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can help reduce stress and anxiety associated with atychiphobia. Practicing these techniques regularly can also help improve overall well-being [6].

Seek atychiphobia treatment: Atychiphobia can be treated through therapy to help you identify the underlying causes of your fear of failure and develop strategies to manage the fear. Medications may be prescribed to manage failure anxiety and depression symptoms that may accompany atychiphobia.

1. Cleveland Clinic. Atychiphobia (Fear of Failure).

2. Healthline. What Is Atychiphobia and How Can You Manage Fear of Failure?

3. Talk Space. Atychiphobia: Fear of Failure.

4. Medical News Today. What to know about atychiphobia, or the fear of failure.

5. Choosing Therapy. Fear of Failure: Causes & 10 Ways to Cope With Atychiphobia.

6. Psych Central. Atychiphobia: 3 Signs You Fear Failure.

7. Very Well Health. What Is the Fear of Failure?

8. Very Well Mind. How to Deal With the Fear of Failure.



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