Kakorrhaphiophobia (Fear of Failure)

Kakorrhaphiophobia is the intense fear of failure. Those exhibiting this phobia may suffer from very low self-esteem and may find themselves to be very anxious. Their anxiety may be paralyzing to the point to where they are unable to challenge themselves even slightly as they are extremely fearful that they will fail. Their fear of failure may significantly interfere with their day to day life as they may often stay within their own “bubble” and are often not spontaneous.

Kakorrhaphiophobia is quite common and is a much less obscure phobia than kinetophobia (fear of movement), cyanophobia (fear of the color blue), or sesquipedalophobia (fear of long words). Many people around the world are afraid to fail and in some instances, their fear of failure may be so great that they are unwilling to even take action. People with kakorrhaphiophobia are often convinced that putting forth any effort toward something desired is a complete waste of time seeing as the odds of becoming very successful are typically not in anyone’s favor.

There is a modicum amount of logic here because the odds of someone becoming extremely successful in virtually any endeavor is quite slim. It can take musicians years of practice before they are considered “great”. Olympic athletes trained from the moment they were physically developed enough to run. And besides practice, there is also the reality that some people simply have more resources than others. This may sometimes be due to their own efforts, but it can also be seen as mere happenstance. Some people may look at this as being dealt a “lucky” hand in life (e.g. superior intelligence, wealth, etc.).

People with kakorrhaphiophobia may overtly recognize their own shortcomings and disadvantages in life. However, they often fail to realize that everyone living on this planet has some sort of disadvantage or obstacle that they must overcome, regardless of their advantages. Kakorrhaphiophobia can be severe enough to the point to where they feel as though it is in their best interest to maintain the status quo of their life and that they shouldn’t work toward pursuing anything that they may fail at. Thus, leaving them unfulfilled, defeated, insecure, and regretful.

Symptoms of Kakorrhaphiophobia

People who suffer from kakorrhaphiophobia will often quit things well before they finish them so to avoid failure. They may exercise absolutely no resilience whatsoever and quit when things get a little difficult. They may be convinced that “it may never happen for them” or that “it’s just not meant to be”. Such convictions only exacerbate their kakorrhaphiophobia and reinforce their beliefs that they will fail at whatever they pursue. They may also put forth very little effort at their job or in normal day-to-day activities. This may get them little respect from their co-workers/peers and may be seen as being “lazy” or “unmotivated” by others, when in reality they are just afraid to fail.

Below, you will see some of the most common symptoms of this phobia:

  • Hesitant to start something new
  • Doesn’t like changes
  • Self-loathing and insecure
  • Very regretful
  • May also exhibit atelophobia
  • Often thinking of failure
  • Avoids things they may fail at
  • Pursues things that are easy

Causes of Kakorrhaphiophobia

There are many different causes of kakorrhaphiophobia, such as genetics and one’s environment. For people who have a family history of mental illness, they may have a higher risk for developing kakorrhaphiophobia. Besides being genetically predisposed to develop a full blown fear of failure, the environment you grew up in may be equally as important.

For instance, growing up in an environment where you were greatly pressured to achieve things and set goals could possibly have had a negative effect on you. Growing up with parents who are never proud of you or belittle the things that you have accomplished as if they are meaningless and void of any sort of impressiveness may also be a factor for someone developing kakorrhaphiophobia. Someone’s fear of failure may only include a specific area of their life or a specific goal, though this will vary from person to person.

Growing up with the expectations that you are supposed to be a doctor, a lawyer, or a businessman may be too much pressure to bear, especially if your interests reside in areas not approved of by your peers. So, some people may develop kakorrhaphiophobia due to the mere fact that they feel stuck doing something they dislike only to appease other people. Such social pressures can be quite debilitating and can cause much distress in the lives of those enduring it.

Another possible cause of kakorrhaphiophobia is that perhaps the person suffering from it actually has failed many times at many different things over the course of their life. Perhaps they have ran out of motivation and interest, thus raising the white flag. Everyone has a different breaking point. Some people are much more resilient than others. This, mixed with genetics and a very stressful environment is more than likely enough to develop kakorrhaphiophobia.

Kakorrhaphiophobia Treatments

There are no known treatments for kakorrhaphiophobia. However, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, and anti-anxiety medication may be able to help reduce symptoms. CBT would work by having you and your therapist work through your fears of failure by using several skills and coping mechanisms.

Exposure therapy would work by having you actually try and pursue something that is a little challenging. Once you successfully achieve this minuscule goal, you will then try a more difficult goal to accomplish, and so on. The point of doing this would be for you to realize that you can indeed achieve things that you desire insofar as you don’t quit.

Anti-anxiety medications may be able to help reduce your anxiety and may be able to help make therapy easier or less challenging for you. However, for you to truly change the way you think about accomplishing things or even the way you think about failing at things you’re passionate about, you will most likely need some sort of therapy that will get you actively working toward improving your thinking patterns.

Exercise for Kakorrhaphiophobia

Exercise has been shown to be extremely beneficial for people suffering from anxiety disorders, including kakorrhaphiophobia. Specifically, cardiovascular exercise can significantly help to relieve one’s stress. This is not to say that weight-resistance training would not benefit someone with anxiety, but rather that aerobic exercise is has been shown to be more effective at releasing those feel good chemicals in the brain, such as endorphins.

According to the American Psychology Association, exercise can help to condition the mind to better cope with stressful situations. This makes sense when we take into consideration the high amount of stress that the body is put under during strenuous exercise. So, if you yourself are sedentary, then engaging in some form of aerobic exercise may be able to significantly help reduce your symptoms of kakorrhaphiophobia by making it much easier for you to cope with the anxiety and stress that’s associated with this condition.

There are many different aerobic modalities that you can partake in to help reduce your symptoms of kakorrhaphiophobia, such as swimming, biking, skiing, walking, and jogging. You can also acquire the many benefits of exercise by playing sports such as tennis, soccer, basketball, and racquetball, among many other sports. Engaging in some form of exercise consistently may be able to help relieve some of the pain associated with kakorrhaphiophobia over time.

Practicing Yoga for Kakorrhaphiophobia

There are numerous different yoga poses that can substantially benefit someone who is suffering from kakorrhaphiophobia. In part, this is due to the meditative state of mind that yoga tends to emit in those who practice it on a consistent basis. Yoga can be thought of as meditation in motion. It can help to relieve some of the anxiety associated with kakorrhaphiophobia due to the mere fact that by engaging in yoga, your attention will be redirected to something more productive.

There are many different types of yoga that someone with kakorrhaphiophobia can benefit from, such as hatha yoga or hot yoga, among many others. Nevertheless, regardless of the many different forms of yoga that exist, virtually all of them can help to relieve some of the stress and anxiety that is associated with kakorrhaphiophobia.

If you have never practiced yoga before, then it may be in your best interest to take a class or watch some guided videos that can help you through each pose. Just like with meditation, the more you practice yoga, the more adept you will become at it. Besides helping you to reduce your symptoms of kakorrhaphiophobia, you can also expect to acquire increased strength and flexibility, among other benefits.

Reducing Caffeine for Kakorrhaphiophobia

It is no secret that consuming large amounts of caffeine throughout the day can aid in making you more anxious. This makes sense when we look closely at how caffeine affects our body’s physiology. When we consume a high dose of caffeine, our heart will start to beat faster and we become more tense. Essentially, our body will begin to go into a “fight or flight” state of mind. Such a frame of mind is often a precursor for someone with kakorrhaphiophobia to experience panic attacks.

So, consuming little to no caffeine throughout the day may be able to significantly help reduce your day to day anxiety. Although doing so will likely not make all of your anxiety go away, it will indeed help you to reduce any unnecessary suffering that you would have otherwise experienced if you were to consume a large amount of caffeine.

Beverages like coffee and tea are often high in caffeine, as well as some energy drinks. In fact, even some foods have caffeine in them as well, such as dark chocolate. Being more conscious of your daily caffeine consumption may help you to reduce some of the symptoms associated with kakorrhaphiophobia.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Kakorrhaphiophobia

DBT is a very effective form of treatment for people struggling with emotion regulation. It is often used to treat people suffering from borderline personality disorder. Nevertheless, it can also be very advantageous for someone suffering from anxiety disorders like kakorrhaphiophobia too. This is due to the numerous amount of coping skills you can expect to learn in a DBT group. These groups typically last about 6 months long and can have anywhere from two people to several people depending on how many join the group.

One very effective DBT skill for helping someone with kakorrhaphiophobia is half-smiling. This technique works by having you think about that which you fear or upsets you all while slightly raising the corners of your mouth by lightly smiling, thus the term “half-smiling.” Although, it isn’t enough to just think about your fear while half-smiling, you also have to try and refrain from entertaining those painful emotions that your specific fear may evoke.

Mindfulness meditation is also heavily used in DBT and can greatly benefit someone with kakorrhaphiophobia as it is done in a group setting, which helps to put the patient out of their comfort zone. These group mindfulness practices may include drinking warm tea to hone in on the sense of taste and tactile senses or simply focusing on the breath.

Coping ahead is another very useful DBT skill that can help someone with kakorrhaphiophobia. With coping ahead, you will want to find a place where you can sit down quietly without distraction. Close your eyes and then think about the many different possible scenarios where you would face your specific fear and overcome it or cope with it. Doing so will help you to be much better adept at coping with your kakorrhaphiophobia when you are actually exposed to the specific fear associated with it in real life.

Psychiatric Medications for Kakorrhaphiophobia

Anti-anxiety meds

These types of medications are very useful to help prevent panic attacks. Such drugs can be extremely useful for people suffering from severe kakorrhaphiophobia due to the fact that people with phobias often experience panic attacks as well. Some common anti-anxiety medications include Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin, among many others.

These types of drugs are not typically taken on a daily basis, but they may be insofar as their kakorrhaphiophobia is severe enough. However, this is something that you should first discuss with your doctor before you decide to do so to ensure that it is safe and effective.


These types of medications aren’t only for people who suffer from depression as they can also help people suffering from anxiety disorders as well, such as kakorrhaphiophobia. Some common antidepressants are Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro, among several others. These drugs may be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of kakorrhaphiophobia.

These types of drugs are typically taken on a daily basis. They can indeed help prevent panic attacks from occurring, but they are more so used to help reduce people’s daily anxiety. Talk to your doctor to see if taking antidepressants can help to reduce your symptoms of kakorrhaphiophobia, as well as whether or not it is safe to do so.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Kakorrhaphiophobia

CBT is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve one’s mental health. It is a modality that is often used to treat people suffering from anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. Someone with kakorrhaphiophobia may also be able to benefit from CBT as well seeing as how it would allow them to have a much better understanding as to why they think and behave the way they do in relation to their irrational fears.

CBT can be immensely helpful for someone with kakorrhaphiophobia given the sheer automaticity of their symptoms. For example, when someone with kakorrhaphiophobia is exposed to their fear, they will almost always have an instantaneous subconscious reaction to their fear. Such a lack of introspection is likely a large part of why someone with this condition will suffer to the extent that they will. CBT can help you to take a step back and analyze your fears more deeply than you typically would.

Besides learning to be more fastidious with regards to understanding one’s specific fears, someone with kakorrhaphiophobia engaging in CBT can also expect to learn various other skills aimed at helping to relieve the anxiety caused by their condition.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for Kakorrhaphiophobia

MBSR is an 8-week evidence-based program that offers secular, intensive mindfulness training to help people who are suffering from anxiety, stress, depression, and other sorts of mental anguish. MBSR may be able to significantly help someone who is suffering from kakorrhaphiophobia as mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very beneficial for anxious people. In such a structured program, someone with kakorrhaphiophobia can expect to learn a plethora of different skills that can help them to relieve the intense anxiety that’s associated with their specific phobia.

Talk to your doctor or therapist to see if MBSR can help you to reduce the intensity of your symptoms of kakorrhaphiophobia, as well as where to find MBSR programs in your area.

Practicing Meditation for Kakorrhaphiophobia

There are many different forms of meditation that exists which can be very advantageous for someone suffering from kakorrhaphiophobia. Specifically, mindfulness meditation has been shown to be quite beneficial for helping people to enter into a more equanimous state. There are many different ways with which you can implement mindfulness meditation and there are also many different meditation apps which are designed to make things as easy as possible for you.

Mindfulness has the potential to significantly help those suffering from kakorrhaphiophobia due to how it will help one to distract themselves from their fear by refocusing their attention onto something else that does not have any sort of emotional baggage attached to it, such as by focusing on the breath for example. This is one of the most basic ways that one can meditate and be present.

For someone with kakorrhaphiophobia in the midst of a panic attack, redirecting one’s attention to the various sensations felt when breathing can actually help to reduce the amount of mental anguish experienced during such an influx of anxiety.

To implement mindfulness meditation to help relieve one’s symptoms of kakorrhaphiophobia, you can do so by paying close attention to the way the muscles in your abdomen and chest contract and relax with every inhale and exhale. You can spend time dwelling on how it feels as your chest expands during each inhale and how it sinks in with every exhale.

Besides focusing on your breathing, you can also focus on the sounds around you, the way your skin feels as you touch certain objects, the way foods taste, as well as the way certain aromas smell. Essentially, honing into your 5 senses can significantly help you to reduce some of the anxiety that is associated with kakorrhaphiophobia. Also, remember that it will take a lot of practice to become an adept meditator. So, practice is key.

Exposure Therapy for Kakorrhaphiophobia

As previously mentioned, exposure therapy is one of the most common ways to treat anxiety disorders such as kakorrhaphiophobia. It can be an efficient way to help desensitize the patient to their specific fears. Be that as it may, it is imperative that the therapist implementing it on their patient is very adept at doing so. For example, if the therapist were to slightly expose someone with kakorrhaphiophobia to their fear, then it may not be very effective as they may need a higher amount of exposure to truly trigger any sort of worthwhile change in the patient.

The same can be said for the antithesis of this scenario. If the therapist were to excessively expose someone with kakorrhaphiophobia to their fear, then doing so could be highly counterproductive to the point to where their kakorrhaphiophobia may become immensely worse due to the therapy alone. So, it is paramount that the therapist implementing exposure therapy for someone with kakorrhaphiophobia has a very strong sense of just how severe their symptoms are so that they can know the level of exposure that the patient will likely be able to handle.

If you think you may be suffering from some of the symptoms of this condition, then you may benefit from therapy. Feel free to reach out to your doctor or local mental health clinic to see what your available options are and to see if there is any sort of discount or promo code available to help you with the costs of treatment, as well as if your health insurance will cover treatment costs.

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