What is Kakorrhaphiophobia? (An Overview)

In this blog we will discuss the symptoms, causes and treatments for Kakorrhaphiophobia. 

A fear of failure is called as Kakorrhaphiophobia.

It is a type of specific phobia in which one suffers from extreme anxiety when unable to achieve their goal.

Sufferers lose confidence in themselves and undergo low self-esteem. This loss of confidence induces more anxiety into the sufferer which can cause one to have full-blown panic attacks.

Everyone fears failure. Success is the driving force that propels the person to overcome his fears and achieve his predetermined goals.

Feeling nervous or fearful upon the idea of failing is normal.

But when this fear and nervousness turns into excess amounts of anxiety, the fear transforms into a phobia.

Thus, people suffering from Kakorrhaphiophobia experience panic attacks or severe anxiety when they think about failure.  

One’s anxiety is valid up to the point that, in this competitive environment he is fearful of being left behind or unsuccessful.

However, if in excess, this can lead to dangerous consequences. 

Fear alone cannot push one to success. With it, one needs the motivation, self-confidence and determination to succeed and achieve in life.

In Kakorrhaphiophobia, one just fears failure and does very little to gain success because of the anticipation that they might fail/loose again.

This anticipation within itself is a paralyzing factor.

As DSM-V suggests, anxiety caused by a specific phobia affects ones social and occupational life.

People leave their families or jobs behind, in the search of a more lucrative job which will help them succeed.

This act can also be seen as an escape route, where one runs away from his home or quits his job because of the failure he faced.

This is a result of his low self-esteem. 

These low levels of self-confidence can also lead to one developing depression.

Sufferers avoid their fear or anxiety by striving to attain success, which is not immediately gained.

It takes a person years of hard work to achieve a certain goal.

Because this path of success is gradual, the sufferer looks for an immediate way of winning over his failure. 

As a result, he might look for the wrong ways of overcoming his anxiety such as, one might start taking drugs in order to calm their nerves down.

These people can become addicts because they seek pleasure in the drugs they consume, while in search of victory. 

Kakorrhaphiophobia is the irrational, persistent fear of failure.

It is a specific phobia which is a part of anxiety disorder in the DSM-V. 


People with Kakorrhaphiophobia, like in all other specific phobias experience intense anxiety upon encountering failure/on the thought of it.

They’re unable to control this anxiety and thus, end up feeling more anxious.

This anxiousness, in extreme cases can give rise to full-blown panic attacks. 

Sufferer goes into flight or fight mode because of an adrenaline rush.

In this state, the body’s physiological responses help one make decisions when in fear causing situations.

They either decide to escape the situation (flight) or stay and combat their fear (fight). 

In the case of Kakorrhaphiophobia or any other type of specific phobia, the physiological symptoms that are produced when exposed to music (including extreme anxiety) cause the person to escape or avoid that situation.

Sufferers don’t have the courage to fight with their fear because of the unpleasant, terrifying experience the body goes through.   

Apart from anxiety, Kakorrhaphiophobia has a number of other physiological symptoms which include;

  • Extreme anxiety when encountering failure/on the thought of it. 
  • Full-blown panic attacks 
  • Inability to avoid anxiety 
  • Low self-esteem 
  • Uncomfortable to start something new 
  • May also have atelophobia
  • Increased heartbeat 
  • Muscle tension 
  • Breathlessness 
  • Fatigue 
  • Inability to sleep 
  • Trembling 
  • Sweating 
  • Nausea 
  • Butterflies in the stomach 

To be diagnosed with Kakorrhaphiophobia, one must experience at least 6-months of anxiety and 3-5 symptoms (out of the list mentioned above). 


Kakorrhaphiophobia, like all other specific phobias has no known cause.

These types of phobias can be a result of a number of factors such as biological (genetics) and or environmental (past experiences or social learning). 

Genetics refers to the genes and neurotransmitters in our body.

Someone with a family history of a phobia/mental disorder has a higher chance of having the same or different disorder in the future.

This is because the genes of the parents are transferred to their children, thus any alteration in the genes of ones’ parents is inherited by the child.

This genetic tendency to develop a mental disorder/specific phobia can also be referred to as a Diathesis-stress relationship.

According to this, one with a genetic predisposition will not develop symptoms of Kakorrhaphiophobia until and unless there is some trigger event, instigating anxiety or fear for failure. 

This trigger event can be for example, parents who scolded or had beaten their child can be the cause for ones’ fear of failure.

Parents hold really high expectations from their children.

These high expectations and the child’s inability to meet them leads to the onset of Kakorrhaphiophobia. 

A child may have been reprimanded or scolded by his parents on failing that he developed fear of the same thing happening to him again if he didn’t succeed.

One might have a feeling of being left behind by others who succeeded.

This fear of an impending doom caused by ones’ failure can also induce severe anxiety. 

Whatever the case is, it is quite evident that both genetics and environmental factors play significant roles in development of a specific phobia.


Kakorrhaphiophobia, like all other specific phobias has no exclusive type of treatment that is specifically designed to treat it.

Like all the other specific phobias, Melophobia is treated by a number of different therapies including, DBT and Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT) that lower downs the anxiety or other physical symptoms. 

• Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) 

It is one of the most frequently used treatment for patients with almost all kinds of mental disorders.

Kakorrhaphiophobia is defined as the irrational fear of failure.

Thus, the therapist helps the patient in replacing these irrational thoughts with more rational ones. 

The patients are helped out in analyzing and justifying the way they feel about failing.

Therapists assist them in uncovering the reasons behind their fear and later they provide them with alternate, pleasant thoughts. 

The patient is told to maintain a thought diary (with ABCD column) which provides them a replacement for every irrational thought they have, when thinking about a particular situation.

The ABCD stands for: 

i. A (antecedents) a situation or triggering event.

ii. B (belief) the thought that comes to one’s mind when in that triggering situation.

iii. C (consequences) the symptoms/feelings caused by that event/thought 

iv. D (dispute) alternate, rational thoughts provided by the therapist in an attempt to        dispute/challenge those irrational beliefs.

This last section of the thought diary is what really plays a role in helping the person feel good/less anxious.  

• Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) 

MBSR is a meditation therapy, is used to manage stress or anxiety. It is an 8-week program which includes group sessions.

Mindfulness meditation and Hatha yoga are practiced in these sessions.

Lectures and group discussions are also done to talk about mental health and increase interactivity.

In mindfulness meditation the person is told to, for example to focus on the sensations felt while breathing or the rhythm of the chest rising and falling during the process.

This distracts the person’s attention from something stressful to something which is neutral and soothing. 

For quick and effective treatment, patients are also given a set of home works, for example 45 minutes of yoga and meditation sessions for 6 days a week and to record their results/feelings in a book or diary for 15 minutes a day.

• Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) 

This is another effective therapy used to treat Kakorrhaphiophobia.

It is more commonly used with people suffering from personality disorders, but is also useful with patients suffering from this type of specific phobias.

Coping skills are taught in the DBT group which lasts for about 6-months and can have a number of people (depending on how many join the group). 

            i. Half-smiling is the first module of DBT. It is a technique that is used with patients who are distressed because of their irrational thoughts.

The technique is known as ‘Half-smiling’ because the person is first advised to think about the stimuli that fears or upsets them, and while doing so they are told to lift the corners of their mouths by subtly smiling.

Smiling is not that will help one get rid of these unpleasant thoughts, it is the person’s ability to constrain itself from thinking about those thoughts while half smiling.

          ii. Mindfulness, the second module, is another technique used in DBT groups which helps the individual in getting rid of those negative thoughts.

Individuals are told to focus on the present and be attentive to what is going on around them at the moment.

This helps in breaking the link between their mind and any negative thought that might come to them then. 

For example, a person is told to focus on his breath or on the smell of a certain food presented to them, making use of their olfactory sense. 

         iii. The third technique or module of the DBT is distress tolerance skills.

This module teaches people to calm themselves down in healthy ways when they are distressed or emotionally overwhelmed.

Individuals are allowed to make wise, rational decisions and take immediate action, rather than being captured by emotionally destructive thoughts that might make the situation worse.

Reality acceptance skills are also learnt under this model so that people fully accept reality and later make plans on how to address the problem.

• Yoga/Meditation 

They are not just one of the many treatment therapies used for Kakorrhaphiophobia, instead they are one of the most common ways of relaxation used by many people.

Yoga tends to stimulate the meditative state of one’s mind while the person is in a particular yoga posture.

Through yoga/meditation the mind is diverted towards something more productive and calm, allowing the person to escape the negative, distress causing thoughts.

Out of a number of yoga types, one can benefit from any yoga type/pose they like. Hatha yoga is one of the different types of yoga.

The breathing techniques or the imagery one creates while in a yoga posture are the real factors that makes the person feel less anxious and diverts their mind, away from the thoughts of failing.

Titles to read 

by Charles C Manz

by Fran Tarkenton

by Creflo Dollar and Creflo Dollar Ministries

by Chukwunenye Onuoha

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q1) What are the symptoms of Kakorrhaphiophobia?

They include extreme anxiety, panic attacks, low self-esteem, inability to avoid thoughts about failure and other physiological symptoms. 

Q2) What causes Kakorrhaphiophobia?

Like all other specific phobias, it caused by either genetics (someone with a family history of anxiety disorder) or a past-traumatic event. 

Q3) Can medicines be sued to treat Kakorrhaphiophobia? 

They can be used to reduce the physiological symptoms produced by the phobia but cognitive therapies like CBT are more effective in treating this irrational fear of failure. 

Q4) Do I have Kakorrhaphiophobia? 

omeone who has this type of phobia suffers from extreme anxiety lasting for at least 6 months.

This anxiety affects their social and occupational functioning and is accompanied with symptoms like panic attacks. 


  • https://www.verywellmind.com/fears-of-failure-and-success-2671684
  • https://www.fearof.net/fear-of-failure-phobia-atychiphobia/
  • https://psychtimes.com/kakorrhaphiophobia-fear-of-failure/
  • www.apa.org