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Name for the fear you're doing something wrong but don't know what it is?
August 9, 2011 2:08 PM   Subscribe

Is there a word for the fear that you're doing something wrong but don't know what it is?

Though my searches reveal nothing, I believe there simply must be a name for the fear that you're doing something wrong that prevents you from succeeding (broadly defined), but don't or cannot know what that wrong thing is. Someone suffering from this condition might strongly suspect that they constantly commit and have always committed some social faux pas but also feel unable to identify that faux pas.

Know of any documentation of this psychological phenomenon or anything similar?
posted by colinmarshall to Human Relations (20 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Crippling paranoia.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 2:09 PM on August 9, 2011


Someone suffering from this condition might strongly suspect that they constantly commit and have always committed some social faux pas but also feel unable to identify that faux pas.

Social anxiety, mostly.
posted by sweetkid at 2:09 PM on August 9, 2011


Wouldn't that be anxiety? In the social realm 'social anxiety'.
posted by Not Supplied at 2:09 PM on August 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have a lot of similar feelings and I've been diagnosed with anxiety by multiple therapists.
posted by naturalog at 2:12 PM on August 9, 2011


Similar but maybe not exactly what you describe:

Imposter syndrome

"Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.

The impostor syndrome, in which competent people find it impossible to believe in their own competence, can be viewed as complementary to the Dunning–Kruger effect, in which incompetent people find it impossible to believe in their own incompetence."
posted by Nixy at 2:16 PM on August 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Generalized anxiety disorder.
posted by availablelight at 2:16 PM on August 9, 2011


Sounds like we're getting there, but I was hoping for a name that covered this condition in the social realm and others. Like, for someone who fears that a perpetual social faux pas could be holding him back, but, say, a lack of a particular domain of knowledge or a tendency toward a particular technical mistake could just as well be doing it.
posted by colinmarshall at 2:18 PM on August 9, 2011


In my family we call that a "Maloney". Not sure why, but whenever you are out and keep checking your fly to make sure it is up or wiping your face to make sure no food on it or fixing your clothes or asking, "Did you say something to me?" we say, "Why the Maloney?" Whoever Maloney was, it was not my generation so I never met him/her.
posted by AugustWest at 2:19 PM on August 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Apprehension. Here, it's described as "Sense of "seizure on behalf of authority" is 1570s; that of "anticipation" (usually with dread) is recorded from c.1600".
posted by simulacra at 2:21 PM on August 9, 2011


Trepidation?
posted by Thorzdad at 2:22 PM on August 9, 2011


Paralysis by analysis?
Overanalysis?
Conspiracy theory?
Paranoia?
Lack of insight?
Self-consciousness?
posted by Nixy at 2:24 PM on August 9, 2011


See also the thread I forgot I made last year, What did you just realize you were doing wrong all along? Looks like it became the second most popular AskMe thread of all time since then.
posted by colinmarshall at 2:25 PM on August 9, 2011


Perfectionism
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:37 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I always thought of it as "free-floating anxiety" even though I may be misusing a clinical term. My definition is that it's a type of anxiety that seeks something to latch onto.

"I feel scared and anxious, but I don't know why. Therefore it must be because [I'm doing something wrong] / [my friends are mistreating me] / [my partner doesn't like me] / [I forgot to do something important] / [etc.]."

Note that the "reasons" above are likely to be untrue, but the brain scrambles to attach a reason for the anxiety, when none may even exist.
posted by The Deej at 3:27 PM on August 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Guilt?
posted by Like its 1997 at 3:41 PM on August 9, 2011


Dread.
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:56 PM on August 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Unknown unknowns anxiety disorder.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:31 PM on August 9, 2011


Neurotic?
posted by Poet_Lariat at 5:44 PM on August 9, 2011


Anxiety.
posted by mleigh at 5:53 PM on August 9, 2011


With regards to OCD, they are sometimes called "not just right experiences" or NJREs. (Just finished this book which referenced the phrase.)
posted by TallulahBankhead at 8:55 PM on August 9, 2011


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