Perfectionism may sound like a positive attribute to many people.
But researchers reveal that it is nothing short of a dysfunction, causing all forms of health complications. Moreover, medical reports show that perfectionism has increased dramatically among young people over the last three decades.
Researchers link these increased perfection tendencies to increased academic pressure, high parental expectations, and less time for unstructured activities. Furthermore, perfectionism is said to harm mental health.
Perfectionism – What Is It?
In its simplest definition, perfectionism is the desire to be or appear perfect. Perfectionists have a strong need for flawlessness and perfection, often accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations and concerns about other people’s perceptions. A perfectionist may also set unrealistic standards and always blame themselves whenever things fail to work their way.
Similarly, perfectionists are notorious for taking overly crazy measures to hide their frustrations, portraying a picture of perfection, which isn’t the reality. Perfectionism usually occurs in three different forms:
- Self-critical perfectionism- This is when an individual sets unachievable personal standards and usually becomes self-critical if they miss the target.
- Socially-prescribed perfectionism – When someone believes that others expect them to be perfect and that they will be judged harshly if they don’t meet the expectations.
- Other-oriented perfectionism- When one expects others to be perfect and often criticizes those who fail to meet unrealistic expectations.
How Does Perfectionism Impact Your Mental Health?
Perfection tendencies can significantly affect your mental well-being. For example, a 2016 meta-analysis that sought to determine the correlation between perfectionism and psychopathology found a direct link between depressions, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating problems, anxiety, and self-harm. In addition, perfectionism could also lead to fatigue, headaches, chronic stress, insomnia, and other health problems.
In another meta-analysis conducted by Andrew P. Hill of York St. John University and Thomas Curran of the University of Bath in the UK, it was found that perfectionism is on the rise and that socially-prescribed perfectionism is the most draining of the three types.
Furthermore, most specialists have constantly associated this form of perfectionism with several mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and suicidal thinking. For example, one study revealed that half of the individuals who died by suicide were regarded by their family members as perfectionists.
Subsequently, a separate study indicated that over 70% of teens who died by suicide exhibited a habit of setting very high personal expectations. Some research has also shown that self-critical perfectionism can increase the risk of bipolar disorder. This is thought to be the reason patients with this disorder also suffer anxiety.
When hunting perfection takes you to a point where you feel that perfectionism is directly tied to your safety as a person, your mental health might be at stake. Perfectionism could make you believe that doing things the perfect way is the only way to get people to love and respect you. Therefore, if you fail to meet the impossible expectations, your mental health will suffer the consequences.
Worse still, you may start living with a harsh inner voice due to frustrations. This inner critic will constantly remind you that you’re not good enough, regardless of what you do, which can be extremely exhausting and draining.
What Are the Symptoms of Perfectionism?
- A strong desire to be and appear perfect can cause trouble to your mental health and overall well-being. The most notable symptoms of perfectionism are:
- A feeling that you will fail at any attempt
- You struggle to share your feelings and thoughts
- You become overly controlling in your relationships
- You become dramatically apathetic
- You become over-protective and hostile
How to Treat Perfectionism
The first step to combating perfection tendencies is to accept your character defects and learn to embrace outcomes as they come. You also need to shift your perception and embark on the journey of self-love. In addition, set reasonable, attainable goals, and if you fail to achieve them, don’t engage in self-hate. Instead, take it as a learning opportunity. Remember that everybody makes mistakes, and your mistake shouldn’t be a death sentence.
Subsequently, you may need to seek professional help. If perfectionism causes you constant distress or prevents you from leading a happy life, therapy can help reframe your thoughts.
At Dr. Quintal and Associates Counseling Center, we have a team of professional counselors ready to help you recover from the impacts of perfectionism. Give us a call today to schedule a free consultation and learn new perspectives about your life as you embark on a guided self-discovery journey.