Therapy Specialties: Perfectionism


Perfectionism, in psychology, is a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting high performance standards, accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.


Culturally, perfectionism is often seen as a positive. There has been some suggestion that, in some cases, perfectionism might be healthy and desirable. But psychologists believe it’s a misunderstanding. Working hard, being committed, diligent and so on—these are desirable features. But for a perfectionist, those are really a symptom, or a side product, of what perfectionism is. Perfectionism is not about high standards. It’s about unrealistic standards. Perfectionism isn’t defined by working hard or setting high goals. It’s that critical inner voice.


Faced with failure, perfectionists respond more harshly. They experience more guilt, more shame and often more anger. They also give up more easily and have avoidant coping tendencies when things can’t be perfect.


Researchers are finding that perfectionism is nothing short of dangerous, leading to a long list of problems. Perfectionism is an ultimately self-defeating way to move through the world.


Perfectionistic tendencies have been linked to multiple clinical issues: OCD, anxiety, depression, self-harm, social anxiety disorder, anorexia and bulimia, insomnia, and even early mortality and suicide. It is something that cuts across everything, in terms of psychological problems. Studies show that the higher the perfectionism is, the more psychological disorders one is likely to suffer.


Perfectionism comes in different flavors, each associated with different kinds of problems. Some of those problems may be less severe that others, but no form of perfectionism is completely problem-free.