Perfectionism: Signs, Treatment, and Prevention

A perfectionist is someone who has no heart for mistakes and intends to do things with no flaws and utmost perfection. Perfectionism is often related to personality traits as it is more about the behavior of a person who aims to perform all their activities with high precision. In other words, they intend to be perfect all the time. Any standard that is short of perfection is disapproval for them and they refuse to accept it. Perfectionists get habituated to setting high expectations that often lead to stress, depression, and anxiety. A good thing about them is that they are always organized and reliable. Perfectionists run rounds of self-evaluation to attain desired outcomes. They strive to be flawless at work.
The blog describes in detail the signs of a perfectionist disorder, treatment options available to help people overcome perfectionism and the anxiety that follows, and techniques for perfectionism prevention at the early stages.

Perfectionist disorder

Perfectionism is positive when it is regulated properly and stays under control. When perfectionists do not achieve the intended results or arrive at the level of perfection that they expect, they get hard on themselves. This puts them in a state of depression, anxiety, and other negative emotions. This impacts the physical and mental health of the individual in the long run. Studies evidence the fact that a lot of times, perfectionists achieve far lesser than what other people tend to achieve. Perfectionist disorder also takes a toll on their personal and professional relationships. This can serve as a starting point for several psychological disorders including eating disorders, sleeping disorders, anxiety, low self-esteem, and so on.
With proper therapies and counseling, perfectionism can be regulated and the person can be trained to set realistic expectations, and more importantly to detach themselves from such expectations. This becomes easy when the perfectionist becomes more open and realizes that they are driven by a pursuit to get rid of mistakes rather than achieving their goals, which in turn is the perfectionist disorder. Overall, positive and regulated perfectionism is motivating and when perfection goes out of control, it becomes a disorder.

What are perfectionistic strivings?

People with Perfectionist disorder set higher targets and unrealistic goals that are almost impossible to achieve ever. The unmet goals make people feel like they are constantly failing or falling short. Perfectionists subject themselves to self-criticism even when goals and targets are met. They worry about the least speck of mistake. They are extremely concerned about perfection. Perfectionists demand more and more of themselves, often beyond what they are capable of offering. This results in unnecessary stress. They fear failure, making mistakes, and tend to feel insecure all the while.

What causes Perfectionist disorder?
  • Perfectionist traits are either inherited or learned as people walk through their life. The traits may be inherited because they can be passed on genetically from parents to children. Perfectionism can also be assimilated from being inspired by the behavior of other perfectionists.
  • Parenting style acts as a strong influencer of perfectionism. Parents with harsh and over-demanding parenting styles raise perfectionist children. Children assume that coping with high expectations is the condition to be loved and accepted. Parents who neglect, abuse, or stay harsh with their children intending to draw high achievements from them, instill perfectionist behavior. A strong and secure parent-child bond can moderate or lessen the impact of perfectionism. Children subjected to this kind of critical parenting style become emotionally deprived. They isolate themselves from society and tend to be introverts with trust issues.
  • Children exposed to adversity, misery, or trauma may also face perfectionism issues.
Perfectionism signs

Perfectionist people exhibit the following symptoms. Perfectionists are easy to find as perfectionism impacts almost all walks of their personal and professional lives.

  • Having high expectations and standards and facing pressure to meet those.
  • Experience self-doubt and anxiety. They take mistakes personally and misconceive this as a lack of potential or incompetence.
  • Afraid of failures and exaggerating even the smallest of mistakes. They are highly sensitive to negative feedback. Perfectionists spend too much time and energy on mistake reduction. This is one of the visible perfectionism signs.
  • Negative approach to mistakes and inability to handle failures wisely. They are prone to rumination, which is a vicious cycle of negative thinking that adversely affects a person’s life.
  • Doing preparation that is more than required. They expect rules, prescriptions, and instructions to be precise.
  • Staying organized in a way that misses out on small happiness and fun in life.
  • Extreme self-criticism.
  • Afraid of being judged and rejected is one of the important perfectionism signs.
Perfectionism and anxiety

Perfectionism and anxiety are closely wound and the risks of perfectionism-related anxiety include,

  • Depression and anxiety at higher levels, especially social anxiety.
  • Suicidal intentions.
  • Perfectionist disorders are usually accompanied by eating disorders like bulimia nervosa and bulimia anorexia. They binge eat, starve, involve in purging, and restrict food intake to reduce body weight. They feel shameful and embarrassed. Perfectionists have poor body image.
  • Lack of confidence, self-esteem, and lower self-worth.
  • Perfectionists develop more guilt and shame.
  • Intense fear of failure lowers their ability to achieve and impairs their performance on personal and professional fronts.
  • Incessant hostility towards others as they endure difficulty in forming relationships.
  • Perfectionists are more likely to give up after a mistake.
  • Lower levels of motivation and resilience to adversity and challenges.
  • ● Few perfectionists procrastinate more.
Overcoming perfectionism

Overcoming perfectionism is more of regulating perfectionism to bring about a constructive impact in their drive to achieve their goals. Healthy perfectionism improves performance as this can act as a motivating factor. Perfectionistic strivings are all about the desire to grow, improve oneself and achieve realistic goals. Individuals with healthy perfectionism set achievable and realistic goals. Once their intended goals are achieved, they get to feel proud. They limit their self from accepting more criticism. Tolerating unanticipated mistakes, acceptance of unfavorable circumstances and adaptability to change are a few attributes of healthy perfectionists. During therapy sessions, these traits can be clearly explained to people following unhealthy perfectionism and they shall be motivated to transform their perfectionistic attitude into a healthy one.

Perfectionism prevention

Perfectionism is good in the sense that it can motivate people and push them to achieve their goals and never give up until they achieve perfection. Perfectionism can be constructive when an excess of it is limited. Here’s what one must follow to regulate perfectionism, achieve perfectionism prevention, and ensure good mental health.

  • Be compassionate to your own self.
    Practicing self-compassion helps a person tolerate their mistakes and be kind to themselves. This further boosts a person’s mood, performance, and the way they interact and socialize with others. When you are more compassionate you pay more heed to your feelings, needs, and wants.
  • Avoid certain things you practiced as a perfectionist.
    Get rid of self-doubts. Control the checking and re-checking urges. This also saves time. Also forbids anxiety and exhaustion. Divert your attention and get rid of the habit of overanalyzing decisions and regretting mistakes and flaws. Don’t think of it over and over. Self-criticism is basically an exaggeration as it nurtures critical and judgmental thoughts. Stop comparing yourself to others and all these would improve your self-esteem in the long run.
  • Practice flexibility.
    Teach yourself to adapt to changing situations. Change is inevitable, and unavoidable, and life without challenges is not so interesting. Flexibility is a vital skill. Try to expose yourself to situations you usually avoid. Accept the fact that it is a human tendency to commit mistakes and there is nothing wrong with it. Mistakes and failures are a way to learn about life. Deriving values from mistakes and leveraging them to lead our day-to-day life is an effective strategy.
  • Enjoy the small moments in life instead of looking for perfection within. Some flaws are happy indeed and remember that mistakes are happy little accidents. Practice humor and learn to be happy.
Perfectionism Treatment

If you or your loved one is enduring perfectionist disorder or shows perfectionism signs, seek perfectionism treatment from a professional. Counseling can shield them from adverse impacts on themselves and their relationships. We at Abhasa Rehabilitation Center, Coimbatore provide one-on-one, personal counseling, and therapies as a part of perfectionism treatment. Through counseling, we help the person become aware of themself and educate them on how they could constructively leverage their perfectionist traits to improve the quality of their life. We reach out to the factor that contributed to perfectionism and treat them accordingly and our therapists also train the perfectionist to develop self-compassion and resilience to cope with mistakes. We also train them to set realistic goals and expectations. We encourage them to give up self-criticism and rumination in their endeavor to overcome perfectionism and availing successful perfectionism treatment.