Perfectionists often describe someone hardworking, dedicated, have good attention to detail, and are reliable in holding themselves up to a higher standard. Perfectionism has been claimed to be a positive trait due to its usefulness in the workplace, but ultimately has contributed to some mental health disorders, specifically anxiety, in the relationship between success and failure. Achievement, social ranking, ambition all appear to be strong indicators of a perfectionist mindset. Still, it can produce high amounts of anxiety and negative thought patterns when not observed when approached in a negative light.
What is Perfectionism?
At its core, perfectionism is about striving to do our best in all aspects of our lives. Perfectionism appears in multiple facets of our lives, from relationships, work, and even hobbies, but all work towards achieving high standards that one sets out for themselves. Its commonly thought of as an aspect of a person’s personality. However, with perfectionism there can be both positive and negative consequences of perfectionism. When it benefits a person, it can be motivating, allowing a person to work on self-improvement and fulfilling your future goals. When used positively, it can greatly benefit and help a person achieve many aspirations in their lives.
On the other side, those who strive for perfectionism often suffer from this trait’s downsides, which include rigid, impossible to achieve goals that set themselves up for failure. Failure as a concept can be turned into a positive experience when viewed as a source for learning and growing. Still, for perfectionists, failure becomes their place for negative thoughts and can cause a mountain of stress and demands that lead them to become critical of themselves and others. When this occurs, their self-worth is low, their accomplishments are unattainable, and can lead to anxiety.
Perfectionism and Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety disorders, such as social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic disorder, can contribute to perfectionism issues and can motivate this trait in a negative direction. Perfectionism used in a negative light can exacerbate anxiety symptoms and create scenarios that ultimately create constant, consistent failure around them. Some examples of these scenarios include:
Self-Orientated: When a person’s attached to the importance of being perfect, holding unrealistic expectations of themselves throughout their lives.
Socially-Influenced: When a person’s social circles demand heavily on their actions, thus creating perfectionism to secure approval.
Other-Orientated: When a person’s perfectionism focuses on placing unrealistic standards on others to find satisfaction in their own lives.
These examples of perfectionism can all drastically impact and influence anxiety disorders by causing the motivation for perfectionism to be based on fear, worry, and limited perception. When a person with anxiety exhibits signs of an unhealthy relationship with perfectionism, their symptoms connect to their shortcomings, self-doubts, avoidance techniques, and others’ perceptions about themselves. Perfectionism, when looked at in this light, is often associated with negative thinking. Those with anxiety have a higher chance of depleting self-worth when they set up expectations they cannot achieve.
To help with perfectionism, anxiety disorders, and other forms of mental disorders, our psychiatrists at Family Psychiatry and Therapy can provide personalized insight into your thoughts, emotions, and coping mechanisms and help give you a better insight into the ways you perceive the world. To gain help from our therapists, contact Dr. Helene A. Miller, and schedule an appointment at any one of our locations throughout the Paramus and East Orange, NJ areas.