Do perfectionists have anxiety? (7 reasons)

This blog post aims to answer the question, “Do perfectionists have anxiety?” and explore the concepts of perfectionism and anxiety, their relationship and their impact on people to help understand the answer. 

Do perfectionists have anxiety?

Yes, perfectionists have anxiety because of the following 7 reasons – 

  • Perfectionism can be a cause and a symptom of anxiety disorders.
  • Self-destructive behaviours.
  • Anxiety is fundamental to perfectionism.
  • Inability to determine when to stop.
  • High standards and an all-or-nothing mentality.
  • Giving up the pursuit of perfection feels impossible.
  • Perfectionism is not viewed to be a negative personality characteristic.

What are these 7 reasons why perfectionists have anxiety?

Perfectionism can be a cause and a symptom of anxiety disorders.

A group of 48 participants was given a series of questions by researchers at the University of Montreal regarding how often and how powerfully they felt emotions including anger, guilt, boredom, irritation, and anxiety. 

They were “exposed to scenarios meant to generate certain sensations (including relaxation, tension, annoyance, and boredom)” after completing the survey. 

When participants were put in unpleasant situations, individuals who had a history of body-focused repetitive behaviours like nail-biting and hair twirling were considerably more likely to feel compelled to participate in those behaviours.

While this may appear to be unsurprising at first glance, the researchers derived another, more intriguing conclusion from the data. 

“We believe that people who engage in these repeated behaviours are perfectionists, unable to relax and complete tasks at a ‘normal’ speed,” said Dr. Kieron O’Connor, the study’s primary author.  “When they don’t achieve their objectives, they are prone to irritation, impatience, and discontent.”

Being labelled a perfectionist isn’t usually considered a reason for concern. An increasing amount of data demonstrates, however, that perfectionism may be extremely harmful, cause excruciating emotional pain, and be both a cause and a symptom of anxiety disorders. 

Self-destructive behaviours. 

Perfectionism is also linked to everything from seemingly harmless self-destructive behaviours like nail-biting to overt self-mutilation and death.

“With the exception of individuals who have suffered significantly as a result of their own or a loved one’s perfectionism,” says Dr. Gordon Flett, a psychologist at York University, “the typical person has very little comprehension of how damaging perfectionism can be.” 

While perfectionists may appear to be in control on the surface, there is often significant anguish underneath the thin veneer of perfection, which may both motivate and result from the quest for perfection.

“Perfectionistic persons often feel that they can never be good enough, that errors are indicators of personal faults, and that the only way to be accepted as a person is to be flawless,” says psychologist Thomas S. Greenspon.

This turbulence is frequently difficult for others to notice, and for perfectionists to admit because individuals who struggle typically try hard to create a consistent picture of achievement and well-being. 

As a result, perfectionists who are experiencing psychological distress may be less likely to seek help, resulting in ever-increasing levels of emotional pain that can sometimes lead to acts of self-destruction; research has linked perfectionism to nonsuicidal self-injury, and a 2007 study on suicides in Alaska found that 56 per cent of those who committed suicide were described as perfectionists by family and friends.

Anxiety is fundamental to perfectionism.

The nature of a perfectionist’s anguish might take different shapes, but anxiety appears to be a fundamental thread that runs through all perfectionist experiences. 

“Perfectionism is more than pushing oneself to do your best to achieve a goal; it’s a reflection of an inner self buried in fear,” says Melissa Dahl of New York Magazine beautifully. 

This anxiety can manifest in a variety of conditions, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and can be triggered by particular events or unknown sources.

Perfectionism and anxiety have a tangled relationship; the pursuit of perfection becomes a maladaptive method of coping with anxiety’s misery, and perfectionism itself fuels anxiety by setting high standards that anxiety may prohibit you from the meeting. 

Inability to determine when to stop.

According to clinical psychologist Kathariya Mokrue, “many persons with anxiety have difficulties evaluating whether activities are done to their satisfaction.”

Despite having committed a significant amount of time and energy, they frequently state, “It’s difficult for me to recognise when I need to stop.” Then comes tiredness and exhaustion, or a loved one pleading with them to quit. 

Their ‘internal thermometer’ for determining when to stop isn’t calibrated properly. The dangers of being incorrect or flawed are frequently exaggerated, leading to maladaptive anxiety. 

This fear then acts as a signal to labour furiously, and individuals only stop when the signal is drowned out by physical or mental tiredness.

High standards and an all-or-nothing mentality.

Many perfectionists have an all-or-nothing mentality, meaning they either accomplish everything flawlessly or nothing at all. In the case of the latter, no progress is made. Furthermore, perfectionists engage in and practise activities in which they are inept. 

Procrastination, risk aversion, frustration, weariness, and a lack of focus are all factors that might make it difficult to finish activities to your high standards. 

In the end, however, even doing chores well is insufficient to alleviate worry, which rapidly finds a new target. For perfectionists, self-criticism is relentless, and anxiety looms as you foresee the ways you could fall short.

Perfectionism causes worry and tension as a result of attempting to live up to an internal standard. Fear may also drive perfectionism, such as being concerned about how others see you. 

For people suffering from anxiety, this may manifest as a sense of dissatisfaction with their symptoms, which you may interpret as flaws that others use to judge you. Avoidance behaviours, loneliness, isolation, and depression can all be exacerbated by these beliefs and self-doubts.

When you’re a perfectionist, you could leap to conclusions and think that if others knew your true personality, they wouldn’t accept you. 

Perhaps self-blame is making you believe it’s your fault that you can’t meet the incredibly high standards you’ve set for yourself. Negative thinking and perfectionism may erode your self-esteem and make you feel ineffective.

Giving up the pursuit of perfection feels impossible.

Perfectionism and anxiety can be so deeply embedded in one’s nature that giving up the pursuit of perfection may feel impossible. People may, however, overcome perfectionism and permanently conquer tension, anxiety, and despair.

For perfectionists, recognising that they have a problem is one of the most difficult things to do. As a result, obtaining treatment for your distress may necessitate overcoming significant internal barriers.

If perfectionism and anxiety are interfering with your capacity to function, lowering your quality of life, or making you consider self-harm, seeking help is the most essential and courageous decision you can make. 

Admitting that you need help is a show of strength, courage, and love for yourself and those closest to you, not of weakness.

You can attain diagnostic clarity to completely comprehend the nature of your discomfort and gain a better knowledge of the complicated link between your perfectionism and anxiety disorder via comprehensive mental health therapy. 

Perfectionism is not viewed to be a negative personality characteristic.

Perfectionism does not appear to be a negative personality characteristic. It is desired and praiseworthy in our society to strive for excellence in all aspects of one’s life, from employment to relationships. 

However, perfectionism may often lead to an extreme sensation of pressure, which can have a negative impact on our mental health. 

Perfectionism has been linked to an increase in anxiety and despair in people, and as a result, many people believe it has a bad influence on mental health.

Therapeutic modalities such as art therapy, drumming, and meditation are often instrumental in opening up the possibilities for exploring and expressing yourself in an environment where there is no right or wrong, and no potential for perfection for clients with anxiety disorders and perfectionist personalities.

Anxiety disorders and perfectionism are curable problems, and with the correct tools, you may live a happier, healthier, and more optimistic life.  Aside from drugs, patients are frequently advised to accept some imperfections in their everyday lives. 

Learning music or participating in art therapy is useful since it is new and requires individuals to endure imperfection at first. The objective is to improve at accepting imperfection and to observe the progress that comes with practice and time.

Conclusion – 

This blog post aimed to answer the question, “Do perfectionists have anxiety?” and reviewed the concepts of perfectionism and anxiety, their relationship and their impact on people to help determine if perfectionists have anxiety. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

References –

How to Overcome Perfectionism. Anxiety Canada. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.anxietycanada.com/articles/how-to-overcome-perfectionism/#:~:text=Perfectionism%20can%20make%20you%20feel,and%20effort%20on%20a%20task

Star, K. How Perfectionism Can Impact Panic and Anxiety. (2020, September 20). Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/perfectionism-and-panic-disorder-2584391

Kvarnstrom, E. Why Perfectionism and Anxiety Disorders Go Hand-in-Hand. (2016, March 10). Retrieved from https://www.bridgestorecovery.com/blog/why-perfectionism-and-anxiety-disorders-go-hand-in-hand/

How Perfectionism is Linked to Anxiety and Mental Health. UPMC HealthBeat. (2021, May 18). Retrieved from https://share.upmc.com/2021/05/perfectionism-linked-to-anxiety/

Dimitriu, A. Perfectionism and Anxiety. (2020, October 13). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/psychiatry-and-sleep/202010/perfectionism-and-anxiety

Sandoiu, A. How perfectionism affects your (mental) health. (2018, October 12). Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323323

Perfectionism and Anxiety: How Perfectionism Can Increase Anxiety. Discovery Mood & Anxiety Program. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://discoverymood.com/blog/perfectionism-can-increase-anxiety/

Trying to be perfect can cause anxiety. The President and Fellows of Harvard College. (2018, December 19). Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/trying-to-be-perfect-can-cause-anxiety

Heitz, D. Perfectionism. (2017, December 24). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/perfectionism

Why Perfectionism Could Be Killing You. Health.com. (2014, October 3). Retrieved from https://www.health.com/condition/depression/bad-perfectionism-signs

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