Perfectionism and Anxiety

Perfectionism and Anxiety

Perfectionism and Anxiety:
Being a perfectionist may not seem like an undesirable character trait but research indicates it is linked to mental and physical health issues including anxiety._Learn more about how perfectionism can lead to chronic stress and anxiety and shorten one's life span._Perfectionists are unaware that their determination to get it right the first time may actually prevent them from achieving their potential and obtainable goals.


 Perfectionist Disease: Don't Worry About it-

As a middle school student, in the early eighties, my parents took me to a doctor for chronic headaches and stomach problems. After exhausting a multitude of medical tests and examinations, the doctor asked me some questions about my life.  I shared about my academic accomplishments and goals.  With further prompting, I told him proudly that I vacuumed my bedroom before school each day and spaced my hangers evenly in my color coordinated closet.   He reviewed my chart thoroughly and returned to give me his diagnosis, stating “I believe you have Perfectionist Disease.”  I was relieved it was nothing serious and almost pleased that I had such an honorable disease.  After all, being a perfectionist is a good thing I thought. He recommended that I leave my bed unmade occasionally and to ease up on the vacuuming. Years later, I learned from a therapist that there was no such thing as Perfectionist Disease; but I still wore the label proudly.  It was the eighties when more was more and being perfect was the ideal. 

And, people didn’t have anxiety, we just worried a lot.

Today, we know a great deal more about perfectionism, anxiety and mental health.  It is estimated that at least 70% of the U.S. population suffers from at least one form of anxiety, primarily social anxiety.  Perfectionism and anxiety go hand in hand. Many perfectionists are unaware that they are perfectionistic and unaware of the anxiety associated with it.  Perfectionism and anxiety can lead to a multitude of ailments including intestinal problems, ulcers, headaches, difficulty sleeping and fatigue.  There is no such thing as “Perfectionist Disease” but with all the physical and mental health issues linked to perfectionism, it is no wonder a physician in 1981 might refer to it as such.  Chronic anxiety resulting from perfectionism can lead to serious mental and physical health conditions including heart problems, substance abuse and a lowered life expectancy. 

Being a perfectionist or having anxiety is not hopeless.  As we begin to understand more about the brain and mental health, concepts such as mindfulness and meditation are becoming mainstreamed. Educators, parents and health care providers are recognizing the need to promote healthier ways of thinking and living.  While our fast paced society still promotes perfectionism and high standards of performance, there is also a new trend emerging focusing on total health: the mind-body-spirit connection. Gaining self- awareness and changing thought and behaviors patterns can reduce the symptoms of anxiety related to perfectionism. 

Even the most perfect individual can learn to enjoy a more serene, joyful way of life.

If you think you might be a perfectionist, review the Perfectionist questionnaire in Blog:
 Am I a Perfectionist?

 

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