Worrying about performance and feeling stressed when anything is less than perfect could indicate a perfectionist-type personality. While in the past this trait was considered something to celebrate, more and more research is pointing to its damaging effects on mental health. The most recent research links this pattern of behaviour with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders and even chronic fatigue syndrome.
Research by Brook University in Ontario also looked into the relationship between physical health and perfectionism in 492 men and women aged 24-32. The results found that perfectionists were more likely to complain of poor sleep, upset stomachs, fatigue, shortness of breath and more likely to take sick days.
Being a perfectionist is considered a stable personality trait and thus can be difficult to change. Interestingly however, it appears that there is more than one type of perfectionism. The type considered to be the un-healthiest is socially prescribed perfectionism, a behaviour pattern driven by the fear that others will ridicule you if you are not perfect. This particular type of perfectionism is often accompanied by demands of perfection from friends, colleagues and family, leading to feelings of depression.
If your journey to perfection is internally motivated and you are able to bounce back from setbacks, a certain level of perfectionism is perfectly healthy. The problems start when you become self-criticising and feel that your best will never be good enough.
If you find it difficult to cope with the pressures you put on yourself, or find that you are becoming obsessive – speaking to someone you trust could help you steer away from further issues. You can find out how a counsellor may be able to help by visiting our stress page.