How are perfectionism and depression related?

Did you know that there are different types of perfectionism? It is very common that behind the concepts we use in the way we speak on a daily basis are hidden nuances that we often overlook because we have no words to refer to them specifically.

This is why one of the tasks of psychology is to research and create sub-concepts to better understand our way of behaving and feeling emotions, and this is precisely what happens with the word “perfectionism”. “.

In this article we will see why being a very perfectionist is not always a good thing and can actually lead to mood disorders like depression.

    What is dysfunctional perfectionism?

    It is dysfunctional (or maladaptive) perfectionism which is a form of perfectionism that leads to emotional or behavioral problems, either to generate discomfort in oneself or to lead to creating conflict with others.

    The latter occurs for example with what is called “other-oriented perfectionism”, in which there are unrealistic expectations of how others should behave, even subjecting them to double standards. the same rules of conduct that others are supposed to follow, making it easier for there to be no “limit” on perfectionism and increasingly uncompromising with the conduct of others. It is a psychological phenomenon associated with narcissism and certain antisocial personality traits.

    However, the reverse can also happen. Some are under a lot of pressure on everything to do with adapting to what is considered an “acceptable” way of doing things, and sometimes these high standards are self-made inventions. However, such cases do not always have to lead to psychological disturbances; for example, this perfectionism can be a motivator that constantly poses difficult challenges.

    The problem comes when you lose control of this source of motivation, and perfectionism becomes a sort of dictator to which you submit without the latter contributing or rewarding for your efforts.

    The link between perfectionism and depression

    So far, we’ve seen an overview of the three main types of perfectionism. First, we have briefly described other-oriented perfectionism, defined by imposing rules on others to which one is not subject. Next, we saw self-oriented perfectionism, defined by the desire to overcome. Finally, we talked about the essence of the third type of perfectionism, the socially prescribed, based on constant worry and anxiety about not meeting standards of what is acceptable from the (supposed) point of view of others. It is the latter type that is most associated with depression.

    While self-oriented perfectionism is closely related to motivation to achieve specific goals, socially prescribed is more related to avoidance of breaking certain rules; we don’t look for what will make us feel good, but we fear what will make us feel bad; and in the process, we become obsessed with it and transport it from the future to the present, based on constant anticipation of situations of humiliation, failure, etc.

    For that, this kind of perfectionism not only does not motivate, it immobilizes us, Since it generates insecurities which in the medium and long term lead us to despair and lack of interest in getting involved in any complex activity. It is at this stage that the effects of perfectionism overlap with those of depression, which stems from these habits of passivity and this pessimistic way of seeing oneself and others.

    Of course, the dividing lines between these types of perfectionism are not insurmountable barriers. For example, when a case arises, self-directed perfectionism can become socially prescribed and lead to the onset of a mood disorder. Therefore, normally, until a diagnosis is made in the context of clinical psychology, one cannot know precisely how perfectionism interacts with a person’s mental health.

      What needs to be done to overcome this problem?

      No one is doomed to suffer the symptoms of depression forever or to carry the emotional burden of dysfunctional perfectionism on their shoulders. All psychological disorders have a behavioral componentAnd this means that in the same way that these psychological alterations come from the learning that we internalize without realizing it, we can “unlearn” whatever made them appear.

      In other words, there are psychological training techniques and strategies that lead us to be able to adopt new, more flexible and constructive points of view, and new ways of relating to the environment and to people. others, causing it to change both our mood and the way we approach our tasks and responsibilities.

      however, in case of depression, this whole learning process goes through therapy. Mood disorders are serious psychopathologies that should not be underestimated, in part because in many cases they have a detrimental effect on our ability to set goals and try to take care of ourselves. of our mental health. Therefore, you need the help of at least one psychologist. Thanks to psychotherapy, you will both build the means that will accompany you in your new way of managing your emotions and of meeting your personal and / or professional goals and objectives.

      Do you want to benefit from professional psychological support?

      If you are interested in starting a psychotherapy process, contact our team of mental health professionals.

      Fr Psychomaster we offer services in the areas of psychology and psychiatric care, both in our center located in Madrid and through the modality of online therapy. We have many years of experience working with dysfunctional perfectionism, depression, and other mood disorders, and we can provide you with emotional management tools to overcome this discomfort by getting to the root of the problem. problem.

      Bibliographical references:

      • American Psychiatric Association (2014). DSM-5. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Madrid: Panamericana.
      • Besser, A., Flett, G. and Hewitt, P. (2004). Perfectionism, Cognition, and Affection in Response to Performance Failure vs. Success. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 22, 297-324.
      • Kotov, R .; Gamez, W .; Schmidt, F .; Watson, D .; et al. (2010). Linking “Big” Personality Traits to Anxiety, Depression, and Substance Use Disorders: A Meta-Analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 136 (5): pages 768 to 821.
      • Kramer, Peter D. (2006). Against depression. Barcelona: Seix Barral.
      • National Collaborating Center for Mental Health. Depression. (2009). Treatment and management of depression in adults. National Clinical Practice Guideline No. 90. London: British Psychological Society and Royal College of Psychiatrists.
      • Perestelo Pérez L, González Lorenzo M, Rivero Santana AJ, Pérez Ramos J. (2007). Decision support tools for patients with depression. Quality plan for the MSPS SNS. SESCS; 2010. ETS Reports.

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