Being a perfectionist is bad for your mental and physical health

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There’s nothing wrong with trying to be good at everything you do, that’s only natural, but if you are a bit over the top about being perfect then you aren’t doing your mental or your physical health any good and it could in fact increase the risk of death says a recent study.

Professor Gordon Flett from York University in Canada has identified three different types of perfectionists.

There are the ones who are self orientated perfections, the ones who are other-oriented perfectionists and then there are the socially prescribed perfectionists.

Basically you either demand perfection from yourself, from others, or think others expect it from you.

“Perfectionism is the need to be, or to appear to be, perfect” says Professor Flett who also said that perfectionists are persistent, organised, and very detailed.

“Perfectionists vary in their behaviours: some strive to conceal their imperfections; others attempt to project an image of perfection.

“But all perfectionists have in common extremely high standards for themselves or for others.”

Professor Flett reckons that perfectionism can be linked to depression and even suicide, however, perfectionism is not yet recognised as a psychiatric disorder although he thinks it should be.

“Extreme forms of perfectionism should be considered an illness similar to narcissism, obsessive compulsiveness, dependent-personality disorder and other personality disorders because of its links to distress and dysfunction” says Dr Flett.

So how do you know if you or someone you know is overdoing it in the perfectionist arena? According to Dr Flett, perfectionists show their true colours in three ways. Firstly they might do it by bragging about themselves and this type is easy to spot because they often irritate other people says Dr Flett. The second is by avoiding situations where there is a possibility that they might be shown up. Or finally by not admitting failure to others and therefore may have a tendency to keep their problems to themselves.

Dr Flett and his colleagues followed 450 adults over the age of 65 for a period of 6 years to try and identify the effect of perfectionism. At the beginning of the study the researchers used a questionnaire to determine which of the participants had traits of perfectionism. At the end of the study the researchers found that those who did had a 50 percent higher risk of dying than those who were not considered perfectionists.

So, being perfect is not always a good thing.

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