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News to Me: Perfectionists Are at Risk for Depression

I'm sure you all have a little voice inside you that says to work hard and be the best you can be, but some people let that voice take over their lives. There's nothing wrong with having perfectionist tendencies, but according to a New York Times article, researchers are worried that being too hard on yourself and others may put you at risk for mental illness.

According to the story:

Some researchers divide perfectionists into three types, based on answers to standardized questionnaires: Self-oriented strivers who struggle to live up to their high standards and appear to be at risk of self-critical depression; outwardly focused zealots who expect perfection from others, often ruining relationships; and those desperate to live up to an ideal they’re convinced others expect of them

While it's perfectly normal to want to do well at your job, if those feelings expand to your personal life, you could be at risk for depression or even suicidal thoughts. Why is that? Perfectionists can be overly self-critical, and that pressure can be too much to handle. Also, perfectionists may have exceedingly high expectations of others, which can in turn ruin their relationships.

Perfectionists can also be obsessive-compulsive — working long hours to get a project done earlier than needed, or redoing work to make it just right. Their fear of failure is what drives them to be super-human and to do above and beyond what may be possible.

Dear's Advice: If this sounds familiar to you, it's probably a good idea to talk to a therapist so you don't have to deal with these feelings on your own.


Join The Conversation
demeter demeter 9 years
That would probably explain why I'm depressed, because I'm a perfectionist.
vanprooyen vanprooyen 9 years
This isn't really that ground breaking. People with anxiety disorders tend to be perfectionists, and too much anxiety inevitably leads to depression. I mean obviously if you are too hard on yourself you'll end up being disappointed a lot of the time. I've been diagnosed anxiety disorder for about 5 years now and I also suffer from periods of depression. And I've read about this connection many times before. But it's good NYTimes is getting the message across! Best newspaper ever.
TFS TFS 9 years
this is true to be honest. im a perfectionist, and i always get what i want and i always always achive my goals no matter what. and im pretty much amazing :) but im still lonely. still no decent boyfriend by my side.
pintsized pintsized 9 years
And is that picture of an Asian woman a coincident? IE, AA women have high rates of suicide (2nd leading cause of death) and also the highest among other women.
RockAndRepublic RockAndRepublic 9 years
Nope, not me.
bettyboutique bettyboutique 9 years
some days i wish i was a perfectionist... im only like that when it comes to my art... it has to look perfect to me otherwise it isn't good.
popgoestheworld popgoestheworld 9 years
I'm a bit of a self-oriented striver. Wheee! But as I get older it gets less and less of an issue.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 9 years
I've been told I'm a perfectionist, but I don't think I am. In fact, I think I'm far from perfect, and that's why I work very hard.
designergirl designergirl 9 years
I'm definitely the self oriented striver and a bit of the outwardly focused zealot. It can be too stressful at times, and it does cause to me not try at things I might not do well at. Failure scares me a bit too much. This reached a crisis point when I became anorexic years ago. The experience taught me to let go of some stuff, but to some extent I will always be perfectionistic. Sometimes it helps, though. I'm an industrial designer, and my profession almost requires perfectionists at times.
missyd missyd 9 years
I am the type who sets something for myself and obessives over it, and constantly beats myself up over it when it isn't how I think it should be. I dont do it to anyone other than myself, and for some reason, the main thing I focus on ALL the time is my body. It drives me nuts, and I know it is way out of hand sometimes. So, if I focus on something else, such as doing laundry, raking leaves, whatever, it can occupy my mid for a bit.
Muirnea Muirnea 9 years
Omg, I am definitely a perfectionist!! I am the "self oriented striver" AND the "outwardly focused zealot". I am also a little obsessive compulsive. I have gotten better since being at college though, because it requires more flexibility and compromise just because of how it is. So, I try not to be too crazy, except I still am with my self. I have very high goals for myself and constantly expect myself to reach them.
Kristinh1012 Kristinh1012 9 years
I have a slight case of OCD. It drives me entire family crazy. It gets really bad right before I get my period. That week I am completely insane. I can't stand a spec of dirt or anything in the house being moved an inch out of place. Most weekends right before I get my period I end up waking up in the morning, and I'll start crying if there is any mess and I go absolutely nuts cleaning. It wouldn't be so bad, except it take it out on my family and yell A LOT about the messes they make. And then when they try to help, I flip off the handle cause they aren't doing if fast enough or the way I would do it. I completely understand why they say it can bring you to depression or mental illness!
luckyme luckyme 9 years
Groem- good for you. I'm happy you are at a great place in your life and you were able to recognize (with the doc's help) that you needed to make a change. I am also a perfectionist. However, after having a baby I have relaxed immensely. I found myself coming down hard on myself for things that I really could not control. Example: the baby had a few days of terrible fussiness. I literally could not put her down without her crying hysterically. Well, this resulted in my house being a big ol' mess. I hated the mess, but I needed to take care of her, not the house. Unfortunately, I really couldn't do both. I felt like such a slob. My Mom came over and I was profusely apologizing for the state of the house. She said to me, "sweetie, you're doing the best you can." That has been my motto since that day. Now, whenever I'm getting overwhelmed or I find that things are not how I would like them to be, I just tell myself that I'm doing the best I can and that's all I know how to do. It's worked so far. Let's hope it continues.
groem6 groem6 9 years
(This month's novel is brought to you by groem ;) ) This is no news to me. As a single parent of two boys and also being a student, I almost forgot the fact that it's not always necessary to be perfect. My days were the same every day. In order to keep my boys happy, I felt I had to give them everything they's have if I were working full time, or if I had a husband to help with finances. I got up 5.30 in the morning to make them pancakes or waffles for breakfast and do the household chores, followed them to school and went to my own studies. Usually I was finished at 14.00, rushed home to be home with the kids and make dinner. Since my studying provide little money, I also worked part time. My hours were either 16.00-20.00 or 17.00-20.00, aand I also worked 9 hours almost every Saturday. Closing up the store meant me being home 20.45, making supper and having a quick look over their homeworks. After putting them to bed, and reading stories, I did my own homework.. Then it was the same all over again after 5 hours of sleep. Needless to say, three years of this did something to my wellbeing. Last year for Christmas, didn't do my usual routine of decorating the house, making gingerbread house from scratch and Christmas dinner. As a matter of fact, we only had a bit of holidays calebration thanks to my sister inviting us over after seeing the mess my home was in. Also my always being a good student who suddenly flunked all courses that semester raised a red flag. I guess I'm glad my family is close, and that we all talk about everything. I couldn't bring me to tell my family that I was exhausted, though. My sister did that for me. She called my mother, who lives on the other side of the country, which in turn called me. The message was to send my kids to her, and start to relax. I was in a deep depression. I started doing light drugs. I drank a lot, and my psycological state made my doctor suggest that I'd quit my job. It's now half a year since I left my job. I've finally regained the self esteem to study again, after a year of being on a doctor's recommended leave. I also found me a boyfriend this year. I tell him often he's really lucky, since the state I was in when he met me, was the lowest I've ever been so everything can only get better. The lesson? I've learned it's a difference to manage it yourself, and manage everything yourself. Also, I've learned to relax a bit. It doesn't matter if I can't be the perfect mom, perfect employee or.. Anything, really. Realizing my limitations isn't the same as being weak. Rather the opposite.
omglisaa omglisaa 9 years
I think I may a slight perfectionist. I like things in a certain way, when I visit other people I find it strange to see them doing things differently.
Masqueraded_Angel Masqueraded_Angel 9 years
I'm a perfectionist as well. I'll get angry with someone ELSE if they don't do something the way I do it. It's uncontrollable at this point. I think everyone has a bit of "perfectionist" in them, but just that some have more than others. I'll get annoyed if my husband doesn't give my son dinner by 6pm when he has him, or if he doesn't give him a bath that night. I'll get snappy if I see unfolded clothes laying around, or even dishes in the sink. If my morning schedule is interuppted by some type of emergency or other need, all Hell breaks loose.
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 9 years
I think I am a perfectionist. I like everything neat and tidy and in order and everythign has to be done on it's due date or earlier.
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