How Perfectionism Can Affect Your Mental Health

“If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.”

- Leo Tolstoy

It is natural for us to want to be the best at what we do. However, when that desire becomes an unyielding push for perfection, your health might be at risk. Toxic perfectionism is on the rise among the Millennial generation, but perfectionism has no age limit. You are never too old to suffer from the effects that the pursuit of perfection can wreak on your mental health.

How much perfectionism is too much?

Toxic perfectionism, or maladaptive perfectionism, means having a compulsion to always succeed beyond your capabilities. While such drive might seem beneficial, it can be dangerous when a goal is not reached. Those with toxic perfectionism soar in the hopes of achieving a landmark. When that landmark is missed they might fall into an unnecessarily deep state of despair and painful self- criticism.

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Can toxic perfectionism lead to other conditions?

Maladaptive or toxic perfectionism can lead to an extensive array of clinical diagnoses. These might include:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Eating disorders, such as bulimia or anorexia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Insomnia
  • Heart disease and digestive disorders
  • Self-harm or suicidal thoughts

Researchers have noted that the stronger the symptoms of maladaptive perfectionism, the higher the risk of succumbing to these diseases and disorders. It is important you take steps to preserve your mental health if you are suffering from this form of perfectionism.

How to avoid the negative impact of toxic perfectionism

The good news is that there are ample resources to help those suffering from maladaptive or toxic perfectionism. Find help and safeguard their mental health. For example, you can:

  • Seek therapy – With an increasing number of insurance plans covering mental health care, including Medicare, you can seek professional help and get the advice of a psychotherapist or other medical professional to help you deal with the root of your issues.
  • Reframe the narrative – When you begin to work through your toxic perfectionism, you can start by changing the way you view things. Remove the limitations that perfection has placed upon you and embrace the things you were missing out on in your pursuit of it.
  • Connect with a life coach – You can also regain control of your outlook with the help of a life coach who can not only help you set goals but also aid in helping you rebuild your overall mindset. This ongoing support can be hugely beneficial as it can help you refocus your energy and develop the skills needed to avoid the intense self-criticism from which you suffered before.
Healthy perfectionism can drive us to reach new goals in life but, when that perfectionism goes awry, we can put our mental health in significant jeopardy. Taking the appropriate steps can set you on a path toward a healthy balance of ambition and drive. Live life without the toxicity that so often comes with perfectionism.

Research-based, personalized therapy.

At My LA Therapy, our warm and experienced therapists specialize in anxiety, depression, trauma, & relationships.

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Guest Writer Bio


Christian Worstell is a freelance writer who covers health and lifestyle topics for a range of blogs and media outlets. When he’s not behind the desk, he can usually be found on a golf course or spending time with his family.



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