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What You Need to Know About the Link Between Perfectionism and Depression.

Perfectionism and depression are on the rise.  

Around the world, 1 in 20 are depressed.  

And roughly 2 in 5 children and adolescents are struggling with perfectionism. 

Rates for both have increased significantly since 1980. 

Knowing this, you may wonder: is there any evidence that perfectionism and depression are linked? 

In this blog, we’ll cover the new science linking the two. 

We’ll also show you 3 ways to cope with these challenges at home or with a therapist.

What Mental Illness is Associated with Perfectionism?  

Studies show that perfectionism, anxiety, and depression can be linked. 

For starters, this can be confusing: isn’t perfectionism a good thing? 

In American culture (especially corporate culture) it can be seen as such. 

But the reality is that the need to be or appear perfect brings a lot of mental strain. 

That’s because perfectionism brings along self-criticism, excessive concern over mistakes, and more. We’ve already talked about the link between anxiety and perfectionism. For now, let’s explore the link between perfectionism and depression.

Is Perfectionism a Symptom of Depression?

It can be helpful to think of perfectionism as a potential factor in depression rather than a symptom. 

You can experience both together and separately, so they are not the same thing.  

If you’re predisposed to depression, perfectionism can make it more likely to develop. 

One common factor between perfectionism and depression is low self-esteem.  

Those who have low self-esteem are more likely to experience depression and perfectionism, either separately or together. 

By improving your self-esteem with the help of a skilled therapist, both conditions can improve.

Are Perfectionists More Prone to Depression?  

Self-oriented perfectionism has been correlated with depression or low-mood. 

If you have excessive personal standards and harsh self-criticism (as perfectionists often do) you could be more likely to get depressed. 

This makes intuitive sense: it’s harder to carry our burdens while beating ourselves up in the process. 

If you’re seeking therapy for depression, your therapist will likely want to support you in learning to overcome your inner critic.

Does Perfectionism Lead to Depression? 

Perfectionism can leave you at risk for depression. 

If you feel that anything less than a stellar performance is bad, it will be hard to satisfy yourself. 

Over time, your hard-to-meet standards could have a negative effect on your morale and efficacy. 

If you’re frequently disappointed in yourself, this can lead to depression.

why is perfectionism bad for mental health

Is Perfectionism a Psychological Disorder?  

Perfectionism isn’t a psychological disorder. It’s a personality trait that has been studied for over 3 decades, with surprising findings. 

In the early 1990s, researchers developed multiple perfectionism tests that are still in use today. 

They’ve discovered a few different types: 

  • Self-Oriented Perfectionism: Directed at yourself, this type is linked with parental criticism.  Absorbed criticism from other important people is common. Those who have it can judge themselves like the critical figure.  
  • Other-Focused Perfectionism: This is where you might try to get somebody else to be perfect. Placing unrealistic demands on others is a way to avoid seeing our own pain. Micro-managing employees is one example. 
  • Socially Prescribed Perfectionism: This comes from real or imagined beliefs about what others expect from you. You may think you need to reach these expectations to get approval from others. These beliefs often have little to do with reality. 

Additionally, researchers break it down into healthy or maladaptive types. 

In healthy perfectionism, the primary focus is “How can I improve?” In maladaptive perfectionism, the primary focus is “What will others think of me?”

perfectionism shame and depressive symptoms

What is the Root Cause of Perfectionism?  

Those with maladaptive perfectionism have an intense fear of failure and an inner sense of unworthiness. 

This is commonly due to experiences with harsh and demanding parents or primary caregivers. 

If you had parents or caregivers like this, you may have internalized their messages.  

Said another way, you may have learned to be harsh on yourself just like your parents were harsh on you. 

But this isn’t cause to blame everything on the adults who raised you: they likely learned it from their parents and passed it on to you despite good intentions. 

While you can’t change the past, you can release your emotions about it and free yourself from it. A competent therapist that is the right fit for you will be able to help you do this. 

So, have compassion for yourself and your experiences. It’s okay to be kind to yourself. 

And remember that you’re not alone: millions of people have gone through harsh parental criticism.

Use this insight as a source of strength as you start to undo your own perfectionism and depression.

self-criticism and perfectionism depression

What is the Link Between Perfectionism and Depression?  

The link between perfectionism and depression has been studied for decades. 

What we know right now is that aspects of perfectionism can be related to depression, though it isn’t always. 

As mentioned above, one common factor is low self-esteem. Another is trouble accepting and moving on from the past. 

Moving on, another study confirmed a relationship between perfectionism and self-critical depression. 

There is also potential for each to be fully independent of the other, depending on the individual. 

So, what can you do if you’re dealing with both?

Perfectionism and major depressive disorder

Dealing with Severe Depression and Perfectionism 

You should know that beating severe depression and perfectionism is possible. The right help and self-care can move mountains. 

Diagnosable depression is a condition that can have an array of symptoms that impact your daily life. I recommend working with a licensed professional near you.

For example, Houstonians can Google “therapist near me Houston” to find a good fit. Destination Therapy in Houston can be one such fit: our licensed therapists are committed to providing you with excellent care for your mental health. 

If you need help in Houston, we’ll match you with the right therapist for you who can help you take steps towards your goals.

At home, here are some helpful tips for navigating these challenges: 

Practice Mindfulness 

In mindfulness, you learn to listen to the voice in your head without doing everything it tells you. Learning to pause before acting can help you make better decisions. 

With practice, you can learn to see this voice objectively and stop believing the negative things it might tell you. 

Through mindfulness, you’ll have an exercise you can do anywhere at any time to combat perfectionism and depression. 

Plus, it may make your therapy sessions more effective. 

Move Your Body 

Depression is marked by a lack of energy to do… well, anything. 

But to overcome this inertia and to feel good in our bodies, it helps to move. 

Push yourself to use energy in the gym. If the gym feels like too much, you can start with a short walk in your neighborhood or stretching before bed. You may be someone whose depression and perfectionism benefits from exercise. 

Exercise can calm your mind by exhausting excess energy that could feed perfectionism and severe depression. 

Plus, those who work out consistently report higher levels of energy on average. 

Try CBT for Depression and Perfectionism 

To get a better handle on your inner critic, try cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).  

In CBT, your therapist will help you notice and stop negative thoughts and behaviors that limit your happiness. 

Your therapist will help you get insight into your self-criticism and work with kindness to release it. 

The result? Less negative self-talk, more peace and more joy.

Main Takeaways 

Now you should know more about the link between depression and perfectionism.  

You learned that the two are correlated though not causative. 

They feed into each other: if you have one, you may be more likely to have the other. 

You also learned a few ways to handle them on your own at home.  

Often, therapy is needed to get you on your path to healing and wholeness. 

That’s why our Houston therapists are here for you. 

At Destination Therapy, our highly skilled therapists can help you get a handle on these life-depleting conditions. That’s because our therapists use a range of approaches and choose the best ones based on you and your personal history and symptoms. Our goal is to provide the most effective therapy, so you can make progress on your mental health concerns. If you’re ready to move beyond harsh inner criticism, not living up to your high standards, feeling weighed down and depressed, schedule a free consultation with us today.

Contact us today for a free consultation. 

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