Perfectionism is linked to anxiety, stress, depression, eating disorders and suicide. (iStock)

Perfectionism increasing, requires urgent action, say researchers


“Young people are drowning in a rising tide of perfectionism,” say Canadian researchers Simon Sherry of Dalhousie University and Martin Smith of York St John University. They and colleagues have conducted one of the largest studies on the condition and have found perfectionism has increased substantially over the past 25 years and that it affects men and women equally. They also found perfectionists become more neurotic and less conscientious over time.

‘Perfectionism can be dangerous’

“Perfectionism is striving for extreme standards from an all or none perspective,” says Gordon Flett, a professor of psychology and a director of research at York University in Toronto. “The person who is a perfectionist wants to be absolutely perfect. Falling even short by a little is extremely frustrating for them…They’re always working in a way that can be quite exhausting.”

Perfectionism can also be dangerous, say researchers. It is linked to anxiety, stress, depression, eating disorders and suicide.

Young people may be bombarded with ‘unobtainable standards of perfection’ online, say researchers. (iStock)

Perfectionism called ‘a major, deadly epidemic’

Among the causes, researchers list “today’s dog-eat-dog world, where rank and performance count excessively and winning and self-interest are emphasized.” Social media show images of lives that are unrealistically perfect “depicting unobtainable standards of perfection.”

Researchers also mention “controlling and critical parents also hove too close in raising their children, which fosters perfectionism’s development.”

As perfectionists get older they may become more prone to guilt, envy and anxiety and they may dwell on their imperfections and become less likely to pursue their goals. They may burn out.

The researchers call perfectionism “a major, deadly epidemic in modern western societies that is seriously under-recognized.”

Prof. Gordon Flett describes perfectionism, its causes, prevention and treatment strategies.

Awareness, resilience can help

The first step in tackling the problem, sats Flett, is to raise awareness about it and then to work on preventative efforts with parents, teachers and communities. Perfectionists don’t cope well when things go wrong and, as happens often in life, things are not perfect. Flett says, they can be helped. “We can certainly teach ways to be resilient. We can talk about modelling calmer reactions when there are failures and setbacks. We also promote…the idea that failure and mistakes are learning opportunities. They’re not flaws and defects.”

Flett says there is a great benefit too in telling the stories of famous people who have struggled and not been immediately successful to show that there are challenges and ways to overcome them.

“We want to replace the self-critical reactions that perfectionists tend to have by teaching them how to be more self-accepting and to develop a sense of self-compassion, self forgiveness and then extending that compassion and forgiveness to other people if they are expecting them to be perfect as well.”

Categories: Health
Tags: , , , ,

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.

Netiquette »

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1.’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3.’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish or in one of the two official languages, English or French. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available