Mental Health

Perfectionism Leads to Anxiety, Depression, and OCD in Youth: Study

Striving for excellence is not inherently harmful. It's about setting high standards and working towards them without self-criticism.

August 2, 2023
Nitesh Padghan

We often praise perfectionism as a quality that propels us to greatness. Yet, recent research paints a more complex and troubling picture, particularly for our youth. The drive for flawlessness might actually be linked to anxiety, depression, and OCD among individuals aged 6-24. 

Here's a closer look into this study that may cause us to rethink our views on perfectionism.

Understanding Perfectionism

What is perfectionism, really? It's not simply about wanting things to be perfect. It's a multifaceted personality trait characterized by:

  • High Standards: A relentless pursuit of excellence and accuracy.
  • Self-Criticism: A harsh and often unforgiving view of one's own performance.
  • Striving for Flawlessness: An ongoing need to achieve an unattainable ideal.

While this drive can fuel success, it's not without consequences. Perfectionism can lead to negative outcomes, especially among young people who are in a vulnerable phase of self-development.

The Two Sides of Perfectionism

Perfectionism isn't merely a monolithic trait; it's a multifaceted concept with layers that can either facilitate growth or foster discontent. Here's a closer examination of the two sides of perfectionism that the study sheds light on. You'll find that there's more to perfectionism than meets the eye.

1. The Drive to Excel

On one side of the coin, you have what's known as "perfectionistic strivings." This refers to the inherent desire to achieve high standards and excel in various pursuits. At its core, it's about setting ambitious goals and working diligently to attain them.

This form of perfectionism is not necessarily harmful. In fact, it can be a catalyst for growth, innovation, and success. It’s the fuel for athletes aiming for a gold medal or artists reaching for unparalleled creativity. 

When channeled positively, it becomes a driving force that propels individuals towards excellence without the self-flagellation often associated with perfectionism.

2. The Trap of Never Being Enough

The other side, however, is where the pitfalls lie. "Perfectionistic concerns" refer to an obsessive worry about achieving perfection, coupled with a constant fear of failure or judgment. This side of perfectionism can become a relentless chase, where the pursuit of flawless execution leads to an overwhelming sense of inadequacy.

Here, the standards are not just high; they are often unrealistic and unattainable. The fear of making a mistake or falling short can become paralyzing. 

It leads to stress, anxiety, and in some cases, even depression, OCD, and other mental health challenges. The desire for perfection becomes a burden rather than a motivator, leading to a cycle of self-criticism and dissatisfaction that can be difficult to break.

Not Just a Local Issue

The reality of perfectionism's impact stretches far beyond borders, cultures, and personal experiences. This isn't just a matter that concerns a select group; it's a global issue that resonates across various spheres of life. Here's an exploration of how and why perfectionism becomes a worldwide concern.

Consistency Across Cultures

The study found that the connections between perfectionism and mental health disorders such as anxiety, OCD, and depression were consistent across different countries. This provides compelling evidence that perfectionistic tendencies are not limited to specific cultural norms or societal pressures but are a human phenomenon.

It's not just about a high-achieving society or a competitive school system in one country. It's a shared struggle that transcends geographical locations. The pursuit of flawlessness has become a universal trait that may be rooted in shared human fears and desires. 

It calls for a broader understanding and acceptance that perfectionism and its consequences are common threads weaving through diverse human experiences.

Gender and Age: No Boundaries Here

What makes the study even more significant is its consistent findings across gender and age. The negative aspects of perfectionism don't seem to discriminate. Whether a young boy in his formative years or a teenage girl navigating the complexities of adolescence, the harmful side of striving for perfection manifests similarly.

The fact that perfectionistic concerns were found equally impacting both males and females suggests that societal pressures and personal aspirations are universally shared. 

Likewise, the consistency across different age groups within the 6-24 years range highlights that the struggle with perfectionism may begin quite early and extend through critical development stages.

The Dark Side of a Virtue

Perfectionism Leads to Anxiety, Depression, and OCD in Youth: Study

The research reveals that perfectionism can turn into a significant risk factor for developing psychopathology in young people. Particularly those who were already experiencing symptoms of anxiety, OCD, or depression showed even stronger connections with perfectionistic tendencies.

Moreover, the study found the association between perfectionism and psychopathology was even more pronounced in clinical samples than in non-clinical ones. It indicates that perfectionism is not just a quirk but a potentially severe issue that may require professional intervention.

Limitations and Path Forward

The study, while groundbreaking, had its limitations:

  • Methodology: Most of the included studies were cross-sectional, limiting causal conclusions.
  • Lack of Data: Variables like ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and cultural factors were unexamined.
  • Quality Variance: The quality of the studies varied widely, indicating potential methodological biases.

Despite these limitations, the research opens up vital pathways for future exploration. There's a need for interventions focusing on reducing the harmful aspects of perfectionism. It's about finding a balance that fosters ambition without crippling fear.

A Time for Reflection

The perfect balance, the flawless execution, the unblemished record – these are ideals we often strive for, especially in our success-driven culture. But at what cost?

Perfectionism is a double-edged sword. What fuels some could destroy others. This study beckons us to reflect on how we approach perfectionism in our own lives and those of the young individuals around us.

It's a call for a cultural shift that not only celebrates achievement but also encourages growth, resilience, and self-compassion. We must build an environment that recognizes human value, embraces flaws, and nurtures the inherent potential in our youth – perfect or not.

Emotional Wellness

Meditation: The First Step to Calmer, Clearer Minds

November 11, 2022
The Wellness Tribe Team

We live in a world full of distractions and stimulations. But imagine if there was a way to slow things down for the mind to unwind and for our body to let go of that stress.

What was the last time you devoted some time to being still, putting down your phone, and getting rid of all the distractions around you?

When was the last time you didn't do anything? 

Today, let’s discover how meditation can benefit us in our life. Whether you are new or have done some meditation before, you will find this guide very helpful. 

Meditation: What Exactly Is It?

So you may be asking, Well, what is meditation? Honestly, it's actually a really simple thing. In essence, meditation is a skill that trains our minds so we can maintain a calmer, clearer mind and feel more at ease mind body soul.

Thus, we're taking a few minutes out of our everyday routine and training our minds to be less distracted and more present. No need to become a monk or nun to meditate. 

Many people assume that meditation is meant to control the mind, change the mind, and get rid of thoughts and distractions. There is more to meditation than that. If you've been introduced to meditation through a workplace wellness program or other employee wellbeing program, you can make it easy at home without any help. 

Here’s an Example to Make It Easier

Begin Your Journey Towards a Calmer, Clearer Mind With Meditation
Photo by Karolina Grabowska

Look at meditation in this way. Imagine that you're sitting on the side of the road. Now, you have just to sit there and watch the cars. The cars are your thoughts. Sounds easy, right? We tend to feel unsettled when the traffic moves.

So to stop the cars, we run out into the road. Perhaps we even forget the point of sitting there in the first place, chasing after some. Obviously, running around all the time only increases our restlessness in mind.

So by training the mind, we can transform our relationship with those passing thoughts and feelings. Having a different perspective on things allows us to find the peace we need for prosperous mental health.

Is it possible to get distracted from the idea of the exercise sometimes? Indeed, as soon as we remember, we're back on the roadside, watching the traffic go by, entirely at ease, body and mind. A fundamental method of cultivating a sense of peace is focused attention.

"Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts in Eternal awareness or Pure consciousness without objectification, knowing without thinking, merging finitude in infinity." - Voltaire

The Art of Meditation

It's important to have something to focus our attention on when we're training our mind body soul. It could be a visualisation, a question, a word, a phrase, or maybe even something external. The most common thing to focus on is the breath.

Our focus of attention gives us an anchor. We can turn to it when we suddenly realise our minds have wandered. That, of course, will happen sometimes.

It's not that we're trying to block out thoughts or isolate ourselves from the world we live in when we focus on an object like our breath. But, rather than getting sucked into that type of thinking or distraction, we're learning to step out of it, let it go, and return to our calm, focused attention.

The Science Behind Meditation

‍The Science Behind Meditation
Photo by cottonbro studio

The concept of focused attention is not new. Thousands of years ago, Buddhists practised meditation to achieve inner piece and happiness. People who have practised meditation for years have felt the benefits but don't necessarily know how it works physiologically.

The last 20 years have seen scientists rigorously measure blood pressure, heart rate, stress levels, and even brain structure to see what's happening.

There is something called "neuroplasticity." It explains that the brain is flexible and malleable, that it could change, and that scientists were actually witnessing this by putting monks through an fMRI scanner and noticing what was happening to the brain before, during, and after meditation.

It is now known that when we meditate, we are training a muscle, just like when we go to the gym and work out. We build it up. The same goes for that part of the brain linked to happiness and well-being.

It's getting thicker. It's getting stronger, so we actually spend more time in that place. Meditation's been proven to reduce stress, frustration, depression, and pain and also to increase happiness, heightening levels of patience, acceptance, and compassion. So even if you feel like nothing is happening when you meditate and practice mindfulness, you can be assured that it can improve your personal as well as wellbeing at workplace.

So if you wish to embark on a journey through mindfulness, let’s get started. with our Mindfulness Matters: How to Stay Steady during Storms guide.

Emotional Wellness

The Mindful Journey: Exploring the Art of Meditation

November 4, 2022
The Wellness Tribe Team

You are here means you are ready to embark on this journey. The best way of experiencing meditation is actually to do it, not just talk about it. Meditation isn't always easy; some days, it's going to feel easy, while others might feel hard. But, no matter how uncomfortable it feels, you just need to stay with it every time. 

Your emotional wellbeing and overall health can benefit from meditation. It can bring you calm, peace, and balance. As a relaxation tool, you can refocus your attention on something calming when you're stressed. Mediation can also help you stay centred and find inner peace. Meditation might help you find the perfect work life balance if you work continuously. 

The most important thing is that you set yourself up in a place where you will be comfortable. You can either lie down or sit up. You definitely don't have to be sitting cross-legged on the floor. 

Let's Begin

The Mindful Journey: Exploring the Art of Meditation
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk

We're going to open our eyes and keep their gaze soft, just aware of the space around us. Now that you have your eyes softly focused, take a few deep breaths through your nose and out through your mouth. As you breathe in, notice how the lungs fill with air, and the body expands.

As you exhale, notice that your body softens. Inhale through your nose one more time. And this time, as you breathe out through the mouth, if you'd like to, just gently close the eyes. Let's just enjoy and appreciate the feeling that we've stopped and have nothing to do, nowhere to go.

Take a Moment to Feel Changes in Your Body

Notice the feeling of weight—the weight of the body pressing down against the seat or the floor beneath you. And take a moment as well just to notice your surroundings without looking around, just noticing the different sounds, not trying to shut them out. 

And use this opportunity as well just to notice how the body feels. We rarely pay attention to how our bodies feel. So is there a feeling of heaviness or lightness in the body? Is there a feeling of restlessness?

And as you bring your attention to the body, just starting to become more aware of that feeling, that movement of breath in the body. So, therefore, there is no need to breathe in any particular way.

Just allow the body to do its own thing. Some people feel the movement of breath in their chest, their shoulders. For some, it's in the diaphragm, and for some, it's in the stomach. Put your hand gently on your belly to feel that rising and falling sensation. Because you can't feel anything, you can't feel any movement.

"Meditation is not a way of making your mind peaceful. It is a way of seeing the peace that is already there." - Vimala Thakar

Put an End to Your Wanderings

The Mindful Journey: Exploring the Art of Meditation
Photo by Jens Johnsson

Again, thoughts are going to pop into your mind. The mind's going to wander. Just notice when the mind's wandered off, and just gently come back to the breath. To begin with, we're just noticing the breath in a very general way and perhaps starting to notice whether the breaths are long or short, deep or shallow. And we might find ourselves thinking either about the exercise or other things, just realising when that's happened, let those thoughts go, and come back to the breath again.

The body knows how to breathe—not getting involved in any thinking, just allowing the thoughts to come and go. If you notice your mind has wandered and you want to bring it back to the breath, gently bring it back.

So we'll stay with that feeling, a rising and falling sensation, for a few moments longer. And then, just for a moment now, let go of any focus, even of the breath now, and for a few seconds, let your mind wander.

Put Your Mind at Ease

The Mindful Journey: Exploring the Art of Meditation
Photo by Cup of  Couple

So your mind’s been wanting to think, you can let it think now. Just allow it to do whatever it wants to do. And now, just gently bring the attention back to the body. Just coming back now to that feeling of weight, that feeling of contact against the seat or the floor beneath you.

Perhaps noticing the sounds around you again. And whenever you feel ready, you can just gently open your eyes again. But before you move, just take a moment to notice how you feel in your mind body soul. The more often we do this after meditation, the more we're reminded of how much we need to pause in our life to take this time out for ourselves.

One Final Piece of Advice

If you can resist any temptation to analyse what's happened, the benefits, or anything else, just know that taking the time it's making a difference. But remember, before you get up, just remind yourself to take this satisfaction and sense of well-being with you into your life.

It is important to take time out, be still, and be silent to live a happy healthy life. And there are real benefits to that, but what really makes meditation valuable is how it influences our everyday life, relationships, and experiences.

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This month we are focusing on food and how it affects your mental health. Join us as we bring in the most relevant interesting content from across the wellness segment.

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