Maladaptive Perfectionism Treatment

Written by: Dr Joseph Kekulawala
(Psychiatrist)
Last updated date : March 29, 2022
Table of Contents

Maladaptive Perfectionism Treatment
  1. Psychological Therapies for Perfectionism Treatment

Before we discuss perfectionism treatment, let’s set the records; perfectionism isn’t either good or bad; it just depends. If we are thinking about creating or getting help for your perfectionism, it’s important to know how your perfectionism affects you.

Perfectionism can be either healthy or unhealthy. Healthy perfectionism is when someone strives to be the best because they want to excel and get great results. This wish is driven primarily by wanting to perform well. Unhealthy or maladaptive perfectionism can look the same. However, their wish to perform well is caused by underlying low self-esteem, a fear of failure, critical self-thinking or a wish to impress others.

Healthy perfectionism does not need treatment. Even unhealthy or maladaptive perfectionism may not need treatment per se. Perhaps, awareness of what is happening and some simple self-care tips can go a long way when helping someone with maladaptive perfectionism.

Chapter 1:
Psychological Therapies for Perfectionism Treatment

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

CBT is a widely used psychological therapy. It can be used to treat anxiety, phobias, OCD and eating disorders, to name a few mental health conditions. CBT can also help with perfectionism. As part of unhealthy perfectionism treatment, CBT can help someone identify and challenge negative beliefs about themselves and overcome helpful thinking styles. For example, as part of perfectionism treatment, CBT techniques can be used to challenge unhelpful call beliefs such as “I am not good enough“, with more balanced beliefs such as “I am good at some things, and not as good at others, just like everyone else“.

Dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT): radical acceptance

Radical acceptance is a DBT skill when you stop fighting reality, stop responding with unhealthy behaviours and instead accept the facts of reality no matter how bitter they are. Radical acceptance is a distress tolerance skill. As part of perfectionism treatment, some therapists use radical acceptance to manage distressing thoughts about wanting to achieve, fears about failure and worries about how others see us.

Overcoming procrastination

It may come as a surprise. However, procrastination is a part of a sign of perfectionism. Perfectionist did their finishing tasks or kept repeating them due to worries about it not being good enough. Sometimes the fear or worry leads to them putting things off or procrastinating. Here, excellent time management skills, deadlines, and breaking down tasks into smaller pieces can help as a part of unhealthy perfectionism treatment involves which overcoming delay or procrastination.

Learning to relax

Perfectionists are usually quite tense, have a lot on their minds and tasks they want to complete. An antidote or treatment for unhealthy perfectionism can be forced relaxation. They are taking the time to do something every day which is mindless, calming and relaxing. When we spend our entire day in fight or flight mode, it can have a whole host of negative consequences. Learning to relax can be a skill for people with extreme unhealthy perfectionism. It could start with something quite simple such as taking 5 to 10 minutes after meals to watch a bit of TV, speak to friends or family.

Journaling as perfectionism treatment

Perfectionism can creep into different aspects of our lives. One Maladaptive perfectionism treatment is to journal. Since it is hard to know what parts of our lives perfectionism influences, reflecting in the journal can help. For instance, someone who is quite busy with their work as a manager, maintaining a big house, taking the children to after-school activities might not be aware of just how perfectionism impacts them. Journaling allows you to stop and reflect. When you journal at night, it helps you reflect and better understand how you spend your day. After a while, you may start to see patterns in your day where perfectionism is creeping in.

Dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT): opposite actions

Here is radical perfectionism treatment. Why don’t you do the complete opposite of what your perfectionism tells you to do? For instance, if your perfectionism has you arranging and ordering your kitchen cupboards and wardrobes, why not be messy for once? If that is okay, keep it messy for a week. See what happens when you do the opposite of what you’re perfectionism has you usually doing. It might come as a surprise. You might not be as distressed or worried as you figured you would at the start.

Mindfulness as perfectionism treatment

Another perfectionism treatment to consider is mindfulness. In fact, being mindful will help with unhealthy perfectionism and other aspects of your life. At the start of this article, we mentioned how maladaptive perfectionism is sometimes caused by poor self-esteem or negative thoughts about oneself. We all have an inner or internal voice. Our minds generate countless thoughts each day, some of which are quite critical about ourselves. If you can become more mindful and aware of what your internal voice is telling you, you will slowly be able to stop them. By stopping that critical inner voice, your maladaptive perfectionism behaviours will likely decrease.

As you probably notice, there are many different ways to go about addressing unhealthy perfectionism. Some of the points we have mentioned above, you can put into practice on your own. For others, it may help to see a mental health professional, such as a psychologist. It is particularly important to see a health professional if your perfectionism is causing you a lot of grief and distress. If you are unsure what perfectionism treatment is best for you, perhaps speak to a friend that you trust and who knows you well.

Here at Epsychonline, we have a six-week perfectionism course that we have developed. There we cover radical acceptance, opposite actions and different CBT techniques. It is a lengthy course, over 70 lessons which we suggest you do over the course of a couple of weeks. You can find our perfectionism and other courses on our courses page. We hope you have found this article helpful, and it helps guide you to choosing the right perfectionism treatment for you.