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Study indicates link between perfectionism and suicide risks

Posted on 12-18-14 in Mental Health

Study indicates link between perfectionism and suicide risks

Perfectionism is a common fixation for those with certain conditions, such as obsessive compulsive disorder. However, just how risky or dangerous can this seemingly unattainable quality be when it goes unchecked? Studies now indicate that the link between suicide and perfectionism may be stronger than researchers previously perceived. This makes it all the more relevant to gain an understanding of those facing such symptoms and assist with treatment before matters become more severe.


Perfectionism may be defined as having an extreme sense of expectation about oneself. However, perfectionists may make a conscious effort to hide how their feelings about such matters. This may make it difficult for others to spot such symptoms. In addition, the person may feel that perfection is the expectation others have of them. He or she may hold others to similar ideals as well.

As a result of these expectations, such individuals may be wary of mistakes they make or second guess their actions frequently. Since perfectionists tend to keep their concerns to themselves, they may often not seek assistance or help from others. They may see having to seek out others for assistance as a sign of weakness. They often will fixate on what they believe to be their own flaws in private. If they are able to successfully attempt suicide, their loved ones may often be shocked as a result.

If a perfectionist has set forth a plan to commit suicide, this is clearly cause for alarm, as their personality may make them all the more determined to be successful. Their planning may be quite elaborate to increase the odds of success. The shame of a failed attempt may make them even more serious and resolute if they make another attempt in the future.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, perfectionists may be at greater risk for a number of other related disorders. This may include workaholism and social phobias with others in their life. A higher risk of heart disease has been reported, along with greater likelihood of self harm and substance abuse. When one believes that they are in fact the embodiment of perfectionism, they may also be suffering from a sense of narcissism as well.

Coping mechanisms and treatment

What is the best means of reaching such a person so that they no longer feel consumed with the urge of perfectionism or to harm themselves? In treatment, the person may be encouraged to show themselves more love instead of criticism and to adjust their attitudes that others are thinking lowly of them when they are not. He or she will also learn how to set goals that are more reasonable, as opposed to the lofty expectations they have for themselves.

Those with tendencies for perfectionism should be aware of when their thinking is causing them to view matters in a black or white sense, as opposed to allowing room for a grey area. They should remind themselves of the reality that failure is a part of the learning process. It may also help for the person to put themselves in a loved one’s shoes, so that they are reminded that their perception about others toward them may not always be accurate. One should remind themselves that it is okay to set goals, but goals that are realistic and not grounded in the extreme perfectionism of the past.

Another piece of advice for training the mind against these tendencies is to focus oneself on actions, as opposed to results. This allows the perfectionist to avoid the related anxiety in thinking of finished product and to focus on the present moment. It is similar to practicing the concept of mindfulness in one’s daily life to affect better outcomes. Those with such tendencies are also advised to rephrase their language from negatives to positives when confronting their perfectionism. Having social support on hand, in the form of friends, family, co-workers or others will help treatment be more effective. Having these people around can help keep the recovering perfectionist accountable toward their actions and make sure their previous tendencies stay in check.

Of course, in an emergency situation where suicide is being threatened or an attempt is in progress, a friend or family member should contact emergency services immediately. While in treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy may prove useful in helping a patient to view their lives differently. This therapy will help them to evaluate their standards more accurately in relation to others and to be more reasonable about their self-criticism. In addition, anti-anxiety medications may also be prescribed to an individual to help them better manage their symptoms.

Sovereign Health Group is equipped to help those who are suffering from mental health disorders recover and gain control over their lives once again. Sovereign is staffed with experienced clinical professionals who know how to approach treatment to mental health disorders that relate to perfectionism. Find out more about treatment programs and read patient reviews on their experiences on

Written by Ryan McMaster, Sovereign Health Group writer