ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Perfectionism - Healthy or Compulsive Disorder

Updated on August 8, 2019
Pamela99 profile image

I spent 22 years in the nursing profession. I enjoy writing, reading historical novels, gardening, and helping people live a healthier life.

The Perfection of Nature

Flicker. Thank you Tom
Flicker. Thank you Tom

Understanding Perfectionism

We live in an imperfect world, yet many people are obsessed with making their lives absolutely perfect and would be considered perfectionist. However, if we don't allow ourselves to be imperfect no matter what challenge we take on, the end result will almost always be a disappointment. One of the definitions of perfectionism is ‘a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable’.

Perfectionism is a self-defeating behavior, which can cause depression, poor self-esteem, relationship problems, and even suicide. It also interferes in marital and personal relationships.

Being a perfectionist causes your behavior to be very rigid and judgmental toward yourself and others. People are not born as perfectionists, as it is a learned behavior, and a perfectionist can become a success slave.

Perfectionism in Children Increasing

In our society perfectionism is increasing, and the experts think it's because there's a lot of pressure put on children to achieve due to parents seeking status from the performance of their children.

The problem is the pressure to achieve high standards is perceived by children as a criticism of their mistakes. It can also be a form of parental control, which is seen more frequently in this global economy.

According to Paul Hewitt, Ph.D., a scientist who has completed more than 20 years of research and his colleagues, see no healthy motivation for perfectionism. They believe that is not necessary to be perfect in any way. Depression, anxiety, eating disorders and other mental health problems are often correlated with perfectionism. There have been several new studies completed recently that prove this theory.



Treatment for OCD

There is help for the OCD patient using cognitive behavioral techniques. Learning to restructure thinking can assist an individual to learn to objectively evaluate actions and consequences. This cognitive therapy can also help an individual examine the beliefs they hold about themselves and those they care about.

Types of Perfectionsim Including OCD

There are at two types of perfectionism accepted by most scientists. Adaptive and maladaptive perfectionism each has high personal standards, and failing to meet the standards is more stressful for the adaptive perfectionists.

Adaptive healthy perfectionism is characterized by holding high standards for oneself, as well as, others. This includes being persistent in the face of adversity and being conscientious. Usually, this perfectionism is goal-directed behavior with good organizational skills. Some examples might include an exceptional athlete or a famous neurosurgeon.

On the other hand, maladaptive perfectionism is:

  • Being preoccupied with past mistakes
  • Having fears concerning future mistakes
  • Having constant doubts as to whether you're doing something correctly
  • Having high expectations of others

These individuals have an excessive preoccupation with control. Quite often this unhealthy need for perfectionism is strongly linked to OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is noticeable in an individual who has a very strong need to get things done exactly right. For these individuals, it's not uncommon to believe making mistakes will result in a serious feared outcome, such as the loss of a loved one.

The individual with OCD can often be very uncertain they have not done things correctly. They will compulsively check to make sure the doors are locked or the stove is turned off, over and over again. The result for this individual is they feel even worse, with less self-confidence then if they were doing nothing. Unhealthy OCD perfectionism perpetuates obsessions as well. These individuals may focus on bizarre dangerous thoughts continually.



Types of Perfectionism

Self-oriented perfectionists have a strong motivation to attain perfection and avoid failure, thus adhering to strict standards. Their self-evaluation is very stringent. They derive a sense of pleasure from their work, which enhances their self-esteem and motivation to succeed. The result is a sense of control over their environment. Oriented action individuals often set unrealistic goals for their family members and coworkers. In addition, they stringently evaluate the performance of these people.

Socially prescribed perfectionists other people hold unrealistic expectations for them and that they can't live up to those expectations. They are acutely aware of any external pressure, and they believe that others evaluate them in a critical manner.

These perfectionists are similar to a neurotic perfectionist, as they do not derive pleasure from their efforts and view their work as inferior. They report feeling great pressure from others to complete their tasks. They have a greater sense of fear of failure and want to avoid harassment.

However, the keyword here is obsession. It is important to remember that striving for excellence is a healthy approach to challenges. In moderation, it can lead to a fulfilling professional and personal life. It is when we expect constant perfection and leave no room for human error that we risk ourselves, as well as, other people emotionally.

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? Dr. Tolin explains


It is worthwhile to recognize the difference between grasping for perfection and healthy striving toward a goal. In order to turn loose of perfectionism tendencies, it is not an all or nothing undertaking.

The difference is setting realistic goals based on your own wants and needs that are achievable. They are your goals, not the goals of others. This way you will enjoy the process of achievement and not just the end result.

We would not have perfectionism if we did not have the expectations and feedback from others that plant those seeds. If you are a perfectionist it can be very helpful to trace your life back to childhood and journal those instances which set you on the course of perfectionism.

It is a time that you can forgive parents if that's the problem as for the most part they wanted the best for you and didn't realize that their actions were destructive. Live each day and fullness without worrying about tomorrow or reliving yesterday.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Submit a Comment
  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Millionaire Tips, I appreciate and agree with your comments completely.

  • Millionaire Tips profile image

    Shasta Matova 

    7 years ago from USA

    You've shed light on a very important topic Pamela. Striving for excellence is something that many people encourage, but they don't realize when they go overboard and expect perfection. When we internalize those messages, it can cause chaos in our lives. Voted up.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    suzettenaples, I am glad you found this hub helpful and thank you for sharing your experience and for your comments.

  • suzettenaples profile image

    Suzette Walker 

    7 years ago from Taos, NM

    As one who comes from perfectionism on both sides of the family - this is a wonderful hub and I hope perfectionists out there take heed and read this. It took many years as an adult to undo all the harm perfectionist parents heaped on me. I have survived and thrived, but I understand the harm perfectionism does to the human soul and psyche.

    This is a very relevant and wise hub and I enjoyed reading this.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    gchinotes, Maybe you are a perfectionist with your creative works but not everything in your life. Thanks so much for your comments.

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    As a perfectionist, I very much relate to your hub. I tend to be a perfectionist when it comes to my creative works. Thankfully, I usually find a means to where I am happy and don't feel like a failure. Maybe I am not an extreme case. Great information here. Voted up.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Nell, I hope your brother recognizes this is a pattern and it would be good for him to take it easier. Thanks so much for your comments.

  • Nell Rose profile image

    Nell Rose 

    7 years ago from England

    Hi, I agree that perfectionism can be so close to OCD, that sounds like my brother, I don't like even going into his house as he is so tidy and clean, not just normally but obsessively, it looks like he has just moved in, but he's been there three years. he has to pick up a tiny bit of fluff off of the floor if he spots it, last week I wanted to eat some chocolate round there, I had to eat it over the sink! he started off being overly tidy, now its ocd, spot on with your article, thanks nell

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    BPOP, It is nice your daughter mellowed, as many don't and I'm glad to hear she is successful. Thank you for the huge amount of praise!

  • breakfastpop profile image


    7 years ago

    Very interesting and useful piece of writing. My younger daughter was very perfectionistic as a child. If she didn't like something she did, she ripped it up and tried again. Thankfully, she mellowed and grew into a very successful person. Up, interesting useful, perfect and awesome!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    susan, Thank you so much for your comments. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and holiday season.

    katyzzz, I appreciate your comments very much.

  • katyzzz profile image


    7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

    Nice hub Pamela, as usual, I think it is important that these things are explained and you have done that very well.

  • susan54 profile image


    7 years ago

    Pamela, Vote up! My friend, you nailed it with this one so true. Happy holidays to you.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Fitnezz Jim, I think it is a tough life, so you ask a good question. Thanks for your comments.

  • FitnezzJim profile image


    7 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

    My favorite question for a perfectionist is 'how do you live with yourself?'

    I'm usually ready to run though when I ask it.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    RTalloni, Thank you so much for your comments and I hope to see some more when you've read the hub again.

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    Hmmm--good stuff for some honest self-examination. I look forward to reading this more thoroughly. I'll have to come back earlier in the day, but it looks like some honest people commenting. Great hubs initiate great comments--it will be interesting to follow them.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Will, Thanks for the confession and the comment.

  • WillStarr profile image


    7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

    Guilty! Good Hub.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    tarajeyaram, I agree that setting realistic goals is the only smart course of action. Thank you so much for your comments.

    kellymom, I appreciate your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    tarajeyaram, I agree that setting realistic goals is the only smart course of action. Thank you so much for your comments.

    kellymom, I appreciate your comments.

  • kellymom1970 profile image


    7 years ago

    pamela, Very good! As always with your hubs. I was just thinking about this the other day, so funny that you wrote this hub. Vote up!

  • tarajeyaram profile image


    7 years ago from Wonderland

    When we set ourselves to an ideal that can never be fully achieved; we are bound to be disappointed. We should set realistic goals that are attainable. We will be a lot more motivated this way. I sometimes try to nit pick too much and loose essence of the big picture. We definitely live in an imperfect world. Imperfection around us and in people show us vulnerabilities. And there is something beautiful about people opening up to their mistakes and their imperfections. Its part of life and our relationship. Thank you sharing such an insighful article. Great Hub.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Hendrika, I am sorry to hear you feel that way. We all make mistakes but you might feel better if you don't aim so high. I hope no one is telling you that you can't do anything well. Hopelessness is an awful way to feel and you might consider trying some counseling to help you feel better about yourself. I wish you the best.

    Audry, Thank you for sharing your experience. I agree with you completely. I have changed in the same way also and don't try to make things perfect anymore. I appreciate your comments. Merry Christmas to you and your family also.

    debbie roberts, I agree that it is so important to break the cycle if you are a perfectionist and I think you are right about children also. Thank you for your comments.

  • debbie roberts profile image

    Debbie Roberts 

    7 years ago from Greece

    It is scary the needless pressures we can put on ourselves and others. I agree that perfectionism can be instilled in us by our parents, but it is so important to try to break the cycle if you recognise it in yourself as it can be so destructive. Encouraging people/children to do the best they can and asking no more of them is going to produce happier, well adjusted people/children in the long run.

    A good, informative hub.

  • akirchner profile image

    Audrey Kirchner 

    7 years ago from Washington

    Ah yes, the fine line between OCD and perfectionism. I can identify and it has always been a struggle for me to not be perfect. I think there is a lot of validity in the fact that as a child I was always criticized for not being better - when in fact I was pretty great at everything I did.

    But....if there is hope for me, there is hope for anyone~~ I learned many decades ago that imperfection is OKAY and tried to instill that in my children as well. It only matters that you enjoy life and try your best...and that you don't hurt anyone in the process~

    Great info and interesting subject!!

    If I don't see you on the hubs, have a beautiful holiday season!

  • Hendrika profile image


    7 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

    There is another result perfectionism can have. It is the case in my life. Because I cannot live up to my own high standards I have given up completely. I do not even try to do anything well anymore and simply give up before I even try because I know I will not be able to do it to my own high standards. It is easier to not even try!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Always exploring, I'm glad you found this hub useful and I appreciate your comments.

    Stars, I am glad you like this hub and thank you so much for your comments. God bless you also and I hope you have a very Merry Christmas.

  • stars439 profile image


    7 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

    Thank you for sharing this very enlightening hub about perfectionism. It is very educational, and I never thought of perfection being such a liability if exceeded beyond limits. God Bless You Dear Heart, and Merry Christmas.

  • always exploring profile image

    Ruby Jean Richert 

    7 years ago from Southern Illinois

    Wow, I really liked this. I learned a lot. Your research is excellent and written in a way that's understandable. Thank you for sharing..

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    frugalfamily, I'm glad you like the hub and I appreciate your comments.

  • frugalfamily profile image

    Brenda Trott, M.Ed 

    7 years ago from Houston, TX

    This is a perfect hub for the topic:) Seriously you have good information here, thanks for sharing.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    carriethompson, I appreciate and agree with your comments. I think most people like the idea of being close to perfect at least in their decisions.

    Susan, That quite possibly is something planted when you were young that could have led to depression. I was criticized if the grades weren't good enough also and became somewhat of a perfectionist, worrying about the house being clean all the time, etc. Thank goodness I have changed and don't worry about much. Thanks for your comments.

    Cardisa, I agree. Thank you for your comments.

    drbj, Thank you for sharing your experience. I appreciate the comment on my new avatar. The other picture was 4 or 5 years old and not very clear.

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 

    7 years ago from south Florida

    Excellent treatment of perfectionism, Pamela. I found that working with my executive coaching clients, when they would admit to procrastination, it was often a result of a desire for perfection. This must be perfect, they would think, so I need to rework it again. Ergo, procrastination.

    BTW, your new avatar is BEAUTIFUL!

  • Cardisa profile image

    Carolee Samuda 

    7 years ago from Jamaica

    Most of us have some of these perfectionist tendencies, I do but I know other with the disorder. Nice hub Pamela.

  • Just Ask Susan profile image

    Susan Zutautas 

    7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Very interesting hub. I found the section relating to children of interest as when I was a child I was always criticized for bringing home a report card with A-'s and B's. My stepmother always said to me Why not A's. This is just one example. Makes me wonder if that is part of what lead to my depression.

  • carriethomson profile image


    7 years ago from United Kingdom

    nice hub pamella! imperfect itself says I M Perfect. so theres perfection in imperfection and obsessing about perfection is unnecessary. although importance of trying to achieve things near to perfection cannot be dismissed!


    the photograph of the pink flower up there is just perfect with all its imperfections!! beautiful.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)