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Perfectionism is a psychological trait characterized by the pursuit of flawless performance and an unrelenting desire to meet exceptionally high standards.

What is Perfectionism?

Perfectionism is a psychological trait characterized by the pursuit of flawless performance and an unrelenting desire to meet exceptionally high standards. Individuals with perfectionistic tendencies often set unrealistic goals for themselves, expecting nothing less than perfection in their endeavors. This pursuit of flawlessness can lead to a persistent fear of failure and a constant need for validation from others. Perfectionists may exhibit an all-or-nothing mindset, viewing any outcome that falls short of perfection as a personal failure.

The roots of perfectionism can be multifaceted, influenced by a combination of genetic, environmental, and personality factors. Some perfectionists develop this trait as a response to external pressures, such as societal expectations or demanding family environments. Others may internalize high standards as a means of gaining approval or avoiding criticism. The fear of making mistakes or being perceived as inadequate often drives perfectionistic behavior, creating a cycle of anxiety and self-imposed pressure.

Perfectionism can impact various aspects of an individual’s life, including work, relationships, and personal well-being. While the pursuit of excellence can drive success and achievement, perfectionism, when taken to extremes, can lead to stress, burnout, and impaired mental health.

Treatment for Perfectionism

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a highly effective approach for addressing perfectionism, helping individuals develop healthier perspectives and coping strategies to manage the pressure of high standards and the fear of making mistakes. At Light On Anxiety, our specialized therapists offer compassionate and evidence-based care tailored to the unique needs of individuals struggling with perfectionism.

In CBT sessions, clients learn to identify and challenge maladaptive thought patterns and beliefs related to perfectionism, such as all-or-nothing thinking and self-criticism. They also develop skills to set realistic goals, tolerate uncertainty, and practice self-compassion. By learning to embrace imperfection, cultivate flexibility, and prioritize self-care, individuals can reduce their perfectionistic tendencies and experience greater satisfaction and fulfillment in their lives.

Through personalized therapy sessions and supportive guidance, we empower clients to break free from the cycle of perfectionism and embrace a more balanced and compassionate approach to life.


Medication may be considered in the treatment of perfectionism and associated anxiety symptoms, particularly for individuals experiencing moderate to severe distress or impairment in functioning. At Light On Anxiety, our team of psychiatric providers collaborates closely with clients to assess their unique needs and develop personalized medication regimens.

Antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are commonly prescribed to target symptoms of anxiety and depression that often co-occur with perfectionism. Other medications, such as beta-blockers, may be used on a short-term basis to provide immediate relief from acute anxiety symptoms.

Our approach to medication management prioritizes safety, efficacy, and collaboration with clients to ensure they receive the most appropriate treatment for their symptoms while minimizing potential side effects.

Integrating CBT + Medication

A combined approach of therapy, including CBT, and medication management may provide the most comprehensive treatment for perfectionism and associated anxiety symptoms. At Light On Anxiety, we offer integrated treatment plans that address both the psychological and physiological aspects of perfectionism.

Our therapists and psychiatric providers work closely together with clients to tailor treatment plans to their individual needs and preferences.

  • CBT helps individuals develop coping skills, challenge negative thoughts, and improve self-acceptance.
  • Medication management targets symptoms of anxiety and depression, providing additional support and relief.

Through this combined approach, we empower clients to reduce their perfectionistic tendencies, manage their anxiety symptoms, and cultivate greater resilience and well-being in their lives.

Your Unique Path to Freedom From Perfectionism 

Our goal is to create a treatment plan that aligns with your needs and preferences, recognizing that each individual’s journey is unique.

What are the symptoms of Perfectionism?

Common symptoms of Perfectionism include:

  • Setting excessively high standards
  • Intense fear of making mistakes
  • Persistent need for approval
  • All-or-nothing thinking
  • Overly self-critical
  • Difficulty making decisions due to fear of errors
  • Anxiety about performance or outcomes
  • Relentless pursuit of flawlessness

FAQs about Perfectionism

Yes, perfectionism is often linked to anxiety. The relentless pursuit of flawlessness, intense fear of making mistakes, and persistent self-criticism associated with perfectionism can contribute to heightened levels of anxiety. The constant pressure to meet unrealistic standards can create a cycle of anxiety, as individuals may fear falling short of their own expectations or the perceived expectations of others.

Trauma can be a contributing factor to the development of perfectionism in some individuals. Experiencing traumatic events can lead to a variety of coping mechanisms, and for some, adopting perfectionistic tendencies may be a way to regain a sense of control or cope with the aftermath of trauma. The need for control, fear of making mistakes, and seeking external validation are aspects of perfectionism that may be influenced by traumatic experiences. However, it’s important to note that not everyone who experiences trauma develops perfectionism, and perfectionism can also stem from various other factors such as family dynamics, societal pressures, or individual personality traits.

Yes, perfectionism can function as a coping mechanism. Individuals may adopt perfectionistic tendencies as a way to cope with various challenges, stressors, or emotional difficulties. The pursuit of flawlessness can provide a temporary sense of control and order, offering a way to manage anxiety or uncertainty. For some, perfectionism becomes a strategy to cope with feelings of inadequacy or to seek external validation. While it may serve as a coping mechanism, it’s important to recognize that excessive perfectionism can have negative consequences on mental health, leading to increased stress, anxiety, and an unattainable quest for perfection.

Perfectionism itself is not classified as a mental disorder. However, it is considered a personality trait or a cognitive style that can be associated with mental health challenges. Excessive perfectionism can contribute to conditions like anxiety disorders, depression, and other mental health issues. It becomes a concern when it significantly interferes with daily functioning and well-being. If perfectionistic tendencies are causing distress or impairing one’s ability to lead a fulfilling life, seeking support from mental health professionals can be beneficial in managing and addressing these challenges.

More About Treatment for Anxiety

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Light On Anxiety CEO Dr Debra Kissen describes how CBT & ERP helps clients move past OCD and other anxiety disorders.

Learn more about how we can create a custom individual treatment plan to fit your goals.

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