The personality trait of perfectionism is linked to higher depression risk, a review of ten different studies finds.
People who are perfectionists are worried about making mistakes and they tend to be heavily critical of themselves.
They feel pressure from society to perform to a high standard and they think others are continually judging their performance.
When perfectionists fail to meet their lofty standards, they tend to get depressed.
The conclusions come from research collecting together the results of 10 separate studies including 1,758 people.
The results showed that neuroticism, or ‘negative emotionality’ is the personality trait most strongly linked to depression.
However, being a perfectionist is associated with an additional risk.
The authors explain their results:
“In our meta-analysis of 10 longitudinal studies composed of undergraduate, community member, psychiatric patient, outpatient and medical student samples, neuroticism was the strongest predictor of change in depressive symptoms.
Even so, all seven perfectionism dimensions still predicted change in depressive symptoms beyond neuroticism.”
One aspect of perfectionism is feeling societal pressure.
The authors write:
“…socially prescribed perfectionism, concern over mistakes, doubts about actions, self-criticism, and perfectionistic attitudes add incrementally to understanding change in depressive symptoms beyond neuroticism.”
Perfectionism is problematic because high standards are so hard to reach consistently.
The authors write:
“…people high in perfectionistic concerns appear to think, feel and behave in ways that have depressogenic consequences [causing depression].
Such people believe others hold lofty expectations for them, and often feel incapable of living up to the perfection they perceive others demand.
They may agonize about perceived failures and have doubts about performance abilities because they experience their social world as judgmental, pressure-filled and unyielding.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the European Journal of Personality (Smith et al., 2016).