Perfectionism and Anxiety Treatment

Some ideas for anxiety treatment if you are a perfectionist. Are you anxious? Do you worry excessively? You may be a perfectionist. Hypnotherapist Chloe Brotheridge speaks about some techniques and recommends some self help books to overcome anxiety caused by excessive perfectionism. For more on Hypnotherapy London see

I think it’s safe to say that perfectionism, although very useful at times, can have massive draw backs. I had a client who to the outside world is utterly enviable; she’s beautiful, slim, a high achiever both in academia and career. However, she can’t enjoy the things she has and what she’s achieved; it’s simply never good enough. There’s a sense of unease, of anxiety, a drive and ambition driven by a fear of not measuring up to her own impossible standards.

Perfectionism is one of the most common issues I see in my hypnotherapy practise. I often see it alongside issues with anxiety, excessive worrying and low self esteem. However is a strong rational motive to keep the perfectionism going since many feel that without it they will do less well; the thing they fear the most.

The feeling of ‘never good enough’ — is the driver to succeed. Unattainable ideals mean that they are never going to arrive at their destination; a prevailing sense of dissatisfaction. I wonder how many people experience this, to some degree of another?

In David Burns’ book on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, ‘Feeling Good’, he asks a patient to draw a line on a graph of her personal ‘worth’ from birth to death. She drew a straight line across at around 85%. Then she was asked to plot per productivity or apparent ‘achievement’ levels on the same graph. This fluctuated with time; however, she saw that no matter what she had achieved, her self ‘worth’ did not change with either time or life events. This exercise can be very useful for separating self worth from achievements in life.

So, if you recognise some of these traits, the following exercises may help you to change the way you think and feel about things, in order to live a happier, but still productive, life.

Becoming your own best friend — How would you speak to someone you really care about, whom you want to encourage and motivate? Would you point out their flaws and compare them to other people? I don’t think so. Be mindful of how you speak to yourself, if necessary making a list of self critical thoughts, and then trying to re-phase them in a more constructive and rational way.

Beware of all or nothing thinking. Black and white, right or wrong, should or must statements all hint to a perfectionistic and potentially irrational way of thinking.

Examine the evidence — Take the time to question your beliefs, what evidence is there to support the belief? Remember your thoughts are not facts.

In his book, ‘When Perfection isn’t Good Enough” Dr. Martin M. Antony suggests trying some experiments to test out your beliefs; make small mistakes on purpose and see what happens — then learn to tolerate the discomfort. Often anxiety levels reduce about an issue once you’ve faced it.

What advice would you have for a friend who had this issue? You’ll often find you are more kind and accepting of others mistakes than your own.

What if things don’t turn out perfectly — For example, making a cake for friends — have you been to someone else’s house where the cake wasn’t perfect? Did it really matter?

If you’re prone to procrastination — break tasks into smaller chunks to make them more manageable. The book ‘Getting Things Done’ by David Allen describes an excellent system for doing this.

In summary, remember, perfection doesn’t actually exist. Remember to enjoy the journey rather than just focusing on an unreachable destination. Try to develop the sense that it is ok to simply get a little better everyday.

1) ^ Hamachek, D. E. (1978). “Psychodynamics of normal and neurotic perfectionism”. Psychology 15: 27–33
Hypnotherapy London

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