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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

On Being A Perfectionist

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: May 23rd 2006

Are you a perfectionist?

Do you demand that everything you do is of the highest quality and above any criticism? If so, you are a very unhappy person! I can imagine you responding to this latter sentence with something like: "he's awfully presumptuous! How dare he make judgments of other people without knowing them?" Well, I do not wish to sound either presumptuous or judgmental. Instead, what I am sounding is a cautionary note based on certain types of people who enter therapy seeking relief from anxiety and depression.

Not everyone who experiences anxiety and depression is a perfectionist. However, all of those patients I have seen over the years who are perfectionists are anxious, depressed and obsessive in their thinking. Many of them suffer from some combination of procrastination, an inability to get things done, a tendency to be work-a-holics and either under-achievement or over-achievement.

How does perfectionism work to make so many people unhappy?

First, it is important to understand that human beings cannot be perfect. If you have a religious bent to your thinking and living, then realize that on the God can be perfect. Human beings are flawed creatures as are all other living creatures on this earth. That does not mean that we should not strive for excellence. However, there is a big difference between striving for excellence and striving for perfection. Excellence is attainable because, be definition, it allows for the fact that we will fall short of perfection. Excellence presumes that we are doing the best we can do on a project. In fact, excellence presumes that we are trying hard to do even better than we may have done in previous efforts.

Because excellence is attainable, there is motivation in that direction. A job well done feels really good. That good feeling does not necessarily come from the praise of others, but from an inner feeling of satisfaction.

By contrast, the perfectionist never feels pride or satisfaction in a job well done because they never believe their job was done "well enough." There can never be a good feeling about completing a project because the final project is viewed as imperfect, flawed, filled with errors.

To borrow an old saying, the perfectionist is like the "person who cannot see the forest for the trees." In other words, there this is an individual who becomes so focused on the tiny details that they forget that there is a purpose to what they are doing. That is why some perfectionists become procrastinators. Filled with so much anxiety about having to do every little detail to perfection they become discouraged about ever starting their project. There are many candidates for Ph.D. degrees who never graduate. They complete all their course work, successfully finish all of their comprehensive exams and even successfully choose a topic for their research study, and never move beyond that point. Many of these are very brilliant people who stumble over perfectionism: 1. they doubt that they understand the material they are researching, 2. they doubt they can teach the material they are studying. Often, PhD candidates are allowed to teach undergraduate classes as a way of funding their advanced studies, 3. They doubt that their research is acceptable, 4. They believe they are frauds who have fooled everyone into believing they are smart and, 4. The list goes on endlessly. Another way of putting it is to say that the perfectionist is "always spinning his wheels but getting nowhere."

Are you a perfectionist? Write in about your experiences with this and let’s have an interchange of ideas.

If you wish, try the book by David Burns, MD. entitled The Feeling Good Handbook. Here, Dr. Burns explains how to use cognitive-behavioral techniques to overcome these types of problems. Ultimately psychotherapy which focuses on cognitive-behavioral therapy is excellent for these types of problems.

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

The way I deal... Might not be the best - - Feb 8th 2015

I am a perfectionist. When I write something I always proofread it. After I have posted something I will proofread it again and then edit it if I find the least little mistake. 

When I clean and put things away, I want it done perfectly. If my drinking glasses have a pattern I want them to all face the same way. I like laundry folded directly out of the drier and put away neatly. When I was a child I would organize all my stuffed animals from biggest to smallest. I would alphabetize my books and feel slightly bothered at the various sizes. 

I have found my standards impossible to honor. How do I cope? If I can't get it done correctly I don't do it at all, or I let things get real bad before I finally get so frustrated that I do it. I'll keep things clean and in order until I simply can't deal with the stress anymore.

i have a husband who works extremely hard at work and does nothing but add to the mess at home. I have an infant and a toddler who simply can't be expected to do anything and a seven and an eight-year-old who have to be stood over and constantly commanded to do anything if I want their help. So I just throw my hands up and say fine. I have seven loads of clean laundry that need to be folded and put away. I have nine loads of dirty laundry that needs to be taken care of. Only one place in the house is what \\

I'm literally proof reading this comment of mine. - Ally - Jan 14th 2015

I have been called a perfectionist by many people, mostly family but they don't see it as a bad thing. On the other hand, I am starting to understand that it most definitely is not. I have always performed well at school. I was never the top of the class but i did study my arse off to achieve good results - results I was never really happy with anyway. I must say the past few years have been some of the most stressful of my life. I graduated with first class honours, and top of my class at university last year but I dont ever remember having a fantastic graduation day or feeling very proud of myself for what I'd achieved. My final year at uni was a turbulent one, and by the end of it I absolutely loathed my thesis topic. And I mean loathed. I have been encouraged to strive to get it published in an academic journal which I have been working on (and have since submitted). This was a very difficult experience for me - having to revist this past work and try to make something better of it. Something academically worthy, which from the very beginning, and to this day i do not believe and no one can convicne me otherwise. I have never sought help for anything like this in my life but it dawned on me today that I need to change things quick smart. This was because today was the day that my appplication for a PhD scholarship was due. This requires the applicant to submit a research proposal. A research proposal that I have been working on for around a year. My previous teacher had been helping me throughout the process with feedback on all of my drafts which I did find really helpful, and I was very appreciative of the time they had taken to help me. But it was a total repeat of my final year at uni. Nothing I ever wrote was ever going to be good enough. No matter how much I tweaked something, it was never quite there. I spent this entire weekend seeking to perfect my proposal that I knew was due in today. I had it all ready yesterday and a teacher said theyd provide some (very detailed) comments for me. So there I was today, from 7am until 4.45pm addressing thsee comments (I have a full time job by the way) so that I could get it in on time. It was due at 5. This scenario is also reminiscent of my final year, where the night before it was due I was at the library all night addressing other people's comments on my work. I left the library at 6am to submit the final product. It was a similar story for the paper I submitted, as the night before I was rushing to make sure I was  addressing every little imperfection that the Reviewers had picked up on. This night ended with hot tea being spilled all over my laptop   - not on purpose ( I was sitting outside on the deck. and something knocked it). I was already so on edge that night but when that happened and my laptop wouldn't start I went into a meltdown which I think scared my family. I scared myself too. I don't like what this is doing to me and deep down I know that doing a phd would not be a healthy thing for me to do but I'm scared of what other people will think. - particularly those at uni. That I've given up. That im lazy. I already feel like a bad person for even thinking of reconsidering my phd. It's weired because I wouldn't consider myself leaving things til the last minute because I start things very early, but still seem to be rushing at the end to perfect It. 

Starting to Realize - Phil - Jan 3rd 2015

Until very recently, as of like a few days ago I never saw myself as a perfectionist, and most of the people in my life don't either. But I have started to realize, in my opinion, that not only am I a perfectionist, but also a severe one.

I never start anything that I don't think I can do better than other people, which is to say I don't start anything. Even when I succeed I feel no sense of accomplishment, just my own shortcomings. I was top pick out of over 500 students for a scholarship program a few years ago, finished the course that led up to that faster than anyone nationwide before me. None of that mattered, I felt no pride from it at all, just saw where I could have done better.

I have attempted to write, the people who read the snippets I create say they are more polished, interesting, and well written than most professional authors and yet I can't make myself make progress because I am obsessed with improving parts I have already done. And I can't advance the story because if I have ANY KIND of logical inconsistency (which is a problem when you try to write about fantastical elements) I become obsessed with resolving it and ultimately give up because I can't. 

I never thought of myself as a perfectionist, a failure, hardcore procrastinator, and generally negative person, absolutely. But never a perfectionist. This article didn't change that, I just googled this because it was occuring to me and wanted to see if anyone else was a perfectionist in the same failure way. I always assumed perfectionism was one of the traits that gauranteed automatic success.

Diagnosed OCPD - - Jan 1st 2015

So perfectionist that I deleted the paragraph I wrote because the inner critic said it was stupid.

Has a desire to write a book, can't even begin one because once its started, it gets deleted. 

The only exception is painting and crocheting, it's the only projects I can accept even if they are not perfect cause to me the are perfect and thats all that matters.

Drinks a lot of alchohol because it helps me not give a f**k about anything.

Ruin everything - Linda, 57 - Nov 30th 2014

i have suffered with these issues as long as I can remember. As a young person in school, I percrastinated doing homework and projects for fear of looking inadiquate or incorrect To the point that it was better just not to do it than it be wrong. Consequently I was dreamed lazy. I lash out at my family with crazy inappropriate behavor feeling unworthy to even be apart of such a unit. But making matters worse I am the person in the center of this unit being an only child with an only child. I make my mother crazy, my husband crazy and time after time ruin whatever event is happening. Would consider ending this accept for the fact that again it would be my fault for ruining the lives of those around me. There is no winning and no way to stop this behavor. And when your families response to you is simply relax, it simply further infuriates me.

I have perfectionism - - Oct 6th 2014

Just some interesting stuff I came across and thought I would share it with you guys.

Obsessions Related to Perfectionism

  • Concern about evenness or exactness
  • Concern with a need to know or remember
  • Fear of losing or forgetting important information when throwing something out
  • Inability to decide whether to keep or to discard things
  • Fear of losing things

When the house is not clean I am depressed - Dianna - Sep 29th 2014

I have noticed that any time my house is not clean I get angry and depressed. I don't sleep well but find that the dirtier my house becomes the harder it is to pick myself up and just clean it. Which is hard because I have a husband who doesn't help and 2 toddlers who mess everything up anyways. I do think that I am the best at what I do and that anytime someone helps other than my mother it will not turn out right. Am I just OCD or do I really have a problem?

Wanting the Perfect House Remodel - Greg - Aug 22nd 2014

I wanted to have the perfect house remodel and it has been done for over a year now and all that I find are flaws.  Everyone tells me how good it looks and all that I can do is focus on the small minor cosmetic flaws.  This has ruined my ability to enjoy my house and has driven my wife and kids crazy.  I am trying therapy but worried that I will never be able to enjoy my house like I should.  It makes me sad that I am spending so much time on every little negative aspect.  To be a perfectionist in an imperfect world especially in the world of homes is so unfair.  This obsession has pretty much brought me down to my knees and I am looking for a way out.  I love the house and want to stay in it but just need to find a way to be accepting of its flaws and know it will never be perfect but its hard.  I don't sleep well and it has definitely taken away my enjoyment of life.    I am dealing with the loss of my dad two years ago and I am sure this has triggered some OCD tendencies with me.  Just want to get better.

Afraid to fail at perfection - - Aug 19th 2014

I never worked at school because i was afraid to fail at perfection.

I either dont try at something at all and procastinate because im afraid to get something totally perfect, or i try so hard that im doing it for hours and wont stop until its the way that i want it to be. If it doesn't ever get to that place then i would chuck whatever i was doing. 

Finding a job becomes impossible because i want the job to be the thing im going to do for the rest of my life.. so i just end up sitting there thinking and not figuring it out.

Another example is my room is a tip the whole time then whenever i feel anxious or something bad happens i tidy it to the greatest extent where my hangers in my wadrobe are all the same length apart and clothes are in colour order. As soon as the tiniest thing messes up, im back to total mess again. 

Finding it so difficult to find a balance in my life because of this. Any thoughts?

(By the way i'm not going to put effort into this comment so sorry for the appauling spelling etc)

This is me down to a t. - - Aug 1st 2014

I'm a student in the UK and I swear this is exactly the way I behave. Being obsessed about being the best has prevented me from doing a number of things, for example this year I was preparing to enter 2 major international and national piano competitions because I felt I owed it to my piano teacher to take my playing to the next level.

It all fell through however as after auditioning for performing with orchestra at my university, something which I'd been spending all my time not spent on maths/music lectures and worksheets working towards, and had been practicing for at extremely late hours so I often didn't leave practice rooms until midnight, I didn't get through. I was extremely disappointed especially as one of my friends got through and the audition was badly equipped for pianists, and so after this my work in piano went down drastically, I failed to turn up for my solo performance exam and hand in the coursework, and left everything for the competitions till the last minute until I eventually gave up.

I never really thought this was something which is normal for perfectionists, however I have also realised that thinking of my music career as a priority is extremely unhealthy for me; it's an industry which leaves too many musicians dissatisfied and I'm much happier now focusing on maths at university, in which my exam results have been far better than expected. Unfortunately there are things which perfectionists aren't well suited to, and in an elitist culture arts and sports are the worst.

Maths is something very well suited to me though, as I never have much reason to be jealous of friends, I've managed to work consistently and get brilliant results, and with less emphasis on music I also have much fewer reasons to work through the night. My problem was that because of a scholarship I gained in piano I always felt an obligation to keep pushing myself in that direction, but if you have a career goal which doesn't actually suit your personality it can be very unhealthy.

However, I've never had a career planner quiz which has picked out something I want to do, so I guess it's up to you to decide what that is.

Pathological Overachiever - Sarah - Apr 8th 2014

I'm a 21-year-old university student and I have basically sacrificed everything to have a 4.0 GPA.  It has cost me everything - my relationships, my health, and even my future.  I'm so obsessed with handing in perfect assignments, I don't sleep at night - even long after the assignment has been handed in.  I have no friends at university, my diet is terrible, I have headaches constantly, and I rarely exercise during the school year.  I come home crying most nights because I feel so ashamed of my grades and my physical appearance.  I feel ridiculously inferior to my classmates, and I find it hard to find pleasure in anything.  One semester, I even threatened to kill myself if I got anything less than a 3.8 GPA.  But worst of all, my obsession has totally prevented me from applying to engineering or medical school, because I don't feel smart enough.  I feel like I'm a failure and I hate myself for it.   

I've been like this since junior high and so far my psychologist hasn't had any success in getting rid of it.  Oddly enough though, on summer vacation I become almost a completely different person.  I'm friendly, I have fun, and I spend time with the people I love.  I really hope someday I can be like that all of the time, because this is killing me.   

I Have Perfectionism - Jacob Young - Jan 5th 2014


     I have OCD and have suffered from perfectionism for many years. I have often wondered if it is curable but I have high doubts that it is. I think it can only get better. I know perfect is unattainable and I don't want things to be perfect, my brain is compelled for things to be perfect. No matter how many times I have told myself it will not be perfect, just accept it it never turned out that way. My anxiety goes very high when something is not perfect. I have been taking medication for many years and have had lots of talk therapy, to be honest it has only helped some with the perfectionism but as far as the perfectionism being cured I really don't think that is possible.  I see imperfect as something bad, it scares me, when in reality it is just part of being a human being. Something can be so fantastic but if it less than perfect it is unacceptable. I hate it that it is that way. I am not an unhappy person, I am a very happy person, I don't think being a perfectionist is relevant to whether a person is happy or not. People with perfectionism suffer alot but it does not mean they are unhappy. I have made gradual progress from my therapy. It is a battle between me and my brain, I am telling my brain I cannot accept something that is not perfect, my brain is telling me it has to be perfect. Ubfortunately my brain usually wins. Not because I listened to my brain, but because my brain is hardwired and compells me to have to have things perfect. I have obsessive-compulsive disorder. To see flaws causes my anxiety to increase. I get so scared that things will not be perfect I avoid getting into situatons. There have been times I tried repeatedly to get something perfect and drove myself crazy. It caused me great anxiety and frusteration. I wish so much that I could enjoy the wonderful things in life and for me not have to have perfect. It can get better, but I don't believe it is curable. Thanks and please keep me in your prayers.

God Bless,


AAAAAAARRGGH! - Lynn - Aug 9th 2013

I wanna scream having just this minute realized why I haven't  finished writing my resume after countless hours spent trying. I'm ready to throw my hands in the air and give up entirely except I need to find a job or a big pile of money sometime soon. I said I'd worked countless hours, but it was more like months and months and months. A year maybe, maybe two years. Fine, TWO YEARS! I'm so discouraged right now, Dealing with mental health issues is like playing 'whop-a-mole.' You get one thing under control and something else pops up to take its place. I never did like that game or moles for that matter.

Chasing Perfection - Joc - Apr 13th 2013

I am currently a college freshman struggling to find happiness. I am obsessed with being perfect and skinny. Truthfully, which I have trouble admitting, I wasn't always this way. In my adolescent years I was often made fun of for not caring about school and being quite laid back. When I look back on all of that, it definitely has affected me now.

NOW, I currently struggle from an eating disorder and the need to maintain a 4.0. The feeling that my grades are slipping and that I won't be the skinniest makes my head spin. While I am getting better, I just want to be happy. The will to succeed in a sense is killing me.


Hi Dr.Schwartz,

I am 16 years old and have OCD and have had it for many years. My OCD is putting things away perfect or making things in a straight line,even having to touch everything together! I have faced many OCD struggles and sometimes I do not have control of my OCD so it gets out of hand. Just recently,I have completely stopped my OCD because I have gotten so sick of having OCD...I look at other people around me that do not have the same OCD problem as me and I put my things away without making them straight or putting them in a line....just like how they would do it and I find my OCD way better and faster! Is this a god thing to do? What would be your advice? I do not want to go on OCD meds because I do not like things controlling my body. So I want to try stopping my OCD by facing it and not making everything perfect! Can you please give me advice on if this is a good thing to do???? Let me give you an example of what I would do...okay,I put my shower things down in a cabinent. I use to put my things in a straight line and in order. One day,I lost control of my OCD! I just want it to stop! It gets so bad that I get depressed and cry...:( So I look at how other people put things like that and they just put it down there...not in a certain order or straight...they just put it down there and leave! I want to be like this! Can you please help?



Perfectionism has destroyed my life! - Nick - Feb 19th 2013

I'm now 43 and have had problems with perfectionism since I was 13. So 30 years. In that time I have suffered from OCD, BDD and OCPD. Of those, OCPD is by far the worst, although many studies suggest that OCD is worse. I disagree.

Due to all of the above, I have suiffered numerous bouts of clinical depression (I am going through one right now) and always have an underlying depression. I have considered 'the easy way out' a number of times, but don't think I could ever follow through with it. I always have a 'hope' that things will change or that I will change. I, and it, never does.

The inner turmoil is horrendous, and it affects every sphere of my life. My work history has been very chequered and I survive by working from home as working in any other environment seems near impossible for me.

I am at my whit's end! I feel sorry for anybody who has been struck down with this crippling disease, illness, disorder or whatever you want to call it.

I don't think I will ever have children due to it. I don't want to pass on my personality and problems to anyone else.

Perfectionism and all that is associated with really does ruin lives.


I am 64 years old and this has given me some insight as to who I am. - - Jan 31st 2013

I was raised by a perfectionist and I am right there myself. I am my own worst critic. I believe this condtion has affected my whole life. I don't cope with anything out of the ordinary very well. I get very anxious over the least little thing that isn't going right. Even violence on TV upsets me. I don't watch much TV because I am so sensitive to the violence. It makes me very nervous. I don't like loud noises or large crowds. I wish I had of known what was wrong years ago as I think my OCD has also affected my children. I have a son that is 30 years old that just can't seem to get it together. Another worry for an OCD mother. I would appreciate any advice. I would love to live a life not expecting everything to be perfect.

Why yes, this is true about me. - - Jan 20th 2013

I'm not sure how long this has been going on, but what you said is a complete describtion of myself. I am 18 years old and am currently in my first year at university. Throughout high school I was constantly plagued by this idea that I wasn't good enough. I avoided having a relationship because I thought it would be impossible for someone to like me let alone love me. I put everything I had into my school work, and yes I did procrastinate A LOT because I had no idea where to begin, and was afraid that whatever I did wasn't going to be good enough. I managed to get good grades throughout high school, but never felt like I deserved them. I was an AP student in English, but ended up failing the exam because I couldn't concentrate very well: ironically enough, I was too stressed out about getting an high mark that it prevented me from achieving this goal. I wish that I could say things have improved but they haven't really. It's gotten to the point where I have so much anxiety that I get a headache everyday, and the doctor doesn't do anything about it. I've also become very self-conscious about how I look. Whenever I tell this to my mother or someone close, they tell me I should just stop worrying and be who I am because "nobody's perfect". They think this is something I can just shake off, like its no big deal. And some days I do have great optimism about life, have fun with others and am just silly. But I would have to say that overall, this compulsive need is bringing down my quality of life. Worst part is I feel as though I can't think -straight - at all. Thank you for starting this forum, and thank you for reading my post, if anybody ever does. Sorry it is so long. 

Being a perfectionist sucks! - - Jan 16th 2013

I hate having this disorder. People can tell me i look pretty a thousand times, and i wont let myself believe it. It will get me even mad sometimes because i make myself believe im ugly. I have so many flaws that i wish i can change. I always compare myself. Everywhere i go, there's always someone way better looking than me. It makes me unhappy. I hate the way i look. And what do i do to make myself a little better? I eat my problems away. I know i just make it worse, but i mean when i try to eat healthy and exercise i always fail. Im tired of it. I wish i was born skinny and pretty. Im tired of looking in the mirror and constantly reminding myself about all the flaws i have. I have a fat belly, i have fat arms, i have fat thighs, i have chubby cheeks. I wish it can all go away. I hate my body so much. Everyone says im not even fat, but im a perfectionism. I only see myself the way my conscious is telling me how i look. It tells me im ugly and unworthy of anything. What makes it worse? Living in a generation where you are pressured in looking beautiful and skinny no matter what. I just wish i was happier.

yeah - - Nov 10th 2012

i first became afraid of flying, a terrible fear, then afraid of being rejected, of being homosexual, of having a terrible disease, of failing, of commiting mistakes, of not being as good as society thinks humans should be and so.

Ive found out that all my fears have something in common, everything has to be under my control with no imperfections, everything must be perfectly right for me, nothing has to be risky.

This causes me a great deal of pain everyday of my life, no one understands me, my parents just think im a little nervous guy, i have to hide my pain.

But i found a relief, rational emotive therapy by albert ellis offers you a solution, i will be free someday, free from myself, form my fears, ill just live life the way it should, someday ill beat my own demon which is myself and find peace with the universe.

Yep, I'm a perfectionist. - Ryan - Sep 18th 2012

I've been reading through the symptoms of perfectionism, and I realize that I suffer from nearly all of them. I have an all-or-nothing attitude and I tend to procrastinate with big assignments because I'm afraid to start them. I get anxious just thinking about it. Also, when I put a lot of work into something and I receive criticism, I get defensive and frustrated. For example, earlier today I turned in a homework assignment to my professor. I had it finished since last week, and I reviewed it before handing it in. Turns out that I was supposed to add on a hand written paper, which I just found out about. It almost ruined my day. That's just scratching the surface. What can I do to help myself?

Am I perfectionist even though I'm not an unhappy person? - April - Jul 2nd 2012

When ever I am doing something, like a drawing or DIY or course work I will become frustraited with myself if i feel as though I am not doing it good enough, I can't stand it when people check my work or look over my shoulder and if it comes to DIY I will shout at the person checking it and not mean to, the part I can't understand is that you said that perfectionist people are unhappy but i'm not unhappy at all i'm stuck, i dont know whether i am too touchy or perfectionist, please help. 

ok well - - May 17th 2012

procrastinate so much, i want to do things but i cannot get them done. It feels so overwelming because i cannot do it well enough, its just not good enough. no i dont, i guess. i am almost two years behind highschool and i have anxiety about everything and i feel depressed everyday. can someone help me?

Perfectionist, or Mental Hypochondriac? - Alli Dearest - May 9th 2012

As a ballerina, I was under tremendous pressure. I opted out at age eight due to the intense schedules and the early onset of anorexia...but the pressures to be perfect have continued following me. I still suffer from panic attacks much like the ones I suffered as a child. Help?

What is this? - Keiha - Apr 24th 2012

I need help because I know that someone is inside me and they torture me into trying to make me perfect, they are obsessed that everything should be black and white, how do I get help?

I Might Be One... - - Apr 19th 2012

Well, I'm 18, but all my life I have been a very conscientious person, I've even had teachers tell my parents that at a very young age, maybe 8 or 9. I often feel extremes, and I can experience very strong emotions that range from utter and complete despair where the world feels like it is crashing down and I begin to question myself, the fabric of reality, everything, TO a lofty, almost elevated state of consciousness where I feel complete peace and being with the world. I have always been a hard worker and excelled in school. In High School I got Honors every year but it doesn't really make a damn difference to me. I did very well in every course I ever did and worked so hard but I still don't care. In High School, especially grade 9 I began feeling very different, almost lost. Now I know this is a normal part of growing up, but I began doing anything I could to question and resist authority figures (i.e. teachers) and got myself detention after detention. One of my grade 9 teachers seemed concerned. But after grade 9, grade 10 was very bad. I know I suffered from depression.

But the truth is, what only makes me happy is doing what I feel is right in my heart. I've always been an eccentric person, and I truly believe if I just went after something, I don't care what, as long as what I fully believed in my heart and not something anything or anyone else decided, that would make me happy. But not just that, the anxiety, the constant demands and pressures I put on myself unable me to sometimes be myself. I can't be happy anymore, I can't feel happiness, I'm always stressed. It's like there is a beautiful voice, the voice of my inner self, that is trying to be heard, but it can't because of so much terrible pressure and unfulfilled expectation I put on myself. About everything. I know I shouldn't but it's the guilt, I've tried to liberate myself from it but it is so hard.

Well, now I am 18 and I seem to always be stressed or guilt-ridden, even when I am doing nothing. I think I am suffering from anxiety; I sit at home and I wait for the day it goes away. I try very hard but it just won't. I just want to BE. I'm going to University in September, but since I've been off school, I've done a lot of soul searching and learned quite a bit about myself. I feel if I were to overcome this weakness, this constant \\

Im over it - - Mar 7th 2012

I'm a university student studying nursing. I've always realized that there is something wrong with my learning and I think it has came down to being a perfectionist. I procrastinate all assessment because I'm so scared of facing them because of the major task of perfecting them! I feel it takes me way more then the average student and it's driving me crazy! I get stressed and anxious and it just built the more I put things of! I just never want to do anything anymore because I know that I can't get anything to the standard I want it and. I realize it's effecting my own life and my partners aswell.. Hmmm 

Looking for Perfection - - Dec 11th 2011

I am driving myself and everyone around me crazy.  I have OCD, I am a perfectionist, I am a hoarder--myself, my husband, my children, my co-workers, never live up to my expectations.  I don't think I'm looking for anything out of the ordinary, but I'm so tired of being frustrated and angry at everyone around me.  Medication only dulls me and I don't feel like I can function at my "peak" performance.  I can't sleep because I'm up being upset that not everyone else is worried about the things I'm worried about.  I've dealt with this for years and years, but it's getting bad again.  I need to find a way to get myself under control.  Hoping just writing this will ease some anxiety.

is there any therapy for perfectionism? - Steven Qiu - Nov 10th 2011

I am a perfectionist, the worst kind. in these years it really became a big trouble for me. i would try really hard to do my best and if i can't, my brain just simply resisting doing it. i do have a little knowledge about psychologyfrom my reading about it and i figure my syndrome is probably caused by my higher-than-average intelligence and getting used to be known as THE "genius", and the peer pressure forced me to became like that, either do something really brilliant or being ignored. my grades is like divided into A zones and F zones, and if i missed any assignment from one course, i would subconsciously letting my self miss more assignments. also i became to suffer from what likes ADD, and even this, what i'm writing now, is came from being distracted away from my homework. i simply became the extremes, excel or fail. if you have any suggestion about it and you are willing to help me, please e-mail me, thank you.

Coincedence? - Sara P. - Sep 24th 2011

I stuggle with this. I am re-reading The Celestine Prophecy which talks about coincedences in our lives.

I had a client in my office today who is getting her doctorate in Psychology. A casual conversation ensued and eventually centered around anxiety and OCD and her studies on that. As I relayed stories to her about my own struggles, she jokingly said, "Sounds like OPCD to me." and we both laughed. After she left, I came to the computer and began to research this. I found this articlefirst. After years of mis-diagnosises and therapy.....I now have something more specific that defines how I feel. I get it now.

Working for a Perfectionist that is a hoarder (OCPD) - Chris - Sep 24th 2011

The wife of an over achiever in the medical field hired me to help her get some sort of a handle on her life. I am her new maid once a week. All 25 rooms are packed from floor to ceiling. They have three pets and four teens. Privite schools and religious, anxious, nervous, fidgity and the list of issues go on. They are aware of every piece of dirt in the house no matter how small or how much dog hair is on it or how many years it sat there without being used. I have only been there a few times and already the husband is probably cancelling appointments and showing up at the house because likely he is getting anxious about the things I had considered garbage and thrown away. If a room starts to look wonderful the expression on his face is one of horror and he wants to know where that little nail went on the floor matted up in dog hair. I can see now that I will never measure up no matter how good the job but my question is how do I deal with this? The wife loves me being there and the husband in his own way knows he needs me to be there but can't seem to deal with it either. He may come home and after viewing has to go in his room shut the door and read out of the bible. I feel for the wife who is overwhelmed but I can quickly see that this is going to be a problem for him and she is going to have to defend every action I take to clean something or throw something. Here I am trying to give him some order in their lives and of course I am nothing more than a maid that will never measure to his thinking and I see that no matter how distorted it is I am in some way being disrespectful in his eyes rather than helpful. Of course he doesn't know he has this problem. The rest of the world has a problem, which of course the whole world does have a problem but then so do we all. You can't make perfect out of inherited imperfection we can only strive to do better in living an upright course. I want to show respect to his wishes although he doesn't say what those are and the wife has to fill me in later and she is very apologetic as she is relating to me what we have thrown and his feeling on it. Thank Goodness she tells me and I am very accommedating in that reguard. After all it is their house and they do pay me to do a service. The wife is already struggling and anxious to the max without a doubt and I do not want to cause any furture anxiety to her life. I am in his territory and that makes me a threat so how do I best handle this without him feeling any disrespect or anxiety over this or would it just be best for me to pull out, or wait till he can't handle it any more and puts me out or is there some way too show him respect or is that not possible in this type of personality. He is not social or one who can make conversation because he seems to be too far above that. To me it seems like a sad and painful way too live and to him it probably seems like the whole world is stupid and disrespectul. I also know the good book very well, but I understand not everybody wants to live by those standards or wants it. I have compassion for people in distress and relize I can't fix things in others, I strive to do the best job possible  but for him it seems his belief is just the opposite no matter what and he makes everything stressful and as much as he strives for perfection he is only making imperfect.  Can I be of help by cleaning, will it make a bigger mess of things, will he ever except, and what should I avoid doing and what is the best way to handle this? Thank You for your advice, Chris

driving myself and family nuts with my ocd - lee - Aug 13th 2011

i have always been this way but i think now that i am driving myself and family nuts with what i do they don't want to use anything or do anything for fear i will get mad about my cleaniness what should i do help........

Is it really OCD? Really? Me?? - Lindy Sue - Aug 7th 2011

At work I have to do everything right.  I make all my forms on the PC so I don't have to fill them in by hand.  I redo them until they're perfect.  I can't stand my co-worker's lack of details and an attitude of not caring about it.  I don't understand how she can work that way.  The more I try to accomplish the more I get lost in the details, no matter how hard I try. 

At home I have hoarding type tendencies - it isn't the stuff that's important, but the fact that I don't start cleaning and organizing if I can't do it all at once and perfectly.  I don't even see it anymore - I'm "clutter-blind".  I procrastinate a lot. 

I also see things as black or white with no shades of gray.  Is it possibly what I've read as "maladaptive perfectionism"?  Does it sound like OCD?  I take low doses of Prozac (20 mg) and Wellbutrin (150 mg) for depression.  Would a higher dose help me?  I'm full of anxiety and shaking just writing this.

Living with a Perfectionist - Laurie S - Jul 16th 2011

I have been with my boyfriend for 3 years and he is growing more and more unhappy.  I have often thought that maybe he is a depressed person and after reading some of the comments that others have written I think that maybe I was right.  Just this week for example, I moved everything around in the garage so he could put shelves up and because he couldn't get the ladder through a spot he picked it up and threw it and asked if I measured the space when moving everything so it would fit.  I couldn't believe that he would turn that into my problem when all I did was try to help him.  I then told him he needed anger management and to stop acting like such a child (he is 50 years old).  He also said that he wasn't mad at me but it would be best if I went in the house. 

 I spoke to him last night and asked why he has been so angry at me and that he isn't like that around his friends.  He begged to differ; but I have seen him working with his friends and I reminded him that they laugh and joke while working but he and I seem to fight when we do things together and it's getting to the point I don't want to do anything with him cause it's starting to stress me out.  He then told me that he is a perfectionist (which I already sorta knew) and it's hard to see others not do what he would do.  He said that he doesn't mean anything by it but he doesn't understand how others can't want everything to be done right.  I told him he needs help or he is going to be a very angry old man and that my intentions in life are not to be perfect.  I wouldn't want that stress in my life and we should really pick our battles with regards to what is going to stress us out.

Like him thinking everyone should be like him, I can't understand how anyone would want to be perfect, not to judge but not only is it stressful on yourselves but it's very stressful on the people around you that love you and after reading some of the comments it appears that we are the ones that get the brunt of it. 

Well I am very glad to have come across this article and have sent it to my other half in hopes that he will read it and maybe start to do something about it cause he knows it's a problem and I guess like any other help programs the first step is to admit what the problem is and he did say it last night.  Oh and he told me I did a good job painting which I know was hard for him to say, I mean it nearly killed him to say it cause he barely got it out without studdering, but he did and I said thanks and that was it.

Thanks for listening!



Nothing less than perfection! - Laureen Maxwell - May 17th 2011

I'm sure that I'm a perfectionist because I can't stand to see things done less than 100%. I don't know how to give lessthan 100% in everything but I'm not a procrastinator; however, I do expect others to give 100% and I don't know how they can even conceive of giving anything less. HOW DOES ANYBODY SAY TO THEMSELVES "This isn't exactly as I wanted but it will be OK"? I envision everything I do according to how I perceive it ought to be done and anything less than that drives me mad. And I mean literally MAD! I find myself to be an angry person, angry at my kids, my husband, my co-workers, I guess for not understanding that things need to be a certain way to be doen RIGHT. I don't think it's my way or the highway, I just think if you have a better way than share it with me id I think it better than we'll do it that way. I have no patience with those I love but I find some times I can have all the patience in the world with others. I can get alot done but am an over-achiever! HELP ME where do I start to change?

Venting feels good:) - erin - Apr 13th 2011

i think my obsession with doing everything right began when, for the first time, I was an awesome student, winning awards and scholarships left and right, had a great relationship, everything was great..

the next year, I began college, and didn't get as many scholarships, my relationship was just seemed as if nothing i accomplished before mattered.  What mattered was that I was not as good as I had been.  

i did realize how this was affecting me, but my response was that I should try harder.  Currently, I am at my wits end, trying to fix a now broken relationship, scrape up money for a amazingly expensive school, attempt to have a social life, work a full time job, go to school...ugh, it seems that for us, the "to do" list is unending, and it seems that I spend forever obsessing about "work", but yet, I never get any actual work done.  It seems people are just getting better and better, so now, in return, we must also improve ourselves, simple in order to survive.

Young Teen with Qujestions - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Feb 8th 2011

Hi Chantelle,

Always remember that no one is perfect. The way we learn and the way to get the best education and training is by making mistakes. No one gets on a bicycle the first time and easily rides. It takes lots of practice and most of us fall until we learn how. Its not being perfect that matters. Its striving to do the best you can. In striving for that we fail until we get it right.

Dr. Schwartz

Young Teen With Questions! ~Chantelle~ - - Feb 8th 2011

hi, i am only 14 years old but ever since i was little everything has always had to be perfect and if i drew a picture then it would take me hours more then anyone else i knew just because it had to be perfect. it is getting to the point now if a teacher calls on me to give the answer and i get the answer wrong then i literly cry right in my desk! i was wondering if i am a perfectionist or not? and will this ever stop or will it continue to get worse?

Ready for change... - Candace - Feb 7th 2011

Even as a child, things had to be perfect.  I would cry if I broke a crayon, because the crayon was no longer perfect.  I wanted a new pack after all the crayons were no longer sharp and new.  I would tear up a homework assignment if I felt it was not neat enough.  Often redoing homework even if I had already completed it.  My parents still talk about that.  I realize now that I would perform poorly just so I would have a reason for failing.  Somehow failing on purpose was better than not measuring up to my rigid standards.  Does this even make sense?  It sounds ridiculous, but I can't explain being so perfectionistic, but not applying myself at other times.  Maybe I felt like there was no point because I knew I could never be perfect. I still struggle with all of this, just differently, on an adult level. I am depressed, procrastinate, make lists more than completing tasks, have incredibly low self esteem, have anxiety and obsess.  Could I be an OCD depressed perfectionist?

Child of Borderline Personality Parent - Stephanie - Jan 21st 2011

I found your article when I was doing some random research on disorders. What started my search was the problem I was facing with writing a paper for my college English class. I didn't understand why I couldn't continue writing, and why I was getting so frustrated. /Even now, trying to write this is tough because I keep thinking of all the errors I am making./ So, when I read your article, 'On Being a Perfectionist', it confirmed what I had been thinking for years, that I am a perfectionist. Even my friends and sister say that I am one. 

In my research one of the disorders I found, and at first thought it was me, was borderline personality disorder. After reading more about it, though, I started thinking of my mom. I really never could understand her and her emotional/mood swings. I thought it was my fault for her randomly becoming angry or depressed. So I did all I could not to make her mad or sad. I took the blame for it and she didn't know, still doesn't know. I don't even think she knows anything is wrong with how she acts. My trying to be the perfect daughter turned into trying to be the perfect sister, friend, and student. I was afraid that other people would be just like my mom in the fact that randomly they could be angry if I do something wrong. Thus people thought I was shy, when all I was doing was watching how they act and listening to what they say, and then speaking when I felt comfortable. I judged everything I would be doing by what I thought others would think or how they would act. With out knowing it I became a perfectionist.

Now that I am living away from my mom, I am finding out more about myself and gaining understanding of my past. Even, now, knowing that I am ok and I can get over this one step at a time, gives me hope. Your article helped me piece the puzzles of my life together; I am glad I found it and read it.


My Perfectionism - Chris - Jan 4th 2011

I've been a perfectionist for a while now, I remember never being happy with pieces of work in High School, always thinking I could have done essays better regardless of how good my marks were, never liking to look back on things I'd written because it made my skin crawl. I think possibly the explosion point for me was getting a B in history, which I went on to study at University. I was still let in to my first choice uni, despite being below the grade requirement, but it followed me. I felt like I had failed myself, that I wasn't good enough to be where I was, that I was a fraud.

As time went on at university I procrastinated more and more before committing to writing essays. I felt like ideas within my head were perfect and as I committed them to words on paper they became flawed and messy and the wonder of the delete button meant I could delete whole pages of text in one go, convincing myself I could do better. It meant that I had multiple late nights working through to finish essays. One of which I drank too much coffee, had a panic attack and started having irrational thoughts like ways I could convince my university tutors I was too sick to finish the exam or that I could injure myself by jumping off a bridge, I stuck my fingers down my throat to make myself wretch and to calm myself (although I should stress this was a one time thing, I'm not bulemic).

Time went on from that episode, but the anxiety remained. I handed in two essays late. During the writing of one of these essays I had visions of my future, that if I failed at this I would keep failing my entire life, I had always viewed my life before as a steady improvement everything was a step up like on a staircase. I was worried I was going to have serious problems.

The terrible irony of the situation was that because of my anxiety and procrastination I wasn't getting great grades, this fuelled my feelings of self doubt. I actually at times, stupid as this sounds, told myself I should be stronger and able to handle the anxiety on my own.

I know for some people what I've just described will be hard to imagine because its not rational. I've seen a counsellor and I'm better at seeing that now. I know I've let my fears become oversized in my life and that perfection is impossible. I'm also getting better at being able to know when I'm beginning let anxiety set in and how to combat it, the best way I would say is always talking to somebody. Perfectionist Anxiety, for me, feels like drowning in nervousness, like your body, your mind, your thoughts and your inabilities are all closing you in, holding you back and sort of trapping you in claustrophobia. Speaking to someone else can really help put things into perspective and I think perspective is certainly something I lacked.

Sorry that went on a little bit, once you've started it's hard to stop isn't it?


Argh! - i hate bad photo's of myself :) - Jan 3rd 2011

Hello all. I've always been the same way, however i'd say that since being a teenager up until now (26) it's increasingly affected my happiness.

I am a neat freak, imperfections stress me out and make me feel trapped and anxious. They're everywhere! These imperfections do not bother me if they belong to someone else. i.e. a friend/partner with messy, smelly, scuffed etc property, belongings or appearance. Every tiny thing stresses me about, a chip in a cup, a speck of dust, split ends! a piece of clothing with bobbles, colours that jar with me, light, i hate bright light especially unnatural bright light as it shows up imperfections more.

When i was a teenager i used to spend ages plucking my eyebrows, looking in the mirror, doing my hair, reading dozens of magazines to see what the prettiest girls looked like. I was never happy but strangely i knew that once i was a grown up i would like my appearance. Anyway i do like the way i look i am very happy with that aspect of myself although i concern myself that i have to wear expensive designer clothes and Chanel cosmetics. I am obsessed with my hair too.

I'm a very talented artist and this is what i have always wanted to do and always believed, no questions, that i would be an extremely successful artist/designer/animator. I haven't given up and never will, but i procrastinate so much! It's so silly, i could be earning a salary from it by now but instead i have an easy 'normal' job of no interest to me.

Is this normal? lmao, is it normal to worry like this? I have an incling that it's not, but what can i do? I don't entirely dislike it but it is stressing me out a fair bit at the moment.

Perfectionist - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Dec 7th 2010

Hi Linda,

Your confusion is due to the fact that there is misinformation on the internet. There is no such thing as OCDP. OCD is not a personality disorder. Yes, it is possible to have BPD and OCD at the same time.

Dr. Schwartz

is it just perfectionism or is it more - Lynda - Dec 7th 2010

I think my perfectionism is possibly OCPD.  I have been diagnosed with BPD, i also suffer from anxiety.  I met most of the criteria for OCPD, is it possible to be diagnosed with both personality disorders? I'm a workaholic and hate to deglate tasks.  I like things to be in there exact spot, i am constanty putting things back in the correct spot even in the hallway of my apartment building.  I often don't complete tasks.  I have noticed that at first my perfectionism was raging then my BPD took over, now i am back to the perfectionism traits ruling my life.  Is this normal.  I have been a perfectionist for at least half of my life and i am only 30 years old.  Any ideas?  Thanks. 

perfectionistic thinking.. - Stacy - Nov 29th 2010


So i have been struggling perfectionistic thinking all of my life but one thing in particular stands out. I am so incredibly concerned how others view me. For example, When my boyfriend tells me he loves me i dont believe him. Our i think thats going to change if i mess up (make a mistake), what if he sees a girl more beautiful then me, what if he finds someone that is better. Its like i have to be perfect ALL the time and i think it is starting to put a strain on our relationship because i am always so guarded. I want to be able to find happiness in my life but i cant becuase i feel like anything that is good is going to turn bad, or i am going to mess it up so hard because i am not perfect. I would really appreciate any advice or suggestions.

Thank you.


Getting A Handle... - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Oct 20th 2010

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a good way to learn how to get control over perfectionism. In the case of perfectionism, CBT works well to change patterns of thinking and their associated behaviors so that a person gains a sense of control over their perfectionism. The nice thing about CBT is that it helps a patient to learn more realistic and helpful ways to think and behave.

Dr. Schwartz

search for excellence - - Oct 19th 2010

I am glad we are so many I try to search for excellence now. Thank you for your article

Getting A Handle On My Perfectionism - - Oct 19th 2010

Like others who have posted here I completely identify with all of the characteristics you describe. I am completing my nursing degree in December and while all of my classmates are talking about how proud they are of their accomplishments all I can think about is how my knowledge isn't going to be good enough to get me a good nursing job and focus on all the things I haven't learned 100%. This has made me realize I treat most aspects of my life in this way.

I experienced a lot of death in my life and because of that was moved from home to home after each family member I lived with passed away. I don't feel depressed, I have a great life now, but I know this somehow has to have something to do with it.

I suppose my problem is that I can identify what is wrong and I vaguely have a grasp on what caused it, but I don't know how to fix it. I feel like I don't know how to go about getting control over my perfectionism. Based on the other things I've dealt with in my life I feel like this should be easy in comparison. 

...I supposed it's a very perfectionist attitude to think that if I was just strong enough or smart enough I could beat my perfectionism on my own! Ha ha.

I've never discussed this with anyone before, I'm interested to see what you have to say. What are your suggestions? Is this something I can handle on my own? Thank you so much!

what kind of drx treats OCD or perfectionism? - Margaret - Oct 18th 2010

Hi, it wasn't until today that I realized I am not a control freak, but a perfectionist, and possibly with OCD tendencies.  I have multiple sclerosis, and just had a baby 6 months ago... my question is... what kind of doctor should I see for this problem? Is it post-partum (seems to be worse now, but I have always been this way)? or MS related?

Thank you,

Dr. Dombeck's Note: Perfectionism is considered to be a personality trait.  OCD is a sub-type of Anxiety; one of the Anxiety Disorders.  Both characteristifcs are related to high, problematic anxiety. 

Several kind of doctors can work with anxiety problems.  Within the family of Medical Doctors, your best option is a Psychiatrist.  I would start there due to the recent pregnancy experience you've had and the complicating factor of your new demanding baby which can mess with your sleep and make problems worse.  There may be medical reasons for why you are upset which only a medical doctor is in a position to discover.  Over the long term, however, you are probably better off going to see a Clinical Psychologist (a Doctor of Psychology) or a Clinical Social Worker or similar, but one who specializes in the treatment of anxiety disorders.  Such therapists can teach you non-medical methods for managing your anxiety which are very effective and have no side-effects. 

Little Miss Perfect - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Oct 15th 2010

Neither your comment nor your post are ridiculous. In fact, you very clearly explain what it is like to be a perfectionist.

What you need to understand is that your perfectionism is a symptom of your OCD. Along with OCD comes both anxiety and depression. I hope you are getting treatment for both.

Treatment is not simply medication but psychotherapy as well. In my opinion, cognitive behavioral therapy works well with OCD and perfectionism.

Dr. Schwartz

finally a diagnosis - Little Miss Perfect - Oct 14th 2010

Hi - I just read your article and the many posts.  For years I have suffered from depression and more recently anxiety.  I have been diagnosed with OCD.  It is manageable and I have assumed most people wouldn't guess it about me.  I'm loud, outgoing and the life of the party on the outside.  However, reading your article I realised I am the classic definition of a perfectionist.

Occassionally, when forced, I try and to an average "near enough is good enough" job but it grates, really grates on me.  It makes me feel horrible, like I failed.  In my world near enough is not good enough, going with the flow is for wimps and failure is a death sentence.  Well that's how it feels anyway.

But what you say is true - I constantly feel I am never good enough, my work is not good enough, my uni assignments are not good enoughm, my artwork is not good enough,  my fitness, weight is not good enough (and the list goes on).  People praise my work but I don't believe them and think they are just being nice and charitable (or they are too stupid to know that I'm an idiot!!).  I don't even know what's real anymore.  I get a HD and I think the lecturer must be an "easy marker".

If I read back over this I realise it sounds ridiculous and yet I can't stop it.  I'm not even sure i want to because the idea of being second rate and not doing my very best everytime makes me feel sick - why would you attempt it if you planned on doing average, why bother in the first place?

Am I a classic perfectionist?

would like to add to previous post. - Ellen - Aug 21st 2010

I would far rather be thought of as incompetent, than to even let my advisor know. He's giving me the hard-line...but not the time.....and every time that I can talk things through, it helps greatly -- but I think he's sick of me, although I haven't taken up much of his time as others.  I really want to get through this...though...with some dignity, whether I continue or not.

Caught between the devil and the deep blue - Ellen - Aug 21st 2010

I read Lina and Valerie's posts -- and I see myself there. Last year I finished my doctoral research, my graduate advisor, told me that he wood look forward to receiving the complete draft. I went into a panic. I tried to write out my analysis....couldn't decide to do it this way or that way. I didn't ask him because he would think I was incompetent. I was working full-time. A whole year passed, and finally we met for 45 min..,  he tried to give me some help by setting narrow deadlines, I had more than done what he asked me to do..but I went along..-I met the first please least it got us talking but then I asked to see him to talk, and he said 'no' to keep on with the next week's deadline--online submission, which was precisely where I had found myself before...I could hardly breathe, I've tried...It's been six weeks...I have notes and files to the rafters.....and I am so organized but it takes me hours to get organized each day to work....I am thought very highly at work, but, as I have heard here, it will take me longer to do work--- I know that if I quit, it will be the end of me, but I really feel stuck, anti-anxiety medication doesn't do a thing. What I have to do is not rocket science. There is no one at the grad institution to speak with - I've put so much on hold --- it''s just not worth it. I rationally know the problem....I overanalyze....then procrastinate. and become paralyzed.........but always working.....working and working. Here's what happens, procrastination makes you feel as though...because you have used extra time...should be so, so, so, much better....and because it won' fail. 

It was interesting seeing this website. 

Perfection - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Aug 16th 2010


You are not cursed with perfectionism because there is always psychotherapy, particularly Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It might be worth looking into it for yourself.

Dr. Schwartz

I think I am a Perfectionist - Gemma - Aug 16th 2010

Well I thought the article on perfectionism was very good. It had never occurred to me that's why I suffer so much.

I have suffered from anxiety and depression since I can remember. I have always wanted to be the kind person that everyone likes, with friends who never argue with me and a family that thinks I am wonderful.

I always expect too much of myself, I wasn't ever an academic but I convinced myself I should be and embarked on Post Graduate study and failed miserably (at the time I was living with an unstable person so that helped in my failure).

I want to be normal but I am afraid I am cursed with this perfectionist tendencies. How can I ever learn to accept my normalness?


me too! - pooja - Aug 16th 2010

the article was very nice indeed.and readin d cooments i can only say me too!!

there were so many things i could relate to.procrastinating,never starting and finishing things on time,never like them once they are finished,demeaning myself and my work in absence of positive feedback,fear of failing,thinking its too late to get what i want,not liking it once i have it,most of the times not even knowing what i want,not believing in my own intuitions and inner voice,and basically of not being good enough [though i have realized its more like not being good enough for 'myself'.i have turned the critic's voice inwards where now it just does not shut up!]

procrastination,anxiety,depression,social phobia...they all go hand in hand in more cases than one and exist like a big loop which in my case just makes me move in circles at the end of the day.

reading that psychotherapy helped a lot many of the people who shared their experience i am hoping it helps me too.being a psychology student i was never unsure of its benefits however i guess i must have been in some sort of denial [and what else procrastinating !]to believe that since it all comes down to me only i can help did no doubt.but it does reach a point where u run out of ideas and fresh ways to counter your self defeating behavior.sometimes u don even realize how wrong u beliefs are and how much are they holding u back

lets see where this goes.but struggling with it is a better option than thinking am doomed.however am not so positive and optimist all the time!there are days i just get by.and today is such one day



Perfectionism - R.S. - Jul 28th 2010

My perfectionism/OCD is similar yet different from the others.  I can't stand misspelling or abbreviations.  I have a bad habit of keeping useless junk such as empty matchboxes, Tic-Tac boxes, dental floss containers, etc.  I have extreme stress when someone walks into my room or uses something of mine, such as my iPod or computer, especially if I'm not there.  If I start listening to a song, I MUST finish it, even if I don't like the song.  I can't cut my fingernails for some reason, and I always find bumps to pick at or squeeze.  I constantly crack my knuckles (have been for over 5 years).  If I make a mistake I often have to start completely over.  My room is surprisingly usually a mess, but I know where literally everything is.  I don't like other people to do something that I can do because I think they won't do it as well as me or meet my "standards".  However, I can always find faults in what I do that other people would never notice.  I have low self-esteem because of all of this.  Please let me know if you have something similar to me.

Another teen perfectionist! - Laura - Jul 16th 2010

im the same. i cant stand people doing my work, i have to do it myself beacause i feel it wont be good enough.

even if i have written half a page of writing if i do a tiny mistake ill rip the page out and start again.

if something i do isnt right i put my self down until its done properly, like if i cant do something in sport i feel really low until i have something else to worry about.

i also have an obsession with picking stuff if you know what i meen. i pick at  sticky marks from lables on things until they look better and i know this sounds gross but  pick other peoples scabs beacuse they dont look nice- it annoys my bro cos hes always got one somewhere.

thats about it but its good to get it off my chest :)

Teenage Perfectionist - Sylvia - Jun 13th 2010

I'm only a teen but I think I'm a perfectionist. I didn't even realize it, i thought it was normal until my friends started pointing it out. It takes me a long time to get ready for school because of my hair and make up. All I wear is mascara and liquid eyeliner and it probably takes me 20 minutes for each eye. I notice little things about myself. I also noticed that I hate having someone do my work(like on a project) I'd rather do all of the work myself. I feel like they'll do a crappy job and not do it how I'll like it. I don't like giving someone else a responsibility to do for myself, sounds harsh but I feel as if they're dumb and won't get it done right. Even in class for writing a report and drawing a chart, I'll go through lots of papers to get it drawn right. I like this though, I'm glad I have it. I'd rather look how I look and spending a long time on myself than to do it faster and not look as good.

This is me! - Valerie - Jun 5th 2010

When I read this, I couldn't believe it. I'm a PhD candidate who has finished all my coursework and exams but am struggling to finish my dissertation because I'm trying so hard to get it "right." I'll go weeks without working on it because it's so overwhelming to have figure out the "right" interpretation of my data. I struggle with anxiety (panic attacks) and depression but never thought it could be related to my perfectionism. Reading the article and comments really makes me re-evaluate what I'm doing. 

Thank you!

Help :) - Roxanne - May 20th 2010

I think I'm a perfectionist, but maybe I'm imagining it, so I thought of posting a comment to see what people I have never met think about it...

I hate having to decide a title, because I want the words and the meaning to be perfect. I hate misspelling words, and writing words in abbreviations, even in text messages I send. I write slowly and deliberately, so that my handwriting is clear and neat. My desk is always organized, I know exactly where everything is, and I rarely lose things. I make my bed every morning when I get up, and plan my day before hand, to know when I'll be doing what (I'm a student).

It all sounds so boring as I'm writing it. And there's more. I was always a straight A student as a child. I always delivered. I was the "perfect" child, grandchild. I studied piano, learnt 4 languages. I did Chemistry and Biology A'Levels and did not get into medical school for a few marks. I decided on Law instead, and hated it for the first two years and a half. (It's six years in all in Malta, and I finally decided I want to take it seriously). I always felt loved for what I give, do, achieve, and only recently am I learning to love myself for WHO I AM.

All my relationships have failed, with a lot of pain on both sides. My dad just got a dog (which I don't like) and which he doesn't train. I hate how he doesn't discipline the dog. I hate how my parents leave my sister and myself so free ... my dad's idea of raising the dog is to leave him free, too. How can you? (Does this make me a control freak?)

I struggle with food, too. Have for almost ten years now. I'm not especially thin, but I find an empty stomach a very comforting medication to struggling with the way my life is at home: my mother works abroad, and is away a lot of the time. My younger sister and my dad are both very lost without her.

Then I think maybe the problem is not what happens outside me: it's what's inside. Could it be perfectionism? I don't procrastrinate. I work, I'm studying hard, for the first time since I entered the law course. I help my dad with the dog, but I can't seem to do it with love. 

What's wrong with me?

Wow - Theresa - Apr 9th 2010

This article and all of the comments really opened my eyes. I am a perfectionist, a procrastinator, anxious, unhappy, and extremely stressed out.

I feel that I will lose my job at any moment while my bosses say only nice things about my work. I work nearly 60 hours a week but get paid for 40 - my choice. I worry constantly. I clearly need help. I was once able to somewhat control my perfectionistic ways but with this new job I have fallen off the wagon and cannot get back on - I have tried for 5 months. I give up - I cleary cannot help myself and must seek treatment. I realize that someone who needs a counselor clearly is not perfect but I would rather be happy and imperfect than unhappy and perfect.

Thanks I now believe that I am on a road to recovery - now where is that wagon?

(Yes, lots of grammer and spelling errors.)

Get Professional Help - - Apr 7th 2010

Get help.  Get help.  Get help.

I have had OCD that sounds a lot like the people who have commented below.

I have had it for 45 years!

I got professional therapy and I take meds for it now

and even now I have enough to make life difficult sometimes.

Don't let this stuff ruin your life.

Get help,,, It is a real disease  ! ! ! ! ! 

describes a lot of what I struggle with on a daily basis - ad - Apr 3rd 2010

This article describes a lot of what I struggle with on a daily basis.  While I logically know that no one is perfect and tell myself that it is ok to make a mistake, I fear failure and not living up to others expectations so much that every little mistake is a huge thing.

I can relate to the procrastinating as well, and although I am a very good student and get very good grades, it is so difficult for me to start assignments and papers because I know they are going to take me forever and I think they are too difficult because my expectations for myself are incredibly high. I also don't gain confidence from doing well, it only raises the expectations I have for myself.  Tests are also bad because I always seem to second guess my answers and spend too much time on the questions. I am almost always one of the last, if not the last, student to hand in their test.

I am also hard on myself in regards to my appearance.  Sometimes I look in the mirror and actually cry because I hate how I look.  Even though I run frequently, I am also paranoid about being overweight.  These negative thoughts just make me feel even worse about myself so then all I want to do is sit around and eat more.  In reality, I'm not really fat (though I would like to lose a little weight) or super ugly, but I don't think I'm pretty. I'm also very self-conscious and feel like a freak because I am 21 and have never had a boyfriend or anything.  I try not to let it bother me, but I always end up questioning if there is something wrong with me.  I think my standards may be too high in this area as well though and when I think someone may be interested in me I just become awkard and anxious around the person and avoid them.

I'm taking medication again that I was using last year for some time.  I think that it helps, but it obviously doesn't make everything instantly better.  Mostly I think it just helps with my energy level and motivation, which then allows me to try to make necessary changes in my life to start getting things done and making me feel better. I'm also seeing a counselor at the moment and talking about some of my issues.  I also think it's helping, but I still feel like no matter how hard I try to change my thoughts and actions, the voice inside my head that's telling me I'm not good enough, that I'm worthless, lazy, fat, ugly, too shy, going to fail, etc. still will not leave.  It's very discouraging at times.

I apologize for my ramblings.

My perfectionist behaviour. - Lina - Mar 18th 2010

I have always been told by people that I am a perfectionist, and I have always said I am a perfectionist, but this is the first time I've read about what it actually means, and oh dear, the description is spot on!

Already now I've read through the above sentence 5 times to look for flaws. I read it out loud in my head several times to make sure it's right, it's taking me quite some time.

I study Physics with Astrophysics at university, and I procrastinate far more than any of my coursemates. And when I do get to work, it takes me far more time to finish. Even simple things, like weekly worksheets, have to be perfect and neat. Whenever I accidentally write the wrong number, or miss out a step in a derivation, I can never just scribble it out and correct it on the side, I have to start over on a completely new sheet of paper.

Being a perfectionist has often in the past hindered me from trying out new things. Even silly little things like going bowling or playing a new card game with friends make me anxious, because I want to be really good at it from the start. I have often refused to try something because of the fear of failing. It’s only recently that I’ve started to think differently about this, since I’ve come to realise it’s keeping me from living life!

I always obsess over things I’ve done. Assignments I’ve handed in, exams I’ve written. I can never stop analysing them over and over again. Even in everyday life, like meeting someone I barely know on the street, I have to analyse the situation in my head to try to picture the persons impression of me, and if I’ve said something awkward, got an expression wrong, waved goodbye in an awkward way, I feel worthless.

Another thing I frequently tend to do is underestimate myself. I always beforehand doubt I can do certain things, and like the article said, I sometimes feel like a fraud who has fooled people into believing I’m clever. This seems to make me extremely modest at times. I tell people I’m bad at things, to lower their expectations in case I fail, because I am always expecting myself to fail. However, most of the time, I perform the task really well in their opinion, but rarely well enough in my own.

One thing I disagree with in the article is the part about never feeling proud or being satisfied. I think that must be a rare extreme case. I would call myself relatively extreme, thinking back on my behaviour, but luckily I can still feel proud and satisfied with some work on the odd occasion.

In addition to being a full time student I have also been doing some modelling. The fashion industry is a world where you really don’t want to be a perfectionist. The tough requirements of measurements, height, skin, looks, talent and grooming make it hard to be good enough in the first place, and the inhumane rejections can really take it’s toll on a perfectionist already struggling with their self esteem.

Finally, this whole comment I’ve just posted makes me anxious. I moved to the UK from Sweden a few months ago to go to university, and it has been a difficult few months. Being a perfectionist, life as a foreigner is exceptionally frustrating. Having to speak English every day is a constant reminder of just how imperfect I am. And it’s not only the language; it’s the culture. The way I interact with people is different and I can never seem to get it right. The general knowledge I have about Sweden is useless here, I don’t know any famous people, I have no clue how England did in the Olympic Games 2004, and I have nothing to contribute to discussions about politics or history. A healthy attitude would be to focus on how much I actually do know considering I’m from a completely different country, and how good English I actually can speak. Still, the perfectionist in me obsesses about the paragraphs I just wrote, all the flaws I’ve put on display for people to see and judge.

tell me about it! - un-perfecting my prose - Feb 7th 2010

to "no internet (internal?) control"--

I can totally relate. I spend so much time planning things or choosing the "best" option that I never get around to doing the thing! I also squander a lot of time procrastinating.

Also like you, I often worry about my appearance and about how others perceive me in general. But in that matter, it's not that I want to be perfect, per se--I just want people to like me.

In case you didn't read my earlier posts, I, too, have OCD.

The only real way you can tone down the OCD is through counselling--specifically, exposure and response prevention therapy (

Best of luck,








Not all perfectionists are extreme! - - Feb 6th 2010

I disagree with your statement, "The perfectionist never feels pride or satisfaction in a job well done because they never believe their job was done 'well enough.'" I just wanted to let people know that a lot of articles I have read about perfectionists are pretty judgemental, and certainly do not apply to everybody! I am 14 and I have always been a perfectionist, but I have found that being more aware of my behaviors has made me a happier person. After taking a look at how I was acting (being obsessive over a missed question on a test, being overly critical without realizing it, etc.) I have now learned to take myself more lightly and become more of a "healthy" perfectionist. It's not true that every perfectionist is obsessive about everything. For example, when I recently got a test back on which I had gotten 86/72 (+20 extra credit, -6 questions wrong) I was able to not obsess over the 6 things I missed, and still felt successful for the questions I had gotten right. Before becoming more conscious of my inner critic, I would not have been able to do this. So to every perfectionist out there struggling with not being so extreme, take heart! I have found that the best thing is to stop and take a look at your perfectionist behaviors (a great way is to read articles and books about this personality type). It has really helped me and I am just a teenager! Good luck! :)

Sort of disordered - J Anonymus - Feb 6th 2010

I never knew I was a perfectionist until lately... now I remember times when I was a younger and I closed a box and went to sleep and I couldnt went to sleep I had to look if I closed the box many times over and over, I knew I closed it but... it was like I was unsure...

Now I am grown up and I can see a bit of my own illness.. more clearly. Things that happened as they happened. I am not too much into this mental state... but I make my life unhappy with wanting all to be perfect. What helps me alot is not to concentrate on things being perfect, and just let go of it. If I can find something else to concentrate on I get better. I can enjoy most things normal, but some I get the feeling of wanting to make them perfect. I want to control other people to make things perfect, if they dont I get unsatisfied a lot. I also read dates and times often over and over to make sure I got it right. I wondered... whats wrong with me.. now I got it. But its not always so with me. A big help: Trying to be perfect: try to not look at the date or time more than a time. Just let it go. Well I try it, I am not saying it works, but it helps.

No internet control. - - Jan 30th 2010

I am a perfectionist through and through.  I have been diagnosed with a nice case of OCD to be clear.

Everything I want to do is hindered by questions and contrasting between the result and means to get there.  The work needed is sometimes apparent, while seeing the end is desirable, the path to get there isn't, so I figure out the shortest way.  I usually spend so much time doing this I never start on the path, or if I do start, I quit shortly after.

I love writing, but never finish anything.  I can do one chapter, but I become so possessed by it, I can edit and print it 10 times before it's even near where I want it.  Then, when I do get it close, I move on.  But once I start a new chapter, I lost interest because I figure I get to do it all over again, and another 20 chapters, before I even finish the book.

It even makes doing things like playing videogames a chore.  I get a short time into it and find all the flaws and instantly become bored with it because all I can see are the flaws. 

Movies too.  If I see one thing wrong in the film, it's all over.  Ill see it every single time after.  If I see a movie in the theater, I have to count the exact middle of the fourth row.  No reason why the fourth, but it has to be 4.  *Thats OCD, not perfectionism, but an example of what I mean be OCD*

My work requires alot of driving and destination changes all the time.  If it changes, I will write the address, then check it multiple times before leaving to make sure I got it right.  Even if I know for a fact its right, I have to check it again and again to ease my mind.  If I have to be there at 7:45, I get there at 7 because I get great anxiety with the thought of being late.

I want to lost weight and look fit.  Maybe even a 6 pack.   The result and work needed to get there go back and forth in my mind and result in my doing nothing.  I figure it's going to take hours and hours and hours to get even a small change.  I can do something more productive in the meantime.  Which I never do.  It's a vicious cycle.


I have obvious fears relating to perfectionism.  They are the people who will read my story.  Watch my screenplay in action.  Hear my songs.  Criticize my drafts.  Disagree with my thoughts.  The person walking down the street who has a single thought about how I look, what Im wearing or driving.  The idea that if I see a flaw in what I do, everyone else sees it, and I can never be perfect in what I do.  Being outdone.  Being a copycat in what I write.  These things are among a few gazillion other thoughts, but these came up first.


So how do I move beyond this thought process, or coordinate it with actual projects to make them better?    The bad thing is I know I am the one stopping progress, hindering my movements, being my own enemy.  But it only makes it worse to realize it. 

I've been seeing a counselor, he basically said recently I'm not a content person.  On the surface it's true, but the root issue is bigger and includes being content.  

How do I change my OCD/Perfectionist views?

Perfection vs enjoying life - Lexi - Jan 11th 2010

Been thinking about trying to solve this perfectionism problem for some while and it just dawned on me that I'm so daunted by it because I'm trying to find the PERFECT solution - typical!

I'm just going to have a go at throwing myself into persuing excellence but not being obsessed by it- 80% is good enough!

I think the hard thing for me is to try not to impose my standards on my family. I think I'm so far really good at that with my son Leo but my poor husband is pulled back by me a lot. This is what I'm going to really struggle at!

Perfection vx enjoying life - Lexi - Jan 11th 2010

I am definately a perfectionist and drive my husband mad with never being happy with my purchases, finding fault in everything and being a terrible procrastinator. I am constantly on a quest to try and understand the way I am, is this something I was born with or a result of my childhood? My mother expects nothing but perfection and I was bullied by my Grandfather and children at school. Whether this matters or not I don't know but I suspect I probably try to look at the problem to identify something to blame it on when all I should really be concerned with is trying to manage my perfectionism and be happy with 'good enough'. 

I always expect perfection in everything that I do - including if I can't so something why do it at all. I won't clean my house unless I can spend 2 days doing it and then every surface is spotless and I struggle to keep on top of it. I also know that I strive for perfection in the search of acceptance from others, probably as a result of my childhood.

I don't look after myself because I have no pride in myself I project my pride onto material things and my parenting skills. 

Actually, I have 2 reasons for wanting to manage my perfection:

1) I really want to be content with my life and want to feel less anxiety and stress about decisions

2) I want my children to be happy and content with who they are and how they do things and I know that a happy Mum = a happy child. I don't want them to be pulled back by perfectionism

The only thing I'm not sure of at the moment is how to do it but I'm determined to find a way out of this horrible hole.

I agree, social anxiety and perfectionism are very connected - Phil - Dec 15th 2009

I really agree! Social Anxiety and Perfectionism are very connected to each other, here is another article about it:

in response to JR - un-perfecting my prose - Dec 4th 2009


Thank you for the thoughts (and the compliment!).

I know that I am a good writer; throughout high school my teachers frequently complimented me for it in my grade reports. This was at a time when my perfectionism was somewhat of an asset to my writing.

But in the latter years of high school, following a period of great family turmoil (which would lead to my parents' divorce) and a year of depression, the compulsive tendencies I had had since childhood became increasingly problematic. I went from being a thoughtful (if sometimes obsessive) writer to a writer who spends an enormous amount of time laboring in front of the computer until the words  are "just right"--to the great expense of my grades and my personal well-being.

It's not that I am afraid my writing will be "bad" in the absolute sense; it's that it's hard for me to consider writing that doesn't meet my exacting standards as anything but "bad" and "a failure." I want to stress, though, that this is very internalized; the crazy editing and rearranging is automatic. When I change around the wording in a sentence, I'm not actually thinking "this is terrible and needs to be changed"--in the moment, it feels as if I am writing as any other normal person would. I'm simply changing a word or phrase so that I can get my idea across. But if I stop and evaluate how much time I am spending on a single sentence, for instance, it's painfully obvious how abnormal my writing habits are.

In talking to my therapist, I often refer to my "OCD goggles." It's like "beer goggles." When I've got the OCD goggles on, I can't see that I'm being ridiculous. And even when I do have an inkling that I am using maladaptive strategies, in the moment, the pull of wanting the sentence to sound "just right" is strong enough that I don't make much of an effort to change how I'm writing. And even when I am trying to pursue new strategies, it is very easy for me to slip back into the compulsive editing and rewriting without noticing.

And thus, I am constantly trading in my long-term happiness for the short-term comfort of bending backwards to live up to my own horrible standards.

I know everything that I'm doing wrong: the black-and-white thinking, the procrastinating, the lack of drive to force myself through the ERP, the attempts to avoid the bad feelings and loneliness.

I know what I need to change--but I am having so much trouble doing it. It's so hard for me to "just get myself to write faster." I often say to myself, "O.K., you need to write at a faster pace this time. You simply have too many other things to do to be able to indulge in the luxury of spending as much time as you want on this paper."

Invariably, I find myself thinking, "but how?"


(For reference, I spent maybe 50 minutes writing this. It felt more like 20 or 25 minutes to me, but of course the clock doesn't lie).


"Un-perfecting my prose". - JR - Dec 3rd 2009

A few thoughts for the young person who wrote on this subject.

First, speaking as somebody who writes a bit - and who is prone, but hugely, to perfectionist's writer's block - may I compliment you on your writing, as represented in your posts.  As far as I am concerned, you write well.

Secondly, I think that Dr Dombeck has offered some good tips.  Well worth while trying them.

Third, it is necessary to face down the terror of the blank page, or screen.  What follows is offered with particular reference to academic writing - although I think it has general application, with adaptations.

Structure your "thesis" in your head.  What do you have to say?  What do you want to say?  How do you want to structure your argument?  What evidential material is required, and how do you want to include it?  Write out brief notes to help you in this process.

After that - write!  Try not to worry about whether what you are producing is a perfect expression of your intention.  Get a text laid down in accordance with the general plan you have made.  Keep the material orderly, logical and as clear as possible in presentation.  Avoid the "echo and the divided self" school of flowery prose (difficult, in my case) and keep paragraphs at reasonable length and internally consistent within the argument. 

Then - revise, more than once if necessary to polish up your first draft to your satisfaction.  A bit of "perfecting" is no harm at all here - and the fact that you have a text to work on will make the process a lot easier, less intimidating, even enjoyable.  It will help if you have the facility of composing "on screen" - it makes the revision so much easier - but it is no insurmountable barrier if your first draft must be in longhand. 

Remember, the result never really will be perfect.  Perfection is reserved to the Gods.  That having been said, from what I have seen of your style, there is no reason to believe that it will not be good.  And remember - even if it seems counter-intuitive to people like us, "the best really is the enemy of the good".  Good is, well, good!

I have some understanding of the OCD/perfectionism difficulty.  It features quite a bit in my family.  It is a real problem, but you can face it down with a little method and, perhaps, some professional help if you really feel the need.

Please accept my best wishes and regards,


re: note from Dr. Dombeck - un-perfecting my prose - Dec 3rd 2009

I think that it's a bit of everything. I am definitely afraid of disapointing my professors. Although, it's not REALLY my professors I'm scared of letting down--but my parents.  

As far back as I can remember, I worked tremendously hard in school because I wanted my parents to love me. It's not that my parents weren't perfectly loving to begin with. But for some reason I just felt that I needed to give them a reason to love me.

From an early age, being the academically and artistically successful kid in my family was very much tied up with my sense of identity. It was what set me apart from my two brothers--what made me feel special.

Because my teachers' opinions of me were closely connected to the grades I'd get (and, in my head, how much my parents would love me), I think I transferred the anxiety of not being loved by my parents onto my teachers.

Having OCD, I also am very conscious of the aesthetic or euphonic quality of things. I like things to be "just right," and often find myself bothered by the placement of things or the way I touch something (although I ignore it for my own sake, because if I didn't, the fleeting, mild discomfort would get way worse).

I also just have very high standards. A teacher may like a paper of mine and give it a good grade, but if their positive judgment doesn't jibe with my own judgment of the work, I usually write them off as being a lax grader or something similar. But it's not just the grades. I worry about what the professor will think of me if I turn in a substandard paper.

So there are a lot of things going on at once.  Wanting to feel loved; wanting my parents to think I am a success; wanting to feel good about myself; wanting to please my professors and have them like me as a person; wanting to meet my own standards; wanting--needing--things to sound "just right" (read: perfect), and so on.

The one person I'm not afraid of letting down is my boyfriend, who is accepting of me in a way that no one else is, or has been.

As for possible strategies: I have indeed tried using a timer--many, many times. But I can never manage to enforce the rules on myself. Things go better when my therapist is present, but I can never recreate that on my own. I think that having my therapist present makes me feel a little safer, and the act of writing feels more like an exercise I happen to be doing with my therapist--and not a paper that will be turned in, read, and graded.




ERP -- any ideas? - un-perfecting my prose - Nov 29th 2009

Hi Dr.,

I wondered if you had any suggestions for ERP-type exercises I could do to help me reign in my perfectionism when I am writing.

I have been diagnosed with OCD and really struggle to write prose--especially when I expect that someone else will be reading my writing.

I spend an inordinate amount of time choosing just the right words and deliberating over how to convey my thoughts in the clearest, most elegant way possible.

A big stumbling block in my struggle to overcome the OCD (as it manifests itself in my writing habits) has been that I (with my therapist's guidance) have not really been able to design an effective ERP exercise for my writing.

Writing a paper already involves a good deal of concentration and thinking--so trying to change the way I'm doing the writing on top of all that is really hard! Especially so because writing a paper (a paragraph, a sentence, etc.) is a process that takes place over a period of time. When I start engaging in OCD writing behavior (i.e. all the time), I often get very sucked into it and don't even realize how much time I've spent getting the wording "just right." I find myself unable to produce rough drafts because I just can't move on from a sentence until it feels right.

A typical exposure exercise for someone with a fear of germs would be touching a toilet seat in a public bathroom. That is something that is very discrete and "black-and-white." Either you touched the toilet seat or you didn't. Carrying out the exposure successfully is as easy as placing your hand on the toilet seat (not that resisting the mental barriers is easy, though).

Do you have any ideas for exercises that I'd be able to follow through on and that could help me accept my prose in its rough, "unfinished" form? Something where I have a couple of clear, easy-to-follow rules that I can fall back on?

Thanks for your help.

Dr. Dombeck's Note: I don't know how useful what I have to say might be, but I'll say it anyway and you can sort it out.  My first thought is that you need to become very clear on what or who it is that you are fearful of.  Is it the writing not being just so, or is it the person who will be reading the writing who might decide to withold approval?  Sometimes the person we are afraid of disappointing is internalized and doesn't really map onto anyone real.  Need to get clear on this because if ERP (exposure with response prevention) is to work, you need to expose yourself to thing you fear so that you feel the fear.  If the fear is to not mean an internalized standard, that is a different thing than if there is a literal editor you can talk with.  

If you find that you get stuck writing things in rough draft format, why not trying doing that draft in some alternative manner, for instance in the form of recording yourself talking out loud, or in the form of a conversation you might have where you describe to someone what it is that you need to do.  You might look into mindmap software to help you get organized without the need to polish each word.  This would not be ERP, but rather an end-run around the problem.  If it worked to get you moving, it could be helpful never the less. 

You might look into timing yourself as you write (such as using a chess timer).  For some people, this sort of thing would be further disorganizing, but for others, it helps them keep their focus better becuase they know they have a limited amount of time in which to work.  If you don't get finished with the paragraph (or the notes for the paragraph), you move on to the next one anyway (resetting the timer for that paragraph), and at the end of the process, you can go back to the top and start it over, refining as you go.  

The above is offered in the spirit of thinking that maybe the perfectionism is something to be worked with or fit into a channel rather than something to beat down or take apart.  There's nothing wrong with high standards - only when they get in your way are they problematic. 

Perfectionist Partner - Ben heer - Nov 24th 2009

I have been with my partner for just over a year but am finding that our relationship is deteriating due to her perfectionist attitude. She is Italian and cleans everything that she can. eg washes the vacum cleaner and even steam cleans everything she can. She also irons everything eg underpants,tea towels,sheets etc. I dont mind it so much as i try and accept her for the way she is. Its the way she treats me and other people which is what is causing the rift between us. She critises everything that i do and states that its not up to her standard. i try to help her but she is always saying she will do it herself. But on the occasion she does let me do something she will then critise me on how i do it and will take it off me and do it herself(i find this rude,frustrating and I am now starting to resent her as she wont listen) She exhausts herself so much that she cant sleep (only sleeping 2-3 hours per nite) but will not try and change her behaviour. She is constantly barking at me for no reason  and then gets sensitive if i tell her the truth..............I just cant see a solution that will help us grow as a couple....can some one help

No Gauge for my perfection - Tamara - Nov 5th 2009

I know Im a perfectionist but have been able to control the procratination, fears, ect with seeing results in my work (tiling).  Once I get over the initial go to it problem I can rationalize be seeing the results. And I dont take huge square footage jobs.

The Problem: Taking up horseback riding... dealing with no specific results, doing good some days and not so good others is breaking me.  The thought of it is wonderful,  the actual is so stressful I have to be having a really positive day to get out there and I find Im not enjoying the time as much as I should be.  I look for reasurrance from coaches and freinds but I dont believe cause I cant see...any help ??

HELP !! I CANT BUY ANYTHING - Bart - Oct 15th 2009

Hi. I have a weird problem. I have a hard time making purchases. It takes me hours to buy a can of soup at the store. At first i thought it was OCD because i would constantly change my mind what to buy. But now i suddenly realize the cause, i want the soup to be perfect. Recently I bought a mouse for my computer, I went crazy because the scroll bar made a funny noise when i touched it. I returned the first mouse, then bought another, then another.... it never ends. I have like 5 perfectly "good" computer mouses, but they are not good for me. I find problems with everything, and i obssess over them.One mouse is not perfectly level, the other has a broken scroll button... They are not broken, but to me they are broken because i find imperfections...

I have a ton of things that I am about to return to the store, such as clothes that I bought. Whenever I buy things I find problems with them.For example, it took me like three hours to find a soccer ball to buy. I wanted the most perfect soccer ball imaginable , given the store, price. etc. The best deal, the "perfect deal".  Recently I bought a computer, it was pure hell. I couldnt sleep for a whole week, going online and looking at the best deals. Trying to find the best deal is anxiety for me, because I am constantly worrying there is a better deal out there. I dont do OCD rituals, i think I am just obsessive. Like i use to wash my hands because i thought it was unholy to masturbate. So i dont really have any rituals persay, just a fear of contamination and this obsessive perfectionism. I want everything to be perfect when i buy things.

I hate buying new clothes because each new clothes I find new problems. HELP!!! I feel handicapped. I am embarrassed when i meet new people because my clothes are so worn out and my shoes are worn out. But if i buy new clothes, i find problems with them, and i hate them.

It can be a tiny problem, but i obsess over the problem and catastrophize it.

HELP ME PLZ - pie lover a with a weirdo show off PERFECTIONEST SISTER - Sep 27th 2009

does anybody know how to stop my sister from being a prfectionest?? i seriously need help!! she is so annoying and i tell her to stop all the time and she just goes about with her life and ignores me! helllllp!

Frighttened Perfectionist - Allan N. Schwarrtz, PhD - Sep 18th 2009

Hello Tameka and all perfectionists,

You report that you are afraid to ask for help. I am not surprised because perfectionists are people who tend to want to do it alone. To ask for help is to be less than perfect, in their thinking. Of course, that thinking is a mistake. First, none of us are able to be perfect. It is simply impossible and, so, that puts the perfectionist on the road to unhappiness. Second, everyone needs help. We are human beings and we depend upon and need one another.

You should ask for help. Now, the kinds of help you could ask for depends a lot on the direction you want to go in. If you want to be less of a perfectionist and learn how to do the best you can and accept that, then, you psychotherapy would be a good idea.

If you could learn to accept doing the best you can do, then, you must make up your mind to give less to work because you do not have to be perfect, and more to your children and to yourself in terms of amounts of time. In other words, make more time for them and you under the idea that you can accept less than perfection at work and want to give more at home.

There is nothing invevitable about these things. You really can decide that you will be less than perfect (which you already are) and not try so hard at work.

I hope this makes sense to you. If you really cannot can change this on your own, then, therapy is the way to go.

Dr. Schwartz

Perfectionist & Frightened - Tamika - Sep 18th 2009

I am a severe perfectionist and suffering depression im a work-o-holic with 2 children under the age of 2 i work full-time, my whole focus is on work and my children i weigh 44 kilos and my health is suffering enormously where should i start to get help, im afraid to ask for help and find it hard i generally am the tough one and just keep going never asking for help in any aspect of my life, i struggle through as im sure many more do out there, i worry constantly that something will happen to my children (there are a lot o sicko's out there), i have enormous feelings of guilt especially for working when i should be at home with my babies, but i feel like i owe my boss as he gave me a job when i was six months pregnant, i do above and beyond all that is expected of me but no one ever seems happy, doesnt matter how much i do for them, i work tirelessly trying to keep everyone else happy but as im learning that doesnt happen and i end up more depressed, i often feel suicidal but then feelings of guilt kick in and i remember my babies need me, i get by but i need help can you suggest where i start, i have in the past been to GP's but i let my health slide for i can always find a reason why there is no time for ME i always thought i had exceptional time management skills but im wearing myself out, im worried i will even be early to my own funeral the rate im going, im never late i will even get out of bed 2 hours earlier than needed to ensure im not late.

Anti-complacent - Jimmy - Sep 9th 2009

Dr. Schwartz,

I have been a perfectionist for a very long time and severe anxiety does run in my family. Over the years, especially since graduating from university, I have continually 'raised the bar' regarding my performance and knowledge. This made me a successful engineer and technical manager. When I was made a regional manager a few years ago, I began to spend less time designing systems and managing engineers and more time interacting with clients and subcontractors. I soon realized that it was very important that I become an effective communicator; I probably was an 'effective' communicator - a better communicator than most of my peers, but being effective was simply not enough for me, I wanted, I needed, to be an excellent communicator - a flawless communicator.

I now audit everything I say to everyone;  every phrase, every word, every pause. I write down or memorize every suspect (somewhat less than perfect) statement, so that I am able analyse each of them at a later time (after the relevant interaction).

For the first time in my life, I have been unable to achieve something that is important to me. Is my goal realistic? Is my goal even possible? Probably not - but I cannot seem to prevent myself from feeling terrible (very anxious) about every error. I did see someone for a few months - unfortunately, CBT did not help me.

Perfectionist - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Aug 24th 2009


I did not check your spelling, but, I am not a perfectionist. Oh, well.

You went too far the "other way," attempting to give up perfectionism. I would suggest that you do the best you can! There is a difference. The perfectionist is someone who, even after trying to be perfect, is left with the nagging feeling that things are still wrong. There is never any way the perfectionist will ever feel satisfied. It is an obsession.

Here is what you need to do: When you do something and you start to worry that it is not perfect or will not be perfect, do something different and fun. Read that again: Do something different and fun. Stop thinking about it by doing something fun.

This will take a long time but, it will work. If it does not, see a clinical psychologist.

Dr. Schwartz

tried it the other way - Diana. - Aug 24th 2009

Well, I tried it the other way...I let things slide so that I would stop driving my family crazy.What I now realize is...they are all happy and I am not! I suffered a skin condition due to my perfectionist attitude tot didnt start till my family convinced me to try it their way. I went to a dermatologist who confirmed this and his words have been sticking in my ear ever since...I told him that I had changed my behavior and I was being more lenient as I was really gettingunder my family's skin...he waht if you are a perfectionist in some areas...."why do YOU have to change to suit those around you and they dont have to counter offer?" After many years of "doing it their way" I am now reverting to my old habits....because quite some ares of my life I will be a much happier person. If it drives my family nuts sobeit....its their turn again!

PS were the spelling mistakes in this article deliberate? Just curious :D

Looking for answers - Embly - Aug 15th 2009

I feel misinterpreted in relationships and want to know if this is a symtom of perfectionism.  I like the way my mind works, I value my attention to the smallest detail.  But my interaction with people seems to be called into question alot.  I find it difficult to remember the niceties; hi, how are you, etc. Help! Am I a difficult person?  I have been accused...

Great article - Sam - Aug 7th 2009

Perfectionism and happiness indeed do not go together.  I was a huge perfectionist most of my life--and often very anxious and miserable.  The more I've learned to just get by on "good enough," the happier I've become. 

Perfection stops my life - - Aug 4th 2009

It has only recently come to light that my standards and values, especially at work, are extremely high. Although this should not be a problem, at work we have recently recruited several new members of staff and I was appointed their mentor. However, my anxiety levels were soaring as although they were appearing to be getting along with the job, they did not fulfill the standards I was setting. I realised that neither was I. I then set about setting myself higher goals and looking back unachievable goals. My work was an excellent level but I strived for perfection, I always have done, in anything I do. Not just in work. I love all things artistic, drawing, painting, needlework but because I do not have the time to perfect every drawing etc, I do not start anything.

At work, I have been given another task of rewriting and updating all the protocols and until I lose the perfection status I carry with me, I fear procrastination will remain also. My head though is crammed with fantastic, excellent and dare I say it perfect ideas...

I think I have an answer for us perfectionists - Kate1971 - Jul 13th 2009


My title is a little presumptuous because really, I can only speak for myself. In otherwords, I'm commenting from personal experience. I've never told another person about this.

First, let me give you a little backround on me. I love a mental challenge. I play with rubix cubes, and higher level ones, love sodoku, love brain quizzes ect. Also, I work as a temp for property management companies, and love difficult situations (solving them).

I love it when people compliment me on my job, or intelligence. If I'm not careful, I thrive on it.  It's like I'm on cloud nine.

But here's the problem, when someone I respect or someone in authority critisizes me, or intimates I said something wrong, I start to feel extremely guilty replaying the conversation over and over in my mind."why did I have to say that?' "He looked at me weird" ect ect.  Ironically people say I have a great personality, or that I'm funny, charming ect.  But if I'm not perfect, I get this great anxiety, especially if the person I dissapointed is a great person.

Here's how I get over it, I'm beginning to realize I'm a perfectionist because I think people only love me for my intellectual or social acheivements. But then I begin to realize there is One who loves me unconditionallly, who cares about me. He doesn't care is I make a social faux-pau, or that someone was not 100% happy with my job.

He loves me and only wants more of my time, He wants my goodness to come from Him, and not what I do. Everything is okay, because my life is in His Hands.

So that's what I do, I just focus on how much Jesus loves me, and I feel better. But it's a journey, eventually I hope to not put so much care on what people think, but rather what God thinks. Isn't He the one that has the keys to heaven and hell anyway? Isn't He perfect?

Yet, he loves imperfect me, and wants to guide me. I hope to have a lot more of these situations so I can practice doing this, and be completely free. I think we can only be truly free when we confront our fears instead of running them. " For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but rather a love, a power and a sound mind."

Perfectionist - Anonymous - Jul 9th 2009

Im a 19 year and I recently realized that I have a big problem and that is me being a perfectionist. I have a hard time at this new job I started and what we do there is make pumps for men. I have to trim and glue things together. Well the other day I was told that If I didnt speed it up I was going to get fired but my point is that I cant move fast. It has to be perfect and when I think its perfect I can move on. Every time I just say what the heck just move on they come and tell me you didnt do this good enough so that takes me back to having to be perfect. Like today a friend and I went to eat for lunch and It honestly took me 20 min to decide because inside I was thinking what If this isnt what she wants, what if its not good enough for her. So many thoughts run through my head and I honestly need help. I dont even think this is perfect and what I wanted to really say and im disappointed. I need help please give me edvice on what I should do.

Proscrastination - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Jun 23rd 2009

Hi Jus,

Many years ago I saw a funny movie about a man who was such a procrastinator that, when he met a beautiful woman who wanted to make love to him, he did not have the energy to take his clothes off. The story ended with a quip about, "see, sometimes procrastination can serve moral purposes." (smile).

In reality, it is no joke and that is why I want to encourage you to seek professional help. I would recommend a Clinical Psychologist or Licensed Clinical Social Worker and start psychotherapy for this problem. 

Dr. Schwartz

I'm a chronic procrastinator and a perfectionist - Jus - Jun 23rd 2009

I even procrastinated about posting this comment. I can't get anything done anymore. I sit in front of my computer day in, day out trying to start projects but I know I never will because I can never achieve the perfection that I want. Its getting to be a very serious problem for me. It seems to be mainly work related - I can happily live in an untidy environment.I look at the work that I have done and I just see that its not good enough. I see the mistakes and lack of creativity. I get really depressed that I'm not achieveing anything. I feel that I'm letting my wife down. She works really hard as a teacher. Although she is very supportive I'm sure that there is only so much she can take of me.

I've started reading "Never Good Enough" by Monica Ramirez Basco. I would recomend it. At least now I know there are others out there like me. But I'm not sure if its really helping. I thinking of getting some professional help because I can't carry on like this.

social anxiety and perfectionism - adam - Mar 26th 2009

i've always been shy and anxious in social situations, but recently i've also started being aware of how much i feel the need to be perfect.  i avoid doing anything where i might make a mistake in public.  i try to think of what people expect, and then be that.  i get very stressed about picking out gifts for people because i always try to get the perfect thing, and will drive myself crazy trying to find it.  i think this goes along with social anxiety in a lot of ways where i'm just very self conscious and concerned what others think of me.  as a kid i hated sports where i would be the center of attention and might screw up and get made fun of.  i've gotten much better about all this since then, but still get nervous about every day things.  

a physical perfectionist (AKA I abuse myself) - i'm 12 - Feb 28th 2009

hi, I'm a physical perfectionist. Meaning, that when no one is looking I will abuse myself. Recently I've slapped myself and subtly starved myself. I need help. Any advice?

i'm fifteen - berlyn - Feb 20th 2009
and i'm a perfectionist. i am a freshman in high school and i find it very hard to cope with this mental disability. i have a psychologist, although she thinks i do not have OCD, that i am just a perfectionist. i am a huge procrastinator. and by the time i do pick up my homework or project for school, i can't do it. i feel like i have wasted too much time. i feel like i am not doing my best. i'll end up doing the project; have everyone around me asking me questions like, "how long did it take you to do that?" and "wow berlyn, your project looks great. i'm sure you'll get an A+". all i can do is say thanks, smile... and get my A. i strive for perfection. last quarter, i got a one F and two D's on my report card. i was devastated. i'm grounded for a month. i can't see my boyfriend of seven months. i'm going crazy. i'm depressed. i focus so much on my school work now, that my boyfriends feels as if i am losing interest in him. i'm going to get help, and try to overcome this mental fear. i'm a fifteen year old perfectionist... in need of some serious understanding.

Working on it - - Feb 5th 2009

I think perfectionism might have been learned from my mom always keeping the house perfectly spotless, making my bed after I went to school, and having things just so. I never realized the effect that her attitude on life had on me until recently.  Everything has to be clean and spotless in my bedroom in order for my anxiety to be relieved and to be able to function (get school work done, read, journal, etc).  Although the instant gratification of organizing and reorganizing can be fulfilling, when I think about the time it takes out of my day to be with people, to be having fun doing something, sleeping, exercising, reading, whatever, I get sick at myself.  

Not only do I hold a perfect standard for myself, but it overlaps into how I view other people.  In my mind, I know that people are not perfect and I should not expect them to be, but my my thoughts are just the opposite when it comes to judging people on their appearance, actions, and so forth.  I am trying to catch myself when I have these moments of perfectionism thoughts and remind myself that imperfection is real, it's messy, and human, and to enjoy imperfections and find the beauty in them.  I am also trying to change my behaviors even if I want to do something else.  Fighting this issue aggressively will take time, but through journaling about my progression and having patience with pitfalls I think I will begin to see the beauty of imperfection and rest in the fact that I am human and so are other people.   

- - Jan 26th 2009
These people posted above are not true perfectionist. If they were they would have their grammar spelled and punctuated correctly.

Perfectly obsessed - - Dec 20th 2008

I have always had urges to do the things just the way I "feel" they should be done, usually what I consider to be the best possible way (to say - perfect way). It has affected my existence at all levels - from small daily stuff like shopping or cleaning, to major undertakings when I start something that will have longer effect in my life. I feel great hasitation in doing the things that turns into a severe checking, rumination and procrastination with some more important subjects. After doing it many years inadvertently I found that it fits in the realm of ocd, and that in certain periods of my life I have had many of the typical ocd symptoms. I think that ocd is mostly based on perfectionism because the necessity to exclude any possible presence of risk is like having an obsession for perfectionism with all the possible variations it may has (cleaning, checking, assuring that everything is just right). After reading the articles published in concerning what is ocd and how to deal with it I have some hope that I'll be able to reduce the symptoms to manegeable level. Though I realised that understanding what is the problem I have is just the beggining and great efforts should be done to reduce the syptoms by practecing the offen painfil behavior therapy. 

A Hurtle I Can't Overcome - Danielle - Nov 16th 2008

I am a student in high school and fit all the classic signs of perfectionism.  People refer to me as perfect and it makes me feel great but anything less than perfection, and my confidence is shot.  I made it through junior high with a perfect GPA and now I'm in high school, finding it easier to be social and procrastinate on my homework than doing it because I am afraid of failure.  My brother was also afraid of failure and became a huge disappointment to my parents, so there seems to be this pressure on me to achieve perfection, as well.  It takes me way longer on tests than anyone else in my classes and a score lower than other people worries me.  I'm also a gymnast and have been one for 12 years, and in gymnastics, one strives for perfection.  This inability to be productive has limited me in so many ways, especially creatively because I'm afraid of how my creativity will be judged.  It also makes it hard for me to leave my comfort zone.  I know that going into college will be a rude awakening and will be impossible to cope with if I can't overcome this so if there are any suggestions or sources where I can stay anonymous and can find help, I would greatly appreciate it.  I would be mortified for my parents to know that I'm anything less than their perfect daughter but I need to find a solution to turning my life around before this condition progresses and limits me further.

I think im a perfectionist.... - diana - Oct 24th 2008

I've noticed that since being at university (im studying music btw) that I have quite a few problems. One for a start is that I have trouble opening up to people because I'm scared of what they might think of me. This is getting better because I have made some friends. I think this has mainly stemmed though from my father because whenever I had something to show him music wise he would always make it clear that it was never good enough he is a perfectionist aswell. So I've somehow got myself into that frame of mind and do sometimes find it hard to start projects. And I used to have a problem where I when I was in an awkward situation that I couldnt get away from with people around me I used to run away from them. But I do feel I really have obsessive thoughts at the moment and i'm wondering what to do??? More to tell....Oh yes ermmm I dont like situations that arent planned... Any help??

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