How perfectionism leads to depression

Source: BBC News

This article originally appeared on The Conversation, and is republished under a Creative Commons licence. The authors are Marianne Etherson, PhD candidate and graduate teaching assistant at York St John University; and Martin Smith, lecturer in research methods at York St John University.

The pressures of young adulthood coupled with the demands of university leave undergraduates at risk for depressive symptoms. In fact, nearly 30% of undergraduates suffer from depressive symptoms, which is threefold higher than the general population. As such, researchers are increasingly interested in identifying factors that contribute to depressive symptoms to help curb the ever-increasing depression epidemic. Our new study, published in Personality and Individual Differences, focused on one such factor, perfectionism, and its depressing consequences.

Hyland Hills Water World's 19th annual Belly Flop Showdown in Federal Heights, Colorado.

FEDERAL HEIGHTS , CO – JUNE 17: Belly flop judges from left to right Kendal Claire, a Denver Bronco Cheerleader, Professor Splash Darren Taylor, middle and Don Ciancio, president of Hyland Hills Foundation, score a perfect 10 for bellyflopped Jerrell Bellot of Colorado Springs during the 19th annual Water World Belly Flop Showdown at Hyland Hills Water World in Federal Heights, Colorado on June 17, 2015. (Photo By Helen H. Richardson/ The Denver Post)

University fosters optimal conditions for perfectionism to thrive and spread – whether in examinations or sporting trials, students are measured, evaluated and compared against each other

Perfectionism refers to a tendency to doggedly strive for perfection and hold quixotically high standards. However perfectionism isn’t just about setting lofty goals and trying one’s best. On the contrary, perfectionism involves a tendency to feel that other people, such as parents and teachers, demand perfection. Perfectionists are inclined to believe that good enough is never enough. As such, the typical perfectionist is stuck in an endless loop of self-defeating and over-striving in which each new task is seen as an opportunity for failure, disappointment and harsh self-rebuke. So it is not surprising that ample evidence implicates perfectionism in depressive symptoms.

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