We all know someone who is obsessed with trying to be perfect at everything. On the outside, they appear type A, meticulously organized, and someone who sets high standards for themselves. Now, researchers from the University of Ontario in Canada suggest perfectionism could kill you — it could lead to suicide ideation.
Upon analyzing numerous studies on perfectionist tendencies and elevated suicide risk, the researchers found 13 out of 15 different measures of perfectionism had associations with increased suicidal thoughts.
The compilation of studies covered 15 of the different definitions and ways that exist to measure perfectionism, which was expressed mainly in the following ways: placing excessive expectations on oneself; feeling the pressure from others (including parents or society at large) or holding other people to perfectionistic standards.
Perfectionism linked to concerns about meeting others’ expectations were linked to more suicide attempts, while holding others to high standards, and being tidy and organized, did not relate to suicidal thoughts or attempts.
Perfectionism defined as feeling the weight of others’ expectations was correlated with suicidal thoughts in longitudinal studies that followed participants over time and that controlled their baseline levels of suicidal thought. In other words, the concept of feeling incapable of living up to others’ standards is part of the perfectionist personality that puts people at risk.
In the study, published in the Journal of Personality, the researchers wrote: “Perfectionists are their own worst critics; good enough is never enough.”
They added: “Consequently, the typical perfectionist is locked in an endless loop of self-defeating over-striving in which each new task is another opportunity for harsh self-rebuke, disappointment, and failure.”