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The Vicious Cycle of Perfectionism and Addiction 

woman discusses perfectionism and addiction with counselor

While the stereotypical image of an addict usually involves someone whose life is riddled with chaos, there are a surprising amount of high-functioning addicted perfectionists.  Perfectionism often occurs alongside mental health issues such as anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and self-deprecating behavior. The life of a perfectionist may grow to lack balance and self-care, which can lead to substance abuse as a means to cope.  Perfectionism does not usually disappear during active addiction, but is instead transferred over as behavior and thought patterns that feed the addiction. Additionally, perfectionism can become a serious hindrance in recovery if the addicted individual is unable to address their self-defeating tendencies.

Dangerous Perceptions Make Negative Self-Talk Habitual 

Perfectionism may lead to addiction due to the negative mental health consequences that come from constantly setting unrealistic goals.  Perfectionists often fall into a cycle of demanding more from themselves than reasonably attainable and then beating themselves up when they inevitably fall short.  For example, a perfectionist might commit to taking on more at work than they have the time or the skills to achieve, only to feel unworthy of their position when they find they are unable to keep up with their intended accomplishments.  When scenarios like this happen constantly in a person’s life over a significant period of time, the drive to maintain perfection can take a debilitating toll on self-esteem and life satisfaction. Perfectionists may turn to drugs or alcohol to numb the emotional pain of their own self-criticism.  

Overconfidence Can Lead to Relapse

In addition to the implications of perfectionism in active addiction, perfectionists in recovery may take an aggressive and rigid approach to a treatment program, not allowing themselves to make mistakes or exhibit vulnerability.  When this strategy eventually leads to overwhelming anxiety or relapse, the addicted perfectionist tells themselves that they will never be capable of change or personal growth. A quality treatment program can help perfectionists identify the underlying source of the pressure they feel compelled to place on themselves, and eventually let go of their unrealistic idea of success to experience true and lasting recovery.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, now is the time to reach out for help.  At Arbor Behavioral Healthcare, you will meet knowledgeable, compassionate professionals that understand addiction in all its forms.  The Arbor uses an integrative and holistic approach to treat addiction and mental health issues. No treatment is one-size-fits-all, and at The Arbor, you will have a team of experts prepared to create your customized treatment plan.  We offer care for your mind, body, and spirit so that you can heal from the inside out and look forward to a lifetime of sobriety and wellness. If you are ready to take the first step in your recovery, please call us at 844-413-2690.