Psychologist warns of strain felt by perfectionist students

Posted on August 31st, 2017

As students prepare to go back to school, a clinical psychologist warns they should beware of the pitfalls of perfectionism.

“I suppose that in some ways, August is the calm before the academic storm for perfectionists,” said Dr. Simon Sherry, who has done extensive research on perfectionism in his post with Dalhousie University.

Sherry said the overarching need to be perfect can create a multitude of academic problems for sufferers across a wide age range, from public school to medical school.

“Perfectionism is associated with a lot of anticipatory anxiety,” he said. “In other words, in advance of events, perfectionists are often profoundly stressed by those events. They anxiously anticipate catastrophic outcomes and this can be really worrying, really stressing for the perfectionist.”

Those stresses can lead to procrastination, public speaking anxiety, anxiety about stats or math, fear of failure, even fear of success.

“Stressed out humans — be it stressed out in the academic domain or otherwise — are vulnerable to depression, anxiety, binge eating and some of the other problems we’ve mentioned.”

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