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Perfectionism and Anxiety: A Complicated and Complex Connection

If you’ve ever been described as a perfectionist, there are probably several different ways you can take it. In some cases, perfectionism can be a good thing. For others, though, it can cause a lot of turmoil—including anxiety. 

Perfectionists tend to work very hard to appear as though they have their lives together. Unfortunately, that picture of perfection is usually only on the surface. 

Because a perfectionist has to work so hard at keeping everything above water, they are often constantly stressed. And, if something doesn’t go their way, it can make that stress ten times worse. 

Obviously, stress can lead to anxiety. But is that the only way perfectionism and anxiety are related? 

The connection is actually more complicated than most people realize. 

Does Perfectionism Cause Anxiety?

You might think perfectionism is about pushing yourself to the best of your abilities. But it goes far beyond just achieving a goal or trying to live your best life each day. True perfectionists often allow these thoughts to take over their minds completely. 

Of course, no one actually is perfect. Life throws unexpected curveballs all the time. It’s how you handle those unexpected surprises and disappointments that matters. For a perfectionist, when something doesn’t feel perfect or doesn’t go as planned, they can become riddled with anxiety. 

The interesting part about this is that perfectionism doesn’t necessarily cause anxiety. Rather, it’s likely that someone who is a perfectionist already has anxiety and uses their desire to make everything perfect to mask it or keep it under control. 

Does Anxiety Cause Perfectionism?

When you have anxiety, it’s easy to feel like life is spinning out of control. So, as noted, it makes sense that you would want things to be as “perfect” as possible. But there’s a difference between doing your best and obsessing over it. 

Anxiety comes in many forms and has many signs and symptoms. Everything from fatigue to an overwhelming feeling of dread can be associated with the disorder. Wanting to block out those symptoms or remove the things that trigger them is normal. But doing it in an unhealthy way with unrealistic expectations can often make things worse. 

You might be able to control your thoughts for a while by focusing on the idea of perfectionism, itself. But when something goes awry, it’s nearly impossible to keep those worries at bay. 

When to Seek Help

The first thing you can do to start working through your anxiety is to admit that you’re not perfect. Neither can you force life to be perfect. 

Wanting to be your best isn’t a problem. But when perfectionism and the anxiety it can bring start to take over your life and debilitate you, it’s time to seek out help. More importantly, if the anxiety behind your perfectionism is starting to lead to thoughts of self-harm or impairs your ability to get through your day-to-day activities, it’s important to find treatment immediately. 

Anxiety disorders don’t go away on their own. Instead, it’s about getting to the bottom of what might be causing them. Once you’re able to do that with the help of a therapist, you can start to work on those triggers.


While perfectionism might seem “harmless” at first, it’s often used as a coping mechanism to cover up feelings of anxiety. Unfortunately, when you realize perfection isn’t attainable, it can fuel your anxious thoughts even more. 

If you’re struggling with anxiety, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Even if you simply consider yourself a perfectionist, but it’s starting to cause problems in your life, we can talk. There may be something beneath the surface that needs to be explored so you can find freedom from your anxious thoughts and fears. 

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