Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Perfectionism - Treating Multiple Symptoms at Once and Improving Quality of Life: Research Brief

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Perfectionism: Treating Multiple Symptoms at Once and Improving Quality of Life
Behavior Research and Therapy, February 2015

The word “perfect” has a lot of positive associations, but perfectionism—the quest to achieve perfection— can lead to a number of emotional difficulties, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, poor self-esteem, and more.

This research shows that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help. 

Handley et al (2015) showed an eight-week course of group cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for Perfectionism not only decreased perfectionism, depression, and eating disorders significantly, but also increased self-esteem and quality of life. 

The study demonstrated that CBT led to positive improvement for a wide range of symptoms by targeting changes in perfectionism and, in particular, a key symptom of perfectionism— Concern over Mistakes— or being overly critical of oneself.

The authors show how this treatment has much to offer because it addresses multiple disorders rather than treating each disorder in sequence, resulting in shorter treatment and reduced costs.

Highlights from the Study

“Over 80 percent of participants who had a pre-treatment diagnosis of depression, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder or an eating disorder no longer had these diagnoses at 6-month follow up. Sixty-seven percent of participants with a pre-treatment diagnosis of social phobia no longer met this diagnosis at 6-month follow-up.”

“The current findings also indicate that group CBT-P significantly reduces social anxiety, anxiety sensitivity, rumination, depression, and eating disorder pathology and significantly increases self-esteem and quality of life. ”  

At Feeling Good Institute, therapists are skilled at working with patients to overcome perfectionism. Therapists are trained in using a variety of methods and tools that help patients identify and change the beliefs that may contribute to elevated Concern over Mistakes and teaching skills patients can use on their own to manage and conquer perfectionism for a lifetime.

Learn about the essential skills for effective cognitive behavior therapy and how we set therapists up for success.

Handley, A. K., Egan, S. J., Kane, R. T., & Rees, C. S. (2015). A randomised controlled trial of group cognitive behavioural therapy for perfectionism. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 68, 37–47. 

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