Perfectionism has been linked to anxiety, depression and eating disorders. It has been argued to be a ‘transdiagnostic process’, meaning it cuts across diagnostic boundaries and may put a person at risk of various mental health problems and also keep the problems going. Treatment of perfectionism is a specific form of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for perfectionism (CBT-P) aimed at reducing perfectionism rather than specifically targeting symptoms. CBT-P is based on the model of clinical perfectionism where self-esteem is based on achievement of high standards despite negative effects. The treatment involves a range of strategies based on a working model of what is keeping the perfectionism going, and how it relates to psychological symptoms.
There have been numerous studies of CBT-P in various formats (e.g., face to face therapy, internet treatment, bibliotherapy). There have also been meta-analyses on how effective CBT-P is in reducing perfectionism and symptoms of anxiety, depression and eating disorders, but there is a need to up date this evidence and address some of the limitations of previous reviews. In this systematic review and meta-analysis, we searched the literature and found 15 randomised trials of CBT-P. In pooling these studies, there were medium to large effects for reducing perfectionism, and medium effects for symptoms of eating disorders and depression. There were small to medium effects for anxiety.
The review was the largest to date of randomised trials of CBT-P and suggests the treatment is effective in decreasing symptoms of anxiety, depression and eating disorders. Further research is needed comparing CBT-P to other psychological treatments.
Read the full paper here: Galloway, R., Watson, H.J., Shafran, R., Greene, D., & Egan, S.J. (in press). The Efficacy of Randomised Controlled Trials of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Perfectionism: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. doi:10.1080/16506073.2021.1952302
Photo by: Adrian Brady