The Mighty Logo

How Being a Perfectionist With OCD Continues to Hold Me Back

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

This image has an empty alt attribute its file name is 0577730f-0fc8-4de2-9853-de409b09af25png

There are two different types of perfectionism and then there is obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). In a sense, perfectionism can hold you back just as much as having OCD.

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, there was a study performed on 41,641 American, Canadian and British college students regarding their level of perfectionism. Their findings supported that between 1989 and 2016, college students’ levels of self-oriented, socially prescribed and other-oriented perfectionism has increased by statistically significant amounts.

“Recent generations of young people are more demanding of themselves, perceive that others are more demanding of them, and are more demanding of others,” the article states.

The first of the two different types of perfectionism is adaptive/healthy perfectionism. This is usually what most people think of when they hear the word “perfectionist.” It’s the person who has high standards for everything, persists no matter what life throws at them, is goal driven and has perfect organizational skills. This type of perfectionism is usually what’s portrayed in the media. The “neat freak,” the person who seems to have it all together who has that perfect Instafeed we “all strive for.”

Maladaptive/unhealthy perfectionism is the preoccupation with past and future mistakes and fears. They constantly have doubts that they are always doing something the incorrect way. Maladaptive perfectionists are heavily invested in the expectations of others around them and what others would think of them. They also possess the need for control and often react negatively when their environment does not react the way they planned. For example, those who have control issues might also have disorders such as OCD, or suffer from restrictive eating or other eating disorders.

OCD is the fear that if something isn’t just right or you don’t complete your compulsions exactly the “right way,” fear or intrusive thoughts will happen in response. These fears can differ from the type of compulsion or obsession you’re experiencing. For example, the person must lock the door three times before they go to bed due to a fear of their whole family being killed because they didn’t complete their ritual.

I’ve always struggled with both OCD and maladaptive perfectionism. It has held me back in many ways. I don’t want to start an art project if I feel it won’t be perfect. I don’t want to go back to school because I’m scared of failing. I’ve always needed a sense of control in my life.

Recently, I got a bullet journal. Hoping to organize things and make it beautiful, I watched videos and did everything. But after that, I just stared at the blank journal, scared of making a mistake. So it has just sat on my table.


My goal this week is to get out of my head and stop letting my fears of being a perfectionist dictate my life — starting with the little things like my bullet journal

Are you a perfectionist? If so what kind? How has it affected your life?

Let us know in the comments below.

Originally published: December 3, 2019
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home