New research into perfectionism discovers links with OCD

Researchers at the University of Hertfordshire have found that people with ‘perfectionist’ personality traits show remarkably similar problems in their thinking to those diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). 

The study, led by Dr. Keith Laws, Professor of Cognitive Neuropsychology in the School of Life and Medical Sciences, examined people who described themselves as ‘perfectionists’. All were drawn from the healthy population and screened by a psychiatrist for the presence of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD), which is characterised by the trait of perfectionism. These individuals had no other previous or current mental-health diagnoses and were not seeking any treatment. The team found that on neurocognitive tasks, perfectionists displayed highly rigid thinking and problems on tasks requiring planning, but showed normal risk and decision-making.

Professor Laws said:

“What we have found is that perfectionists get ‘stuck-in-set’ – that means they have a rigid way of thinking about and approaching problems. They continue to use the same strategy or approach to tasks even when it is obviously unsuccessful and despite being given feedback and understanding that feedback. This profile of impairment overlaps remarkably with that of someone with OCD.”

Perfectionists will often set high standards for themselves and can be extremely self-critical if those standards aren’t reached. The psychological impact of perfectionism can be very hard to manage. People with perfectionist tendencies are often preoccupied with details, rules or lists, they may put work or study above everything and have very strict opinions on moral ethical issues. Perfectionists often keep lots of old things when they have no sentimental value, are reluctant to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they work in the same way as them and can be very stubborn.

While perfectionism may interfere with some aspects of day-to-day living, in other circumstances it may have benefits and although related to clinical OCD, it does not necessarily lead our being ‘ill’. Indeed, nearly one in ten of us may express perfectionist tendencies to some extent.

The research report was published in Cambridge Journals today:

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=9601070&fulltextType=RA&fileId=S1092852914000662

ENDS

For more information, please contact Louise Akers, University of Hertfordshire Press Office on 01707 281269, Email: l.akers3@herts.ac.uk

Notes to Editor

About the University of Hertfordshire:

  • The University is the UK’s leading business-facing university and an exemplar in the sector.  It is innovative and enterprising and challenges individuals and organisations to excel. 

  • The University of Hertfordshire is one of the region’s largest employers with over 2,425 staff and a turnover of over £234 million.

  • With a student community of over 25,100 including more than 2,900 overseas students from 120 different countries, the University has a global network of over 175,000 alumni. 

  • It is also one of the top 100 universities in the world under 50 years old, according to the new Times Higher Education 100 under 50 rankings 2014.

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• The University of Hertfordshire is the UK’s leading business-facing University and an exemplar in the sector. It is innovative and enterprising and challenges individuals and organisations to excel. • The University of Hertfordshire is one of the region’s largest employers with over 2,425 staff and a turnover of more than £234 million. With a student community of over 25,100 including more than 2,900 international students from over 120 different countries, the University has a global network of over 175,000 alumni. For more information, please visit www.herts.ac.uk • The University of Hertfordshire was awarded the Times Higher Education ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year 2010’.

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