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Journal published by the Hellenic
Psychiatric Association


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The present study constitutes a brief literature overview, in which the term of clinical perfectionism, its etiopathology, its assessment and its relation to psychopathology, as well as the therapeutic interventions based on the Cognitive Behavioral Model are discussed. According to Frost, perfectionism is associated with one’s desire to achieve the greatest degree of performance and it is accompanied by an extremely strict evaluation of that particular performance. The relationship with oneself as well as the relationship with others are both characterised by high standards and demands which tend to exhaust one individual and dramatically toughen the development of proximity with the others. Perfectionism, as a personality trait, presents functional and dysfunctional elements for a person. Dysfunctional, clinical perfectionism –a term recently coined by researchers– has been linked to a number of disorders, such as social phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders –anorexia and bulimia nervosa– depression and personality disorders. From a perfectionist’s point of view, perfection exists and its attaintment is feasible. The existence of a particularly high and often unrealistic goal can lead the person to severe disappointment when this specific goal is not finally reached. A person with functional perfectionism is possible to set another, more achievable, goal next time, while a person with clinical perfectionism will interpret this failure as a sign of personal inadequacy and will either make another attempt to reach the same goal or will abandon the effort altogether. A sense of weakness and subsequent negative automatic thoughts are the aftermath of both the first and the second choice. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy focuses on the realisation that clinical perfectionism is undesirable, on the dispute of negative automatic thoughts and on the replacement of unfunctional cognitive schemas with other, more functional ones. In the therapeutic process, one individual can learn how to set specific and realistic goals, to focus on the process of a task instead of its result, to organise activities in a hierarchy depending on their significance and, finally, to feel fulfilled even if they have not brought a task to completion. It is a fact that the core schemas of clinical perfectionism are characterised by rigidity due to the excessive number of secondary benefits they provide for one person. The exploration of those benefits and the discovery of alternative sources of fulfillment are areas of therapeutic work.

Key words: Perfectionism, schemas, cognitive behavioral therapy.

E. Papadomarkaki, S. Portinou (page 61) - Full article