For individuals who attempt to maintain a perfect persona, criticism can be difficult to accept. But a new study suggests that perfectionists who receive negative feedback may actually ruminate more and experience increased symptoms of social anxiety and depression. “Implicit in the perfectionism social disconnection model is the notion that people with high levels of interpersonal perfectionism have a heightened sense of interpersonal sensitivity and a tendency to react intensely to negative social feedback,” said researchers from York University. The team, in collaboration with researchers from the University of British Columbia and Brock University, added, “Moreover, the tendency to ruminate about negative interpersonal events involving interpersonal offenses directed at the self should further exacerbate the distress reactions of individuals with higher levels of perfectionism.” They noted that people who exhibit high levels of perfectionism tend to dwell on comments and offensive behaviors of others that are directed to them and can lead to an overall diminished sense of life satisfaction and negative mood.
In order to determine how negative feedback affected the symptoms of depression and social anxiety, as well as the level of rumination in perfectionists, the team enlisted 155 college students for their study. They evaluated the students using the Perfectionistic Self-Presentation Scale, the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale, the Social Feedback Questionnaire, the Rumination About an Interpersonal Offense and other tools designed to measure anxiety and depression. They discovered that the participants with the highest levels of perfectionism ruminated most frequently. “All six perfectionism dimensions, including self-oriented perfectionism and other-oriented perfectionism, were associated significantly with rumination about an interpersonal offense, but the association with the need to avoid appearing imperfect was strongest,” said the researchers. “Negative social feedback and interpersonal rumination were also correlated with both depressive symptoms and social anxiety.” They added, “Therefore, it seems as though interpersonal and social– cognitive processes, such as ruminating about an interpersonal offense and perceiving a high frequency of negative feedback from others, play instrumental roles in the distress experienced by certain highly perfectionistic individuals.”
Nepon, T., Flett, G. L., Hewitt, P. L., & Molnar, D. S. (2011, September 12). Perfectionism, Negative Social Feedback, and Interpersonal Rumination in Depression and Social Anxiety. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science/Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025032
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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